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.

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