The Loop

Is a disaster looming for California golf courses battered by drought?

September 12, 2014

None of the news on the California drought front and its impact on golf has been good, but it has taken another unfortunate turn.

The El Nino weather pattern that was expected to bring vast amounts of rain to the state this fall and winter has been downgraded by the Climate Prediction Center, a National Weather Service agency, in its latest monthly report.


Gleneagles Golf Course (Getty Images photo)

The CPC report said there's still a 60 to 65 percent likelihood that an El Nino will develop, but that "a majority of models and the multi-model averages favor a weak El Nino."

"If we have another drought year, I think the implication will really be disastrous," Vaughn Kezirian, executive director of the Northern California Golf Association, said on Friday. "I would believe there would be course closures.

"Let's not even talk about El Nino. We just really need to have a normal winter. A normal year would be something that would take us out of the critical situation."

There already have been course closures. Two 36-hole facilities in central California — Diablo Grande Golf & Country Club and Ridgemark Golf & Country Club — are now 18-hole facilities.

Meanwhile, Gleneagles Golf Course in San Francisco (shown above), once ranked 17th on a list of the 25 best nine-hole courses in America by Golf Digest's Ron Whitten, saw it water rates increase by 50 percent, which made it "a non-performing business," its general partner, Tom Hsieh, told the Bay Area's CBS affiliate.

Down south, one course, Rancho San Marcos in Santa Barbara, is "in trouble," Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association said. "The well ran dry and it has no access to the state water system."

Even those courses that use reclaimed water, including the courses in Pebble Beach, are affected, "because of all the conservation programs," Kezirian said. "Flow doesn't go in and flow doesn't go out. The gallons are restricted."