Goodbye Summer, Hello Silly Season AKA November
After a couple of months of Summer, Fall, False Fall, Second Summer, Winter for two hours, then Summertober, it looks like we will have a couple of days of Late Winter/Early Spring.
If your head is spinning from that statement, just think how the grass feels. When looking at “normal” weather records, this has to be the perfect time of year. Brisk mornings, warm-ish sunny afternoons, cool evenings, no bugs, beautiful leaves, the list goes on and on. BUT we are in North Carolina, so NORMAL is just a number in a computer. Even so, this is a good time to talk about cutting heights, green speed, frost delays, and leaves.
A few years ago we converted our greens to Champion Ultra-Dwarf Bermuda from Creeping Bentgrass. Bermuda is a warm season grass that stops growing (goes dormant) at the first freeze as a way to survive the winter. You could call it a type of hybernation I guess. The leaf tissue is “dead” but the plant is very much alive. That is why the fairways and tees (and your neighbors yard) turn white in the winter. But Champion never really goes completely dormant even though it is a type of Bermuda. To avoid any winter injury from the cold, we raise the cutting height of the grass to provide a little more insulation and, because we apply a type of pigment to the greens after a few freezes to keep them green, the extra leaf tissue can provide a little thermal capture from the sun.
So during these first few freezes coming up this week, we will actually extend the frost delays a little bit. This will give the grass a little time to actually do what it needs to do to go dormant. Footprints and tire tracks on frozen, live leaf tissue can kill the plant, or at least “burn” or damage the grass. Once the shock of the freeze has occurred, then traffic on frost in the fairways, tees, and rough will not be a problem. But oh that Champion. Beautiful, wonderful putting Champion. Remember, Champion never really goes dormant, so during the winter, we will ALWAYS observe frost delays.
How do we determine frost delays? Generally, with the appropriate humidity, frost can occur around 37 or 38 degrees. Yes, that’s above freezing, but without a long physics and meteorological lesson, just accept that frost can occur around 37 or 38 degrees. We have three options when frost forms. First, depending on ground temperature, if or when the air temperature climbs a few degrees above freezing we can run irrigation to “wash” the frost off. Second, if the ground is really wet from rain or snow, we have to wait until the sun “burns” the frost off. Last, if the temperature drops low enough and other factors are met, we have to cover the greens. (That’s an article for another time.)
The main message to take away from this article is….Frost delays are not intended to inconvenience you. There are billions of tiny little plants depending on us to be nice so they can flourish next spring. During leaf season, the frost delays also delay the Maintenance crew from starting leaf cleanup. While you may not believe it by 10:00 or so in the morning, we do actually attempt to remove leaves from the course EVERY DAY. It’s time consuming, and impossible to do once golfers are on the course. SO, frost delays can be extended to allow the crew to clean up for you in the morning.
Our ultimate goal is to provide the best playing conditions for you year round. Some things are out of our hands and we just have to take what Mother Nature gives us. This time of year make a point to enjoy your round. Appreciate your playing partners, and take in the warmth of the Sun when Januspring comes around in a few weeks. If you haven’t done so already download the Occoneechee App and you will always be able to see the current temperature at #2 Green.
Take care and as always, call a friend and tell them to “Meet Me at Occoneechee.”