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  • Terravita Agronomy

Frost, A Superintendent's Revenge!

I say that jokingly, but unfortunately, that's what a large percentage of private golf club members believe. I will begin by telling you, and you have to believe me, I do not create frost nor do I lie about frost. If you take nothing away from this post, please remember that.

"It's 44 degrees on my patio, we don't have frost!", "The Boulders didn't have frost today, so why do we?", "We never had this many frost delays when prior superintendents were here.", "The frost was gone at 8 am, why can't we tee off until 9?", "Maddie just delays play so that her staff can get more done."

These, among others, are questions and comments I received in my time here at Terravita. I'd like to go through and dissect each of these questions and give you the most factual, evidence based explanation I can. If at that point you find yourself asking the same questions, I suggest you start making later tee times, or move to the tropics.

"It's 44 degrees on my patio, we don't have frost!" There are several factors that play into that temperature reading. Is your thermometer under a patio or awning? Similar to a blanket over a plant, the awning prevents frost from forming by creating a warmer micro climate. Did you get that temperature reading from your phone? Again, micro climates affect more than you think, and unless the weather station collecting your data is placed on the first green, there's no way to know whether or not there will be frost with just your cell phone. So let's assume your patio thermometer reads 44 degrees. Well, if you were to walk out on to the fairway (please don't do this), you'll notice the temperature drop dramatically. You don't have a heated stucco structure to your back, a cement patio below your feet, and a cover over head. You're surrounded by grass, more airflow, last nights irrigation, and drops and rises in elevation. All of these create individual micro climates that sway the temperature in either direction dramatically.

"The Boulders didn't have frost today, so why do we?" The first defense to this question is, again, micro climates. In addition other factors such as irrigation the night prior, mowing heights, amount of shade, elevation of the first few holes, and set up expectations help determine the length of the delay. I am not speaking to the Boulder's here specifically, but different clubs have different maintenance expectations. Typically daily fee and resort golf course superintendent's have dollar signs in their face when making this decision. Revenue often outweighs playing conditions. As long as the set up won't cause dramatic long term damage, they often will send out groups. Terravita is more than a dollar sign for you, this is you home, your asset, and I have been brought here to make tough decisions to protect it.

"We never had this many frost delays when prior superintendents were here." While I can not speak to the frost protocol prior to my arrival, I can say that this club will ALWAYS have my best interest in mind. I know that you, the golfer, do not want a 3 hour frost delay, but I know that you, the golfer, absolutely do not want a course half set up with subtle frost damage. We have to look at the big picture. At the end of the day, I'm not here to be you best friend, I'm here to take care of your golf course. I'm the parent who doesn't let their kid have ice cream for breakfast, the kid may not understand now, but it's in his best interest regardless. Just substitute ice cream for no frost delays, and the kid with our membership.

"The frost was gone at 8 am, why can't we tee off until 9?" One major misconception, or potential oversight, we as golf course superintendent's receive is this notion that the golf course somehow magically sets itself up each morning. Each night the turf fairies, recruit the coyotes and bobcats and get to work! I'm joking, but now maybe that paints a picture as to why that question is so silly. Frost delays apply to my staff every bit as much as it applies to golfers, if you can't play, we can't set up the golf course. So that additional time delay after frost is gone, allows us to set up. We are often pressured to leave water off or mow less in order to get play out sooner, which we will often comply with. But at some point, we have a job to do out here, and need to be given the proper amount of time to do it.

"Maddie just delays play so that her staff can get more done." This is a real comment that was said last year. It's not true. I have nothing more to say in response to this.

Be sure to check out this weeks edition of the Terravita Report for more information on frost and how it will affect us here at Terravita. Stay warm out there folks!


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