Category Archives: Golf

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.

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.

Masters Meltdowns

Golf ball on the edge of the hole

When the 81st edition of the Masters Tournament gets underway on April 6th, nobody will be more anxious to get back to Augusta than the 2015 champion Jordan Spieth who made the 2016 contest one of those tournaments best known for who lost than who won.

At the end of the third round in 2016, Spieth had emerged as the first golfer in Masters history to have the outright lead in seven consecutive rounds. He expanded that lead over the front nine on the final day and stood on the 10th tee with a 5 shot lead, making back-to-back victories an almost foregone conclusion. Almost. He made bogey at 10 and again at 11. Then, disaster struck. He caught his tee shot fat on the par-3 12th and dumped it into Rae’s Creek.  He dropped another ball, then badly chunked that into the water, too. His third attempt, and his fifth stroke with penalties, was over the green into a bunker from which he got up-and-down for a quadruple bogey 7.  Spieth had dropped from 7-under to 1-under over the 10th through 12th holes and Englishman Danny Willett went on to win the Green Jacket.

Meltdowns on the back nine at Augusta are nothing new. In 2011, it was Rory McIlroy who took a four-shot lead to the 10th tee with hopes of becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Green Jacket. Those hopes were dashed when he snap-hooked his drive on the 10th, making a triple bogey, followed by a four-putt at 12 and a rinsing of his ball in Rae’s Creek at 13. If it’s any consolidation, two months later McIlroy lapped the field at the U.S. Open to win his first major, but he’s still looking to don his first Green Jacket.

Greg Norman was another marquee player to fumble at the Masters and on no less than three separate occasions. In 1986, he made a Sunday charge, stringing together six birdies to tie the lead heading to the final hole. But it was not to be. He pushed his second shot from the fairway on 18 into the gallery, finishing the hole with a bogey and a second place finish. The following year, he squandered a Sunday lead and lost in a sudden death playoff in heartbreaking fashion when Augusta native Larry Mize chipped-in on the second playoff hole. And again in 1996, after leading for each of the first three rounds, Norman lost a six shot lead by the 11th hole in the final round, leaving the Green Jacket for Nick Faldo.

But the saddest of all Sunday finishes in Masters history was probably that of the great Argentine player Roberto De Vicenzo who carded a final round 65 in the 1968 tournament, good enough for a playoff spot – until it wasn’t. Having signed his scorecard for a par on the 17th when he had actually birdied the hole, his 65 under the Rules of Golf became a 66 and he was out of a playoff and into 2nd place. Shattered, a heartbroken De Vicenzo famously pronounced in his broken English, “what a stupid I am.”

There are very few things in golf that compare to the back nine at the Masters on a Sunday afternoon.