Friday, December 2, 2011

Guns N' Roses, Jack Frost, Mother Goose and Snow?

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, December 2, 2011 and it is a beautiful day at Carolina Golf Club "'cause nothin' lasts forever, even cold November rain"... thank you Axl Rose!  We received over 3 inches of cold November rain this year with 9 measurable rain events.  That is tied with September for the second highest total of measurable rain events this year (March and June contained 10 events each). 

I sincerely hope you recall my email from November 8th where I explained the reasons why the golf course takes longer to dry from soaking rains this time of year.  If not, here is an abridged version: 1.) Shorter day length – during the fall and winter shorter days means less sunlight to assist drying the turf.  2.) Low sun angle – the sun is lower in the sky and less intense thus less effective as a drying agent (even when temperatures are above normal).  3.) Dormant turf – after the first hard frost the bermudagrass turf goes dormant until spring and therefore it is not using moisture from the soil like when actively growing.  4.)  Colder temperatures – cold temperatures slow down the rate of evaporation compared to spring and summer.  Anyway, as you can see 9 measurable rain events in a month is more frequently than once per week and thus we had lots of cart path only days last month, however I am pleased to announce today we do not have any cart restrictions!

The third item in the list above mentions frost and Jack Frost has certainly been visiting CGC of late.  Many of you may know but for those that do not there is a very important reason why we delay the start of play during frosty conditions.  Walking across a golf green covered with frost can cause much damage even death to the fragile putting green turf and thus golfers who appreciate a quality putting surface will be patient during frost delays.

Why does frost cause problems?  The putting surface is an extremely fragile environment that must be managed carefully and professionally.  Every green is a collection of millions of individual grass plants, each of which is a delicate living thing.  Obviously, Mother Nature never meant for these plants to be maintained at extremely low mowing heights (2.5 mm) for prolonged periods and this stress makes greens vulnerable to attacks from insects, disease, heat, drought, cold and even frost.  Frost is essentially frozen dew and it forms when the temperature (or wind chill) is near or below the freezing point.  The ice crystals form on the outside of the plant and can also harden or even freeze the cell structure of the plant.  When frosted, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and are easily crushed.  When the cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally.  It's not much different than cracking an egg, once the shell is broken you can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again!  Although you won't see any immediate damage if you walk on frosted turf, the proof will emerge within 48 to 72 hours as the leaves die and turn brown and since just one foursome can leave several hundred footprints on each green, the damage can be very extensive.  A short delay while the frost melts can preserve the quality of the greens, prevent needless repairs and may even save you a few strokes the next time you play.  So, in advance I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding while we wait for the frost to clear oftentimes between now and next spring.

And finally, is that snow on several of the bunker faces?  No, it is merely a turf blanket we are using this off-season to preserve and protect the bermudagrass turf from winter damage. 

The blankets were installed this past Monday and will remain in place until spring.  These particular bunker faces have struggled with winter survival the past two years due to cold temperature related injury caused by a combination of shade and a northward orientation.  We believe covering them for the winter season is the best option to ensure their survival.  We will also be covering a few selected tee boxes in the coming weeks to assist with similar problems associatied with their post winter dormancy transition the past two seasons.

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

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