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What Happens To A Golf Course When Temperatures Get Near or Below Freezing?

I have been wanting to write about this for some time due to seeing posts on social media with people playing golf on a golf course with frozen greens. With the freeze we have expected this coming week this is a perfect time for this.

In regards to the social media post I saw (video below), it had me wondering how the golf course is allowing that when it can do so much damage to the golf course. Then I thought maybe the golf course is unaware of it or that golf courses up north with different grass may react differently.

I am no agronomist and do not pretend to know how different grasses and soils react to different temperatures. I do however know how Bermuda grass reacts and what happens when a Bermuda golf course gets near or below freezing temperatures. I also know it doesn't take much to damage a golf course when the temperatures get below a certain point. A single footprint on a green that has a light layer of frost can be more damaging than a divot taken on the green.

The USAG did a great article on this back in 2018 that, to me, is still very relevant today (5 Things To Know About Frost Delays). Even with the changes in grass types, hybrids, and the technology that maintains that grass there are still scientific principals that take place between the temperature and the root system of the grass. The ground may be hard like concrete but those roots become brittle and very fragile and will break with any weight on them, killing the roots and the grass.

There is a reason so many golf courses have frost delays. Many golfers I have met over the years thought a frost delay was about the playability of the golf course. Yes, the frost will not allow a golf ball to roll on a green very well but any golfer traffic will do severe damage. If I am not mistaken walking on frost is worse than if the ground has been frozen for a long period.

Here in the South, we rarely ever get freezing temperatures that last more than a day or two. Perhaps nothern grasses like Rye grasses can handle things better, but for us, all southern types of grass will receive severe damage quickly if not protected. This includes the grass in our yards, playgrounds, and parks. However, golf courses have to be extra careful. The lower the grass height the more it is susceptible to damage. That means every tee box, fairway, and green of a golf course needs to be protected. The greens even more so as they are cut the lowest.

Expect almost. if not, all of the golf courses in our area to be closed for a few days this coming week. That would also mean driving ranges and practice areas as well. Bayou Oaks driving range because it is off mats may be open for those willing to brave the cold weather but they will most likely even close because of the damage the golf ball picker could do to the ground.

I am going to ask a Superintendent friend to add a comment on the Golf Nola Facebook post of this in case there is anything I got wrong.

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