SCGA Public Affairs


Friday, June 25, 2021

“As Californians face another drought, we know we need to cut lawn irrigation, shorten our showers and flush less. More importantly, as farmers face water restrictions that will affect both their livelihood and a future food supply for all of us, I wonder why I seldom read about sacrifices made by those huge water-guzzlers, California’s 921 golf courses. Palm Springs, with annual precipitation below 6 inches, boasts more than 100 courses. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. golf courses consume more than 2 billion gallons of water per day, and since one in every 17 of U.S. courses is located in arid and semi-arid California, our 921 courses consume a sizable chunk of that total daily. Recreation is an important industry in California, but the majority of ordinary citizens are expected to make sacrifices disproportionate to those made by the golf industry. A vast minority of privileged individuals place a high priority on a game whose playing field and ambiance require the use of so much of our waning water supply.” [Letter; San Francisco Chronicle – 6/18/21]

No doubt, this letter has your blood boiling. No “sacrifices?” What about all those investments in expensive irrigation technologies? What about all that turf removal? What about all those recycled conversions? How about the proliferation of on-site recycling capacity? What about those 40% curtailments during the 2014-2016 drought, the overseeding workarounds, warm season grasses replacements, massive investments in turf research, and on and on and on?

“Water-guzzlers?” We guess we are to believe that a sector that consumes less than ¾ of 1% of the state’s potable water supply “guzzles” the stuff. “Palm Springs?” We guess the author is not aware that only one 9-hole golf course out of the “more than 100” she cites irrigates with potable water, nor is the author aware that the California Lower Desert’s water supplies are almost entirely separate from those of the rest of the state. We are also going to guess that the author, a San Franciscan, is likely unaware that she lives in the only major California city totally dependent upon imported supplies.

We don’t cite this letter to boil your blood but to remind you that it is indicative of what a vast majority of the state’s population thinks about golf in general and its use of water in specific – generally, a “vast minority of privileged individuals” who just don’t follow the same rules as the rest and specifically, a cavalier and uncaring waster of water on the frivolities of a privileged few.

The vast majority of the state’s regulators and policy makers don’t think this of us because golf has spent years educating them as to the facts of the matter. But golf has spent precious few of its vast resources educating the rest and precious little of its time marketing those facts to the general public and non-golf media. Thus, when things get tight, as they are rapidly getting in California, and what increasingly matters more than facts are perceptions, the San Franciscan who penned this letter to the San Francisco Chronicle does us a great favor by telling us in advance of the coming storm what we’re going to be up against. [with apologies for the oxymoronic pun]

To those of you who are now thinking, didn’t the golf industry flood the public arena with the “facts” about the game as recently as the last drought spike, please know that the “public arena” is a very crowded place, much more so in the era of Google and social media than ever before. SCGA and its allied associations/organizations in the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) will again flood their respective lanes; we’ll shout at anyone in government or media who will listen, and we’ll shout in the long-form appropriate to our leadership positions.

For those of you who want to do a little short-form shouting in your own more solitary and less expert lanes, the Golf Course Superintendents Association (GCSAA) has put together a great two-page document that arms you well for the effort. Click here to download, print, distribute, hang on the wall, share with your friends, particularly those who don’t play golf.

The more who “shout” golf’s message in a public arena suffused with a set of prejudices as unsubstantiated as they are harmful, the better our result will be should everything now in place continue unabated next precipitation season. By “in place,” we don’t refer only to another dry year, but to the very real consequences of a warming climate in which reduced snowpacks result in even less spring runoffs due to the drier conditions that naturally accompany warming. As much as California’s best climatologists thought they had estimated the runoff that would result in drier conditions, they got a big surprise in 2021. Or as Chief of Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting for the California Department of Water Resources Sean De Guzman put it in a story running in today’s Bay Area and Southern California News Group’s newspapers – “the snowpack was disappearing, and the rivers weren’t rising; a lot of our forecasts were off. We have 100 years of data saying that if you have this much snow, you would have this much runoff, but that fell apart this year.”

Combine those new realities with the prejudices evidenced in that SF Chronicle letter and we have our work cut out for us – “work” that those who understand the common denominator of all of the game’s challenges will understand as work not amenable to pursuit on an ad hoc basis. Golf doesn’t have unrelated problems of water, regulatory compliance, municipal threats, and costs rising faster than the CPI; it has one big problem related to its encumbrance of large tracts of land that require correspondingly large inputs. If the game can get beyond its well-defined silos and approach the “work” in a holistic manner that posits a societal value proposition meriting those encumbrances, the industry will thrive no matter what challenges Mother Nature, the California legislature, myriad regulatory agencies, or media organs throw our way.

# # # # # # # # # # #

SCGA may be the lead agency in the state’s advocacy efforts, but we are hardly alone. We couldn’t achieve half of what we do for our member clubs, members, and the game were it not for our allied partners, chief among them the two California PGA Sections, the state’s 6 GCSAA Chapters, and the California Chapter of the National Golf Course Owners Association (CGCOA). The work we did on AB 5 and AB 2257 was performed hand in glove with the PGA Sections. The work we’re doing in this session on AB 1346 is being driven by GCSAA. The work we did earlier this year regarding the late great AB 672 (may it rest in peace forever) was a full court press by all of the above. We’re a bit alone on some of the many municipal issues we routinely deal with; however, our partners are rapidly warming to that cause and ramping up their own efforts in that space.

Today we want to share with you a program the CGCOA is spearheading – taking the lead on behalf of the rest of us and with any luck their active participation as well.

The CGCOA “Golf is Good Ambassador Program” is patterned after the GCSAA’s national Ambassador program, which organizes golf course superintendents by Congressional District and matches them with the Congress Member representing the district in which the ambassador’s golf course is located. In this case the organization is by California State Assembly District and the pool of Ambassadors is not restricted to any niche in the golf industry but rather open to, as CGCOA puts it in its promotional materials, “golf course owners, general managers, superintendents, golf professionals, even amateur golfers and others passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California.” If you ignore the clumsy reference to “even amateur golfers” and focus on “others passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California,” you’ll recognize this as a gracious invitation to members of SCGA clubs to consider becoming an Ambassador. Indeed, we are going to bet that many of you would make for the best kind of Ambassador, the one solely motivated by love of the game.

Beyond the obvious benefits of the more direct constituent contact cum relationship such a program would provide the California golf community, the hope is to eventually ramp up the California Alliance for Golf’s current “Sacramento Day” festivities into something broader, grander, and thus more impactful by putting not just more industry leaders but more constituents behind the Alliance’s legislative agenda – a mini-version of National Golf Day, albeit with an agenda that fits the California golf community’s strategic thrust much better than a national one that is frequently at odds with it.

Click here to access additional information and the application form. It’s also available in the “Publications” section of the Governmental Affairs hub at, while the GCSAA water document referenced above can be found in the "Resources" section of the hub.

# # # # # # # # # # #

Everyone knows the hackneyed bromide about failing to prepare amounting to preparing to fail. But bromides don’t descend to that level without containing some measure of truth. Southern California’s great work in increasing storage capacity while significantly reducing consumption has given the southern part of the state at least one full year to get prepared for the consequences of a 3rd straight bone-dry precipitation season. Mother Nature could bail us out, but let’s not count on that.

Archived Updates

Opposition to Assembly Bill 1910

Read More →

CGCOA Golf is Good Ambassador Program

Are you interested in becoming an advocate for golf in California? The CGCOA is seeking amateur golfers who are passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California. Take the next step to becoming an advocate for golf by completing the attached Golf is Good Ambassador Application.

Read More →

FORE - Public Affairs

FORE - The magazine of the SCGA. Find archived Public Affairs articles on the website of the SCGA's award winning quarterly publication.

Read More →


It isn’t often that one bill can highlight all that separates one side of California’s great water divide from the other – from those interests fixated on conservation as the focus of future supply and those intent on pursuing a more diversified portfolio – from those who are often accused of believing that California can conserve its way out of its aridification predicament and those who are convinced that if conservation is the only tool in the state’s water resiliency toolbox, California is doomed to be hollowed out in much the same way rust belt cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit were in the last quarter of the 20th Century.

Read More →


Charles Dickens’ famous opening of “A Tale of Two Cities” comes to mind as a good descriptor of where California’s water situation and golf’s place in it stands after back-to-back record precipitation years: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...".

Read More →


Four Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion yesterday that seeks to crack down on what the motion describes as “black-market tee time brokers” who book and resell city golf course tee times for profit.

Read More →


When introduced by Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) February 16, AB 3192 contained a provision that would have banned the use of all nonorganic pesticides and fertilizers on golf resorts in California’s Coastal Zone.

Read More →


A cautionary tale from semi-rural Santa Barbara County to remind you that the pressure to repurpose golf courses is not just a phenomenon in California’s densely packed urban cores.

Read More →


The National Golf Course Owners Association’s (NGCOA) Harvey Silverman may have characterized the City of Los Angeles’ uncommonly quick reaction to intense media scrutiny (five separate Los Angeles Times stories including a Sunday lead editorial) of the depredations of tee time brokering with his quip in the organization’s “Golf Business Weekly” about the city having reacted “faster than fixing potholes.”

Read More →


Every year there seems to be one bill filed in one house of the California Legislature that keeps the California golf community up at night.

Read More →