Golf's Water Game, Were Recent Rains Good for Local Courses?

Golf is one of the most water thirsty, non-agricutural businesses in California, it's estimated golf courses use over 110 billion gallons of water a year.

So have recent rains helped local golf courses' bottom line?

The answer is tricky, it's a little bit yes and little bit no.

Patrick Reilly, Director of Agronomy for Maderas Golf Club says, "We have basically spent zero on water these past couple months."

Decreased spending on a water bill, and increased rainfall, have led to lush, green, beautiful golf courses across San Diego.

Reilly says, "Rain water is like no other, full of goodies, so to speak."

John McNair, Vice President of Golf for J.C. Resorts, says, "This is a superintendents dream to have this kind of weather in the winter."

J.C. Resorts has has 11 golf courses in San Diego County, McNair says "Water is the biggest costs. Water and labor, it takes a lot of water and people to maintain a beautiful course."

So to maintain a golf course, how much is the annual water bill?  McNair says water bills at some J.C. Resort courses range anywhere between $100,000 and $400,000.

The recent rains have put a signifigant recharge in ground water supply and help refill underground wells which many courses use to supplement their water usage.  Many of those wells, also get water from the Sierra snowpack.

McNair sasy, "When skiing is good for Northern California, it's good for the golf business the rest of the year."

However, there's a hook to this water story. Increased rainfall and decreased water bills are not necessarily good for the business of golf.  In recent months, golf course revenues have dropped across San Diego. 

The revenue loss comes from a lack of rounds being played.  The recent rains have kept players off the course, no golfers means no money coming in.  When a course is pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from green fees, that trumps a few thousand dollars in monthly water bill savings.

"We'd much rather have players on the golf course, than the water savings.  The water saving is a very small amount as opposed to the revenue loss we have from fewer players," says McNair.

The golf water game and golf finances, like golf itself, is a tricky business.

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