Prepared by: Jonathan Ayers, White Wing Superintendent
Frost delays are not a fun way that the course superintendent and staff can mess with the golfers on a cold winter morning. We are all at the mercy of Mother Nature and always try to get you golfing as soon as possible. The maintenance crews are unable to work also when there is a delay and need to be allowed to get out in front of play to set the course up for the day.
Frost is dew on the grass plant that crystallizes making the plant hard and more susceptible to damage from traffic of any kind. Once damage occurs on a frozen plant it may not be noticeable for a day or two but the damage is irreversible.
There are many factors the can play a part in having a frost and how long it last. Temperature is of course the main issue and also part of the misunderstanding. It can definitely frost above 32 degrees and we see it regularly in this area. Most temperature readings that you see are not taken at the soil surface and most likely the air temperature about 6 feet off the ground. On a clear, cool night with little wind the surface temperature can be several degrees cooler. When the plant is cooler than the surrounding temperature it will begin to have moisture from the air condense on it. When this moisture (dew) is present and the temperature dips near freezing it will form the frost.
Watering the night before can have a positive affect on the amount of frost the next morning by keeping the soil temperatures above freezing if the irrigation takes place before a freezing temperature occurs. Also there are chemicals that can be sprayed that will make a plant unable to create dew, thus no frost. Also water can be applied in the morning to physically melt the frost. This method if not done properly and at a high enough air temperature can cause a light frost to turn to ice and a longer delay will happen. The best practice is to be patient until the frost turns to dew under normal conditions and enjoy another cup of coffee.