The snow melted overnight but the course is still closed today 12-30. The greens thawed on top but are frozen only about 1-2" below the surface. The snow that has melted cannot move quickly through the soil/sand mix due to the frozen layer which makes the surface of greens act like a giant wet sponge. This is also a perfect recipe for the roots of the greens to be sheared off just below the surface where the thawed and frozen layer meet if golfers were allowed out onto the greens.
I will be in early in the morning on 12/31 to evaluate any potential changes in the conditions which could allow us to open the course with the prediction of 60+ degree temperatures. There are thunderstorms in the forecast which could make all of this planning a mute point.
The following is an excerpt from January 2010 USGA regional report. Darin Bevard, Senior Agronomist from the USGA from the Mid-Atlantic region discusses freezing and thawing cycles in his part of the country which we are currently facing here in St. Louis. The Mid-Atlantic region of the USGA covers the same turf growing zone as St. Louis(Transition Zone)so we have very similar temperature and growing conditions during the year.
Roots Are Not Elastic!By Darin S. Bevard, Senior Agronomist USGA
January 15, 2010
WOW! The mercury pushes above the freezing mark for a couple of days in much of the region, and the questions regarding winter play have come rushing into our offices. The negative impacts of winter play are hard to quantify, which is what makes the topic so controversial. However, it is generally accepted that golfer traffic on dormant, frozen greens can create problems, even if only early in the growing season.
A bigger concern is playing on greens during freeze/thaw cycles, which are the conditions that are occurring right now. In recent days, the surfaces of greens have thawed, but underlying soils are still frozen within one or two inches of the surface. Under these conditions, the potential for root shearing is greatest. How much this actually occurs in debatable, but it is best to err on the side of caution and keep greens closed until thawing occurs deeper in the profile. Remember, if the underlying soils are frozen, water infiltration will not occur, thus keeping the greens spongy and more prone to mechanical damage from foot traffic and ball marks. In some instances, the need for revenue may trump caution, but beware of potential problems of subjecting greens to winter play.