Frost – The Bothersome Delay Explained

It’s a clear, cool, crisp spring or fall morning and the anticipation, and excitement is growing by the second for the golf round ahead. You set out, and arrive at the golf course on time only to find out your tee time has been delayed due to frost. The pro-shop knows too well that it is inconvenient, and a little irritating for players to arrive at the golf course only to hear the words “we are currently under a frost delay.”

So what is Frost and why the delay…

Frost – is a covering of minute ice needles, formed from the atmosphere at night upon the ground and exposed objects when they have cooled by radiation below the dew point, and when the dew point is at or below the freezing point. It is the cause of much frustration and questions among golfers.

Why the delay – When turf is frosted, there is a layer of ice on both the inside and outside of the cell walls that protect the individual cells of the plant making the plant very brittle, and highly susceptible to injury. Therefore, traffic on frosted turf from either walking or driving will in high probability shatter the frozen cell walls resulting in damage, and potentially death to the grass plant.

The USGA estimates that the average foursome takes roughly 300 footsteps or more on a green while putting out.

As the sun rises, so do the atmospheric, and surface temperatures through radiation, thus the playing surface’s (Greens, Tees, Fairways etc…) begin to warm up, and the frost will eventually melt or sublimate. Frost will melt fastest in areas exposed to full sun, while shaded areas will require a longer timeframe.

Predicting the duration of a frost delay is very difficult because it’s dependent on the surface temperature increasing enough to melt the frost which is dependent on the sun’s rays, and daytime warming.

While the duration of a frost delay is difficult to predict, its occurrence is rather easy. If the conditions overnight are clear with temperatures in the single digits, there is an excellent chance of their being a frost delay.

In the golf shoulder season the best thing you as a player can do is check the overnight temperature and the days forecast via Environment Canada website or from any of the other various weather outlet’s websites – if the forecast is ripe for the onset of frost formation call ahead to the pro-shop to confirm if in fact there will be a delay to the start of play, or arrive to the facility with a smile, grab a hot cup of coffee, and enjoy the sunrise, and comradery of your follow golfers whom are all daydreaming of birdies both on the card, and abound on the course.

A Piece of History Gets Renovated

Drive through Dufferin Islands and you’ll notice a hut constructed of stone boulders located at the base of Burning Spring Hill. The former police hut is the last of its kind still standing from 1907 and will be renovated to preserve a significant piece of history within Niagara Parks.

A complete overhaul will commence in Spring 2017 including a new cedar roof with copper cap, repaired block work, new masonry ledgers on existing window openings, and a number of structural repairs to wood and concrete throughout.

Once completed it will serve as a location for light displays, interpretive information on Dufferin Islands and some explanation of the plants and animals of the area.

Around 1794 this was the location of Bridgewater Mills. The mills and community were destroyed during the War of 1812 by retreating American troops. The islands were called Clark Islands and later The Cynthia Islands before the name Dufferin Islands was selected to honour the Governor General responsible for suggesting the creation of Niagara Parks.

The hut was first constructed during the development of the hydro-electric plants in the early 20th century. The hydro construction dramatically changed the appearance of Dufferin Islands leading to the creation of landscaped islands, paths and a swimming area in 1907.

Two bath houses were constructed in 1910 with observation decks on the second floor. More islands were added in 1918.  Starting in 1973, paddle boats were added to the swimming area.

The Niagara Parks Police posted officers in the “hut” and the only communication was by telephone. The addition of police vehicles and portable radios in the 1920’s made the buildings unnecessary. This hut survived and was used by staff for storage and by visitors swimming nearby.

Today swimming and paddle boating are no longer part of the experience at Dufferin Islands but millions of visitors from around the world enjoy its natural beauty during the summer and the world famous Winter Festival of Lights during the winter.

Your Early Greens Report

The golf season is in full swing at the Niagara Parks courses. The historic Whirlpool Golf Course is open for play and in healthy shape. The Battlefield course, practice range, and 9-hole Chippawa course at Legends on the Niagara all opened in good condition thanks to favourable winter conditions. The Ussher’s Creek course at Legends, which is in top shape, will be open Friday April 21st.

Greens on all of the courses are being cut daily to a medium length for the early season to encourage a strong foundation and healthy putting surfaces before the warmer months arrive. All of the bunkers have been raked and edged, tee boxes are in excellent shape, and the courses have generally dried out quickly after heavy rains in April.

If you are thinking about your own lawn care, your first task should be to rake your lawn out using a sturdy leaf rake, not only to remove leaves, but to control thatch and dead grass blades that are waiting to become thatch. This is also the time to give your lawnmower a good tune-up, sharpen the blade, change the oil, install new spark plug(s) and clean or replace the filters. In the early spring you should be mowing your lawn at a height of 6 to 8 centimetres or 2.5 to 3 inches. And go easy on the fertilizer in the spring. Too much of a good thing will cause a flush of growth but at the expense of the roots. A light application around Victoria Day will keep the turf grass plants healthy and give them a nice green colour blast.

If you’ve noticed a lot of tree removal in your neighbourhood it is probably the Ash trees that are coming down. Throughout the winter months our golf course crews continued to remove Ash trees infested with the Emerald Ash Borer pest that has killed millions of Ash trees across southern Ontario and North America. The surprising result is that it has opened up new sightlines on many holes which have created interesting new vistas and opened many green surfaces to critical sunlight. At the same time, new tree plantings will continue throughout the golf properties and the entire Niagara Parks system.

Both Legends and Whirlpool are now heavily involved with Audubon Certification efforts. Legends received international recognition for environmental and wildlife habitat stewardship in 2014 and achieved designation as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary”. Whirlpool is now going through the same process in which a course has to demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in Environmental Planning, Wildlife & Habitat Management, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management.

Finally, although the long-range forecast is calling for warmer days, frost delays in the early spring are still a possibility. It can be frustrating but it is important to understand why we need to wait. When turf is frosted, walking or riding on it can cause significant damage and potential death to the grass plant. As the sun rises, so do the atmospheric and surface temperatures, and the frost will eventually melt. In the early season the best thing to do is call ahead to the pro shop to confirm if there will be a delay in the start of play, and then grab a hot coffee, and enjoy the sunrise.