During the winter months, it is not uncommon for golf courses in and around Tucson to experience below freezing temperatures, forcing golf operations staff to declare a frost delay. This is done to protect the course from certain damage if players and carts were to venture onto the fairways and greens.
No one likes frost delays including golfers, the golf course superintendent, and the golf staff, but they are a common nuisance in the desert and something that cannot be avoided. In my experience, especially at Forty Niner Country Club, (a course located along a low lying wash and probably the coldest place in Tucson), the frost delays can be substantial.
While members and guests are anxious to play golf, the golf course superintendent is protecting the golf course turf, and the golf staff get caught in the middle of a frustrating situation and try to keep peace.
The way this affects us the golfers is that the starting tee times are pushed back in accordance with the length of the delay. The length of delay is dependent on the severity of the frost. Theoretically, whatever the length of the delay is would be the same delay that would affect start times for the entire day. However, this is often not the case because players may cancel, tee times may go faster than scheduled or later tee times may not be filled. This results in the amount of the frost delay time becoming less than it originally started. Golf staff members do their best to keep players informed upon communication with the golf superintendent, but there are so many variables involved on a day to day basis it is impossible to predict the length of the thawing.
A secret that needs to be shared…the golf course superintendents do understand the need to start as soon as possible from the players standpoint, and from a revenue standpoint as well!!! They are the ones that take the blame if grass were to be killed, so keep that in mind and have another cup of coffee or PRACTICE putting if possible.
Everyone knows frost must clear off the grass before play can begin, but few people know why. Frost on the grass blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Remember that water is the primary component of plant tissue. When this water is frozen, traffic (foot or cart) on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the cell walls, killing the plant tissue. Little damage is done to the crowns (growing points) or roots if only a light frost appears; however, when the frost is heavy, cell disruption may occur at the crown, thus killing the entire plant. Frost damage symptoms include white to light tan leaves where traffic has passed.
With a little bit of understanding of all variables involved, frost delays can be a tolerable thing for all, and before we know it, 100 degree temps will return and we will be wishing for frost delays!