With the temperatures dropping the last few days and not looking like they will be getting much above freezing for the next week, I thought a quick reminder about frost damage would be appropriate.
Winter greens will most probably be a big factor for the next week unless temperatures rise enough to thaw out the turf completely. In a white frost (frozen leaf), leaf blades can be damaged, and tissue cells are broken, which can significantly weaken or even kill the grass plant. This damage may not be evident immediately but in the following days and even months. This can lead to poor/ sparse turf conditions and increased disease pressure.
Even once a white frost has cleared, and the turf may look like it has thawed out, a hard frost (ground frost) can still be set in the turf at the surface or even inches below. As this frost thaws from the surface to the lower levels, there is potential for there to be ‘root shear’ damage to the turf. This is caused by traffic putting pressure on the turf at the surface and causing the frozen and unfrozen areas in the ground to move separately from each other, which will break any root structure that is in this zone. It is, therefore, important to avoid opening greens too early before a hard frost has completely disappeared. If we were to play on these hard frost greens, it could weaken the turf going into Spring when this damage would come to light. It is important to protect our greens during these usually infrequent cold snaps to ensure they arrive as healthy as possible into Spring.
There are a couple of good videos by the USGA explaining these issues.
5 Things to Know About Frost Delays (usga.org)
Turf Minutes: Root Shear on the Golf Course - YouTube
Sean McLean - Course Manager