Frost Delay: A Necessary Step

In an all-to-familiar scenario: Giddy golfers from the Midwest escape the frozen tundra for gaming and golf in Las Vegas. As they eagerly file into the golf shop, the pro behind the counter drops the bad news.

“Good morning guys. We are in a frost delay.”

Bewilderment, confusion and irritation typically follow this announcement. Understandably so, avoiding the frosty grip of Old Man Winter was the purpose of taking a golf trip to Las Vegas in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple; here’s a few facts to help break the ice.

While the average high temperature in Las Vegas December through February is a pleasant 58-63 degrees, the average low ranges from 43-39. And, a dozen or so times per year, they dip to 32 degrees or lower. According to an article in Golfweek, temperatures lower than the surrounding air “causes moisture to condense on the grass during the night. If the temperature of the grass then falls below freezing, the moisture may crystallize into frost.”

By itself, this isn’t a problem; however, walking on the frosty turf certainly is. Each footstep damages the blades and ruptures plant cell walls. This is particularly pronounced on the tightly mown turf of the putting surfaces. They become no-go zones until the sun melts the frost.

To get a feel for the potential damage, next time your foursome makes tracks on a green covered in dew, note the countless footprints. If the dew was frost instead, the grass beneath most, if not all, of the footprints would be dead within a week or so.

“Staying off grass covered in frost is the key to avoiding permanent damage to the turf, especially on the greens,” said Jeff Krohn, general manager of Rio Secco Golf Club. “There’s simply no way around it. All we can do is hope it clears quickly, so we can get everybody lined up to tee off once it does.”

Given that the Las Vegas area boasts nearly 300 days of sunshine each year, chances are good that “big red” will burn off the frost in plenty of time to get in all 18 holes, even at Rio Secco’s 2,500-plus-foot location in the foothills of Black Mountain.

Staying off grass covered in frost is the key to avoiding permanent damage to the turf, especially on the greens.  There’s simply no way around it. All we can do is hope it clears quickly, so we can get everybody lined up to tee off once it does.

Krohn went on to explain that there’s no way to predict the exact length of any given frost delay, so it’s “a good idea to arrive around the same time you normally would” and relax with a cup of coffee, get a bite to eat and watch the European Tour on Golf Channel in the clubhouse.

It seems counterintuitive to encounter a frost delay in desert climate of the Las Vegas area; rest assured, if there were any other way, the golf staff would be more than happy to oblige. Although golf is just a game, staying off frost-covered turf is a matter of life and death – for the grass!

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