Winter is here

Although there are predictions of a foot of snow in New England today we will not be receiving that much. the cape and islands are in the 1-3 range and eventually turning to rain. The temperatures are to climb into the 40's  by tomorrow. That may seem cold to many of you and certainly too cold to play golf. 40's and no wind will feel like summer compared to what we have been getting. Yesterday morning it was around 20 degrees with winds gusting to 25 mph. Not quite take your breath away but close. We have had a few cold spells already this year and even had two snow events that lasted more than a day but after each event it warmed back up to seasonal conditions. Wednesday we received maybe an inch of snow and the temperature was on the edge to be rain. The ground was soft and lush so it did not even stick to the roads but the cold spell came in that night, froze everything in place and much of the snow is still here. Night time temps in the teens and highs barely reaching 32 have made it feel like old man winter is here to stay.
excited skier & note I left
Some people will be happy if winter comes in. the skier who went out Wednesday afternoon for one. The ground is barely covered as you can see in the picture above and every pole mark is green going right into the unfrozen ground and half the ski track is exposed. I wanted to let the air out of his/her tires but thought a gentle prod with a note might do the trick. They returned the note admitting they were excited, said they never go on the greens, promised to wait until frozen and hoped there was no damage. My personality is such that I have always felt you get better results with an educational approach. But a heavy hand may have a more lasting approach. I went to see the dermatologist this fall (to appease my wife about a freckle, no issue) and after I told him my profession he asked which course and then replied "oh you must have been the one to throw me off the course while skiing". I asked him when this was and assured him it was not. I never want to be "that guy". I treat everything the same. If the geese and skunks want to live on the property and not interfere with my livelihood fine perfect harmony. If not we will have to intervene. Skiers are the same. Stay on the edges, stay off the greens and all will be well.
forecast still 1-3 but not all that warm and fuzzy
The same holds true for winter golfers. Where is the priority? We have hundreds of members and only a handful want to play all winter. Do we allow the few to do damage to the course? Is there a compromise that can be made to minimize the potential for damage? Temporary greens, tees etc? Every divot and ball mark taken this time of year is essentially a setback that needs to be overcome when the conditions for growth and recovery resume. The argument made by this minority of winter golfers is that we have always played and the course has always been fine. Does that make it right? What are the costs? Is the revenue stream and/ or the happiness of the players worth it? No easy answers and with such unpredictable weather out here most winters, the variables are hard to nail down. It took me years to educate and condition golfers not to expect to play the greens in the winter every day. I am happy to allow our greens to be open in the winter when the conditions are right. I live here too and know it can be boring. If this is their only escape from the house or form of exercise I am all for it. A simple rule of thumb I try to use is "frost free or fully frozen". There are two types of frost. Surface frost that forms when all the atmospheric conditions are right (air temp, moisture, no wind, cloud cover, etc) and this requires a delay until it melts. I often wonder if playing on this type of frost on frozen ground makes any difference. The other type of frost is a reference to the depth of frozen ground. usually measured in inches as in we have 4-6" of frost in the ground. Unless in a really cold climate where they measure it in feet. Fully frozen is OK. You can do damage but it is hard since you have to break the frozen ground to do so. The big issue is when you have a few inches of frost in the ground and then the temperatures rise above freezing and the top 1/8th" to 1" is thawing and soft. You can have root shearing where the grass surface shears from the roots below as people walk on it. You can leave footprints in the soft surface making the greens bumpy forget the amount of damage carts could do in this situation. When under this scenario we close the greens and play temps out in the approach until the frost fully leaves the greens and they firm up enough to handle traffic. This could take days or weeks depending on the weather. The forecast for 40's is a beacon to those who have not been able to play but the ground is frozen with at least an inch or more of frost right now. Add to that we could get three inches of snow and that will insulate the ground from that 40 degrees. Sounds like a perfect scenario to create a layer of ice everywhere. Not a good thing and an entirely different blog post. Add to that the wind forecast above in the picture and i am guessing there will not be any golf tomorrow or anytime soon. Who knows I could be wrong and everything will melt and we can start with temp greens tomorrow afternoon? I will add the box to the blog page in the upper right corner with current course conditions so people can check it before they come to the course. I do not have any Mink Meadows followers on Twitter yet so I have not really used that forum to announce course conditions. More of a general what is going on such as the skier picture above that I posted to Twitter earlier this week. if anyone is on Twitter and interested look me up @22Crowther

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