In contrast to other times of the year, evaporation is much less in the winter. Thus, once soils become wet, they tend to stay that way for a much longer period of time. Not only do we have less water leaving the soil upward, but often times it is also unable to move down.
When the ground freezes beneath the surface, this lower layer will be the last to thaw. So as things begin to melt, the water near the surface is unable to percolate through the frozen layer beneath. This can result in some very soggy conditions on the surface.
The freeze-thaw cycle can also lead to another potential problem for the plant. When the thawing surface has a bit of give or movement to it, but the frozen roots beneath do not, traffic can cause root shear.
|Cart path ends and other "pinch points" can quickly turn to mud with winter cart traffic.|
As mentioned above, the other part of the equation is turf recovery (or lack thereof). Once we see any damage from cart traffic now, we'll likely be looking at it for quite some time--perhaps for months, as the turf isn't actively growing. The damage may start to snowball as an area that gets traffic and squishes up a bit of mud once, will start to lose its structure and be much more likely to incur further damage next time.
Of course we certainly enjoy seeing some hardy souls on the course during the cold winter months, and will allow cart use whenever possible, as we keep the long-term condition of the golf course in mind.