Council are aware that some clubs do not to take these measures. The reason for this report is to highlight the potential impact a large playing membership can have over a short period of time. It is also very important to remember that the makeup of soils vary massively between courses, even courses that are not too far apart geographically can have significantly different soil composition. At Bathgate we have a peaty sub soil which is a major factor in the definition of our winter course management policies.
First of all what do the R&A recommend – Below is a post from Gordon Moir on the R&A’s website
There is no doubt that playing on frozen grass will damage the plant, there is more than enough research and evidence to prove that. Perhaps the question you should ask yourself is what amount of damage are you prepared to accept ? If you are talking about 3 or 4 days with very limited golf then the damage may not be too severe, if however it was a prolonged period with weekend usage, recovery may take well into the spring and may even be longer term.Our policy at St Andrews is that if there is a white frost, then the courses are closed until it lifts and the greenkeepers have the ultimate say in any decision.
To address the above question, at Bathgate most years we fall into the “extended periods of frost with heavy usage” category so we should expect extensive damage. Council and Greenkeeping are not prepared to accept that risk.
The science bit – what happens to grass in frost conditions
Frost on the grass leaf blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. 90% of plant tissue is made up of water. When this water is frozen, foot traffic or impact on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the plant’s cell walls, killing the plant.
Why do we use winter greens?
Foot Traffic Causes Substantial Damage To Frozen Greens!
Golf greens are fragile & require careful, professional management. A green is a collection of millions of individual grass plants that are very delicate.
Even where there is no visible frost & the top 2 inches of top-soil have thawed, the sub-soil may still be frozen. Play on the greens in such circumstances will cause root break where the underlying roots are severed causing the plant to die.
Each time you continue to allow play on frosty greens you continue to promote further turf decline. At the start of the new season the greens will take longer to recover & the quality of the putting surfaces will be compromised until mid season. It is, therefore, essential that golfers do not play to main greens or use the putting green when greenstaff have put temporary greens in play.
This picture shows the average footprint of just one four ball.
Why do we use mats in winter?
On a frosty fairway footprints and trolly tracks are clearly visible. When the frost lifts damage may not be immediately evident but within 2 / 3 days the leaves will turn brown & the plant will die. This causes thinning of the grass coverage & weakens the remaining plants. This in turn makes the surface more susceptible to disease & weed ingress.
As with the greens, more long-term damage can be caused when play takes place as the turf is thawing after a freeze. Root damage occurs easily from the shearing action and divots do not recover.
The pictures are from the course this week. These divots will not recover quickly, if at all.
Those annoying blue ropes.
In addition in cold damp as well as frosty conditions areas of high traffic will be damaged. This picture shows what happens after a few days. Recovery will take several weeks in the spring. For this reason we use ropes and markings to try to keep traffic on areas that are “not in play” and away from areas susceptible to damage