Freezing In Florida: We Are Not Immune To The Arctic Blast! February 27, 2015

Freezing In Florida: We Are Not Immune To The Arctic Blast!


By Todd Lowe – USGA Florida Region Agronomist
January 12, 2010

The Southeastern United States is being blasted with an arctic chill, and Florida is not immune to these frigid temperatures. Frosts have been reported on many South Florida golf courses over the past couple of days. Daytime highs are expected to remain in the mid to upper 50’s in South Florida, and freezing nighttime temperatures are predicted over the upcoming week. Forecasters predict this to be the coldest week on record over the past 25 years.

The winter golf season is now in full swing, and golfers will not only be inconvenienced with frost delays, but will experience a lighter shade of green over the next few weeks. Bermudagrass loses its green chlorophyll as nighttime temperatures remain under 50o F. In Central to South Florida, cold fronts typically only last for one or two days and are followed by warmer temperatures, so that the turf experiences only temporary color loss. Prolonged cold conditions will have a significant impact on playing conditions.

The practice of winter overseeding on bermudagrass for color has been dwindling in Florida over the past few years. Not only is it a costly practice, but it is one that can cause major turf loss during spring transition. When the bermudagrass is only temporarily off-color as occurs during a more typical winter, the merits of winter overseeding decreases. However, prolonged bermudagrass dormancy can be trying on a membership that is accustomed to lush green overseeded turf. Patience is needed at this time, as the temperatures will eventually increase and the bermudagrass will begin to grow. Remember that we don’t play on color!

There are a few practices that can improve turf growth and maintain conditions more in keeping with expectations. These include:

  • Dark Sand Topdressing – Dark materials like black or green dyes or charcoal improve heat retention within the turf canopy and upper soil. This can equate to a faster green-up and better overall growth. Turf paints also can be applied to improve turf color and heat retention, not to mention provide a darker green color.
  • Fertility – Regular spray applications of the micronutrients iron and manganese will improve color without encouraging succulent leaf growth. At most golf courses, the putting greens are being treated throughout the winter months, and at a growing number of courses, similar programs are being used on fairways. While fertigation saves time and labor, spray applications supply nutrients to specific areas.
  • Cart Traffic Management – The combination of semi to fully dormant bermudagrass and daily cart traffic can wear the turf to the nub. Aggressive cart traffic management must be practiced to protect the turf in areas with concentrated wear.

While low soil temperatures have a negative impact on color and wear tolerance, it is important to remember that there also is a positive impact on certain playing conditions. Namely, putting speeds increase dramatically at this time, as well as fairway ball roll. It is important to accentuate these positives from time to time to improve golfer morale until warmer weather returns.

Source: Todd Lowe, or 941-828-2625