Frost Delays in Arizona

A Necessary step to prevent permanent turf damage

In an all-to-familiar scenario: Giddy golfers from the Midwest escape the frozen tundra for the green fairways of the desert Southwest to play golf. 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 Sedona, Arizona in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple; here’s a few facts to help break the ice.

Frosty Grass

At nearly 4,500 feet above sea level, Sedona Golf Resort sits more than twice as high as golf courses located in The Valley of the Sun. Average high temperatures December through February are a benign 57-61 degrees with lows that get downright chilly at 31-33 degrees. At this elevation, frost is common, and the area does receive an occasional dusting of snow during the winter months.

According to an article in Golfweek, turf temperature 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 Jeremy Hayman, general manager of Sedona Golf Resort. “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 Sedona boasts 300-plus 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 4,500 feet. In fact, golf in Sedona, Arizona, even in the winter, can be downright warm in the direct sunshine, causing golfers to peel off outer layers as the day goes on. Moreover, winter rates are reasonable at $89 and under, and golfers who sign up for memberships at Sedona Golf Resort before January 1, receive two free months – that’s 14 months for the price of 12!

Hayman 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,” 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 the Arizona desert; 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!

To view available tee times click HERE.


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