Frost Delays

Frost Delay on the Golf CourseIn many parts of the country, the summer temperatures have cooled down and are now providing some great fall days to play golf.  In addition to falling leaves that we discussed last week, the cooler temperatures often times lead to the two words golfers don’t like to hear – frost delay.  What causes a frost delay and why do golfers get so upset with it? 

According to the GCSAA (Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America), “Frost is basically frozen dew that has crystallized on the grass, making it hard and brittle.  A grass blade is actually 90 percent water, therefore it also freezes.  Because of the short mowing height (sometimes as low as 1/8 inch) and fragile nature of the turf, putting greens are most affected by frost.  Walking on frost-covered greens causes the plant to break and cell walls to rupture, thereby losing its ability to function normally.  When the membrane is broken, much like an egg, it cannot be put back together.”

As the temperatures drop in the fall, frost delays become common in many parts of the country.  Frost forms when the grass absorbs sunlight and heat during the day, then loses that heat when the sun sets at night, causing the grass temperature to be lower than the actual outside air temperature.  This temperature difference causes moisture to condense on the grass at night.  When the temperature of the grass is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the moisture crystalizes and becomes frost.  Many golfers think an air temperature above 32 degrees will prevent frost from forming, but frost may occur even when the air temperature is in the mid to upper 30s. 

When frost occurs on the golf course, the Golf Professional staff is in close conversation with the golf course superintendent and both parties will agree to delay the start of rounds for the day until the frost melts.  While this is usually not the best news a group of golfers want to hear, it is in the best interest of the golf course.  Frost itself doesn’t kill the grass like it does with flowers and plants, however walking on a frost covered surface will cause long-lasting damage.  Footsteps will cause the frozen grass to break, then turn brown and die.  You will see the footprints in the grass long after the frost has melted (sometimes even three or four days later).  This makes the damaged turf more likely to have disease and weeds in the future, plus it’s very expensive to repair.

From a golf operations standpoint, frost delays usually bring the course to a stand-still until the frost melts.  You may be upset about having your starting time delayed, but the golf facility staff is doing what is best for your enjoyment on the course.  You may notice from the clubhouse that the course appears to be frost-free, but remember there are many acres of grass in shady areas that also need to melt.  The upside is, you can take advantage of some food and/or beverages in the clubhouse along with engaging conversation from your golf group, until the frost has melted.

Is there really a “Leaf Rule” when playing golf in the Fall?

Playing golf in the leavesIf you read The Forecaddie last week and live in a part of the country where the seasons change, no doubt you’ve heard that fall golf is the best time to play.  The demand on the courses ease up since many golfers don’t play after Labor Day, so it’s easier to get a tee time and pace of play is usually faster.  You may wear a light pull-over and have an opportunity to walk the course.  With the temperatures and leaves falling, it does pose a problem with playing fall golf, since a golf ball can easily get lost in a pile of leaves on the course. 

Many golfers in the fall invoke “The Leaf Rule” even though there is no such approved rule in the Rules of Golf.  In the interest of pace of play, some courses will institute a local rule in the fall allowing the natural accumulation of leaves to be treated as ground under repair.  If you or your partners are positive your ball is lost under the leaves, you may find the nearest point of relief from the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limit of the leaves and take a drop, without penalty, within one club-length of that point, no closer to the hole (Rule 25-1, Decision 33-8/31).

If you are playing a course that hasn’t allowed such a local rule, those pesky leaves are loose impediments and may be removed without penalty.  Be extremely careful when looking for your ball so that it doesn’t move while you are searching in the leaves.  Under this rule, you can't move your ball when removing leaves or it's a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced.  If you find your ball in leaves piled for removal, you can drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole (Rule 25-1b).

In a bunker, remove as many leaves as needed to see part of the ball.  Do not touch the leaves with your club while making a backswing or you will incur a two-shot penalty in stroke play (Rule 13-4c) or lose the hole in Match Play.

Golf purists feel the “Leaf Rule” is a cop-out to allow golfers to “cheat” with a free drop for hitting a not-so-good shot (that landed in the leaf pile.)  They feel the local rule should only be in effect on holes with piles of leaves – stating that most golfers don’t request the “leaf rule” when their ball is in the fairway or on the green.

Take advantage of the fall weather and get out and play!

Fall Golf: The Best Season of the Year

Fall GolfThe word “Fall” often times brings to mind football games, bonfires, caramel apples and falling leaves.  Most golfers also know that the fall is the best time to play golf.  Hopefully you are taking advantage of the fall weather and getting a chance to play some golf.  Other than falling leaves and an occasional frost delay, the fall is a great time to enjoy the beauty of the course.  Here are some hints to help you enjoy golf this fall, even when the temperatures start to drop.

•  Dress in layers – Now more than ever, golf clothing is made for comfort, performance and appearance.  Some are designed to wick moisture away while helping to keep you warm.  Layers are good for cool mornings and allow you to “remove layers” as the temperatures rise during the day.  Make sure the layers still allow you to swing comfortably – no one wants to feel like the “Michelin Man” trying to swing a golf club.

•  Wear a winter cap, headband or ear muffs – Remember while playing in the cooler temperatures, the fashion police don’t care what you look like.  You will be bundled up in layers so it’s important to keep your head warm as well.   

•  Wear winter golf gloves – Many golf glove manufacturers make gloves designed for golf in cool climates and they are sold in pairs – like rain gloves but a bit thicker.  (They are also great for light-weight gloves for driving your car in the winter!)  If you don’t like playing with winter golf gloves, you can at least wear them between shots.  Another alternative is cart mitts that allow you to wear your regular golf glove and simply remove the cart mitts before hitting.

•  Use hand warmers – Many camping and sporting goods stores carry the dry-chemical hand warmers.  These are great to have in your pockets to keep your hands warm between shots.  Also change golf balls every few holes, using a ball from your pocket that’s warm – it won’t feel so hard coming off the face of your club. 

•  Walk if possible – As we all know walking on the golf course is great exercise plus the walking helps you stay warm.  Remember just as riding a cart can be “cooler” in summer months when the temps start to drop, that same “breeze” feels like instant air conditioning.  If you do ride a cart, bring a stadium blanket as a seat cover that can double as a warming layer if needed and use the windshield, if provided, to keep the wind off your face.  Some people have gone so far as to use a cart cover for cool weather and use portable propane tanks made specifically for golf carts (they fit right in the cup holders) as heaters.

•  Take one more club – the golf ball tends to travel a shorter distance in cold weather, so take one more club than you would during warmer months. 

•  Swing easy – This goes along with taking one more club (above).  Since you are using one more club, swing easy and make good contact with the ball.  If you swing hard and hit a “stinger” you will feel it in the club shaft and in your hands.  No one wants a “stinger” with cold hands.

•  Plan your winter get-away – as the temperatures start to drop, it’s a great time to plan your winter get-away to a warm climate destination.  Visit EWGA Golf Course Network to visit a facility that welcomes EWGA members (usually at a discount!)


Why do Some Golf Ranges have Artifical Mats?

Artifical Turf on the Golf RangeHave you visited a golf course for the first time - expecting a great experience – only to see be asked to hit from artificial mats at the practice range?  You may feel like hitting from mats isn’t as nice as hitting from turf, but here are the reasons why you are asked to hit from mats and how you can practice effectively.

We all want to hit from the grass at a practice facility since golf is obviously played on grass.  However, all the wear and tear on a practice facility by golfers causes the turf to get worn and stressed.  Just like your lawn, the grass needs time to recover and grow back.  Often times at a practice facility, you will see only specific sections of the range open and may be asked to hit golf balls within the roped areas.  This is done to help spread the use over the entire practice area as well as to allow the turf recover and allow continued use of the grass.

You can pay attention to where you hit when practicing to do your part in helping with the recovery rate of the turf.  Do you hit from the same spot with each golf swing or move around from spot-to-spot?  If you take a divot, there is a preferred way to practice on the golf range.  For years golfers would hit from spots that wore the entire grass away in the concentrated area.  Then golfers were taught to spread the divot around in a scattered pattern, which created a series of divots with very little grass between them.

The proper way to practice when taking a divot is to place your ball at the back of the previous divot.  This creates a line for the divot and uses about 50 percent less turf than the scattered pattern divot.  This narrow line allows the grass to recover and re-grow much quicker using this method. (See photo)

Some practice facilities, however, aren’t large enough to support the continued use on the turf from sunrise to sunset, day after day.  This is likely when you will be asked to hit from artificial mats.  Many golfers feel this doesn’t allow you to take a divot and doesn’t feel authentic.  Again, you can use this practice method to “listen” for a good golf shot, rather than looking for a divot.Divot Patterns courtesy of USGA

When hitting from artificial mats, listen to the sound your club makes in your swing at impact.  Hopefully it’s a quiet “sweep” of the mat rather than a loud “thud” of the club hitting the mat.  If you are making constant “thuds” when hitting, your swing is too steep, causing you to literally HIT the mat vs. hitting the ball.  This is the main reason most golfers don’t like hitting from mats – they don’t fully understand how to sweep the ball off the mat – and try to hit at it.

Next time you visit the practice facility, pay attention to your practice wear pattern and sweep the ball off the mats if you are asked to hit from artificial turf.

(Picture Credit:


What to Watch at the Ryder Cup

2016 Ryder Cup - What to Watch

The Ryder Cup, the biennial men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and United States, is named after English businessman Samuel Ryder.  Founded in 1927, the event takes place in alternating venues between the United States and Europe.  This year the event will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2016.

Both teams consist of 12 players each, which have qualified or have been selected by their captains – Davis Love III (Team USA Captain) and Darren Clarke (Team Europe Captain).  For years the competition included players from the United States, Great Britain and Ireland, but a change in the team format in 1979 included continental European golfers.  The American team dominated the event for many years, but since 1979 the European team won ten times while the US Team won seven times.  The European team currently holds the Ryder Cup – after winning the past three consecutive events in 2010, 2012 and 2014.    

The matches take place over three days and include a series of different formats as follows:

Day 1 (Friday, Sept. 30):

•  There are 4 foursome (alternate shot) matches in the morning and 4 four-ball (better ball) matches in the afternoon.   Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point. 

•  A total of eight players from each team participate in the morning and afternoon sessions. (Four players from each team “sit out” for the session – with the line-up determined by the Captain and Assistant Captains.)

Day 2 (Saturday, Oct. 1):

•  4 foursome (alternate shot) matches in the morning and 4 four-ball (better ball) matches in the afternoon.  Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point.

•  A total of eight players from each team participate in the morning and afternoon sessions. (Four players from each team “sit out” for the session – with the line-up determined by the Captain and Assistant Captains.)

Day 3 (Sunday, Oct. 2):

•  The final day consists of 12 singles matches, where all 12 players from each team participate.  Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point.

There are a total of 28 points available over three days in the Ryder Cup.  A team total of 14½ points is required for the Team USA to win the Ryder Cup and 14 points are required for the European Team to retain the Ryder Cup. 

The Captains pair players together based on complimentary strength of game (for example: one player consistent from the tee and one player with a sharp short game) or pair players together who have a history of playing well together from past match play events.  Some Captains will pair a rookie team member with a seasoned veteran to help calm the nerves. The line-ups are announced right before the matches so that creates additional suspense and discussion.

Golf Channel and NBC are providing nearly 27 hours of live event coverage from Minnesota as follows: (Note:  times listed are Eastern Daylight Time)

Friday, Sept. 30 – Day One           8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT (GOLF)
Saturday, Oct. 1 – Day Two          8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. EDT (GOLF)
                                                      9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT (NBC)

Sunday, Oct. 2 – Final Round     12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. EDT (NBC)


How to Break 80

Breaking 80The past two weeks we’ve talked about how a sharp short game can help you break 100 and practicing your 100-yard shot and in can help you break 90.  So if you score regularly in 80s, what can you do with your golf game to help you break 80? 

Chances are you are chasing that single-digit handicap goal and would like to break 80 on a regular basis.  You have practiced and perfected your short game and hit greens in regulation (all tips to break 100 and 90).  Now it’s time to dial in all your clubs – including your driver – so you are consistent and give yourself scoring chances.

The first thing to do is to know how far you hit and carry distance for each club.  You can easily accomplish this through a club fitting or lesson from a PGA or LPGA Professional who can help you determine how far the ball goes with each club.  Many club fitters and golf professional use Trackman, a launch monitor device that measures trajectory and distance.  If that’s not available, use a GPS or laser range finder to determine your distances.  If you find two clubs go the same distance, ask your club fitter or Professional to test the loft to make sure they aren’t the same – this can sometimes happen when the clubs are made – so make sure each club is a different loft.  As we discussed last week, generally the loft difference between your irons should be 4° which will give you 10 yards of difference between clubs. 

Also have your driver checked to make sure it’s best suited for your swing.  Many people use higher lofts on drivers (10° to 12°) to maximize the loft and roll to get additional distance.  While most people taking golf lessons always want more distance, it’s better to be accurate from the tee to keep your ball in play and avoid trouble.  That allows you to have a swing for your approach shot rather than trying to get yourself back into play from an adjacent fairway or rough.

Knowing your iron distances and controlling your driver will help you play smarter and manage the course better, which equals lower scores, hopefully in the 70s.

How to Break 90

How to Break the 90 Golf Barrier

Are you stuck in the 90s?  Meaning you consistently break 100 but can’t seem to get into the 80’s.  Last week we talked about focusing on practicing the short game – so chances are you are good at chipping, pitching and putting but can’t seem to crack the 90 barrier. 

Just as in committing to practice your short game, the same holds true for trying to score in the 80s on a regular basis.  You need to commit time to practicing – which may include a series of lessons with a PGA or LPGA Professional who will assist you in accomplishing your goals. 

An easy way to determine what part of your game needs work is to simply keep track of the number of greens you hit in regulation.  Chances are you hit less than half the greens in regulation, which causes you to take an extra shot around the green – thus turning your par into bogey or your bogey into a double bogey.  

The best way to overcome missing greens is to figure out your 100-yard club and practice enough to really be consistent with that club.  The general rule of thumb is each club should have four degrees of loft difference which equates to 10 yards.  So if your 7-iron is your 100-yard club, you should hit your 8-iron 90 yards and a 9-iron 80 yards, etc.  (The loft of the 7 iron should be about 34°, the 8 iron 37° and the 9 iron 41° so each four degrees of loft equals 10 yards).  Also get a feel for your distance with a pitching wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge (depending on how many wedges you carry).  Then as you get closer to the green, determine which clubs travel 30 to 50-yards if you use a half-swing. 

Feeling comfortable with your mid to short irons will help you reach greens in regulation and cut down on multiple approach shots from missing the green.  Many golfers miss the green because they don’t take enough club, so by practicing from 100-yards and in, you will know which club to use to hit more greens and be on your way to posting some scores in the 80s.