SCGA Public Affairs


Friday, July 8, 2022

“If the state says the drought is over, act like it’s not. We’re doing a good job, but we need to live under a permanent state of water conservation because water is the final frontier – especially with aridification in the western United States.” [Dr. Matthew Kirby, paleoclimatologist at Cal State Fullerton]

The Los Angeles Times gave Dr. Kirby the last word in its June 30 lead headline story, “Aridification Could Reshape Western Lands.”

In announcing the August 18 Southern California Golf & Water Summit at Los Serranos Golf Club in Chino Hills we give Dr. Kirby the first word, because coming to terms with living in a land of permanent drought is exactly what the SCGA and the full panoply of organizers of this “summit” hope to achieve for the Southern California golf community.

Water has been the subject of myriad forums and symposiums over the years. It is a staple of GCSAA Chapter meetings. It is the subject of multiple research and academic studies. University and college “Field Days” are dedicated to it. Magazine articles about it abound. Mother Nature may provide enough of it in much of the nation, but irrigation is the lifeblood of the game in California and the Southwest. The Scots may say, “nay wind, nay golf.” But Southern Californians say, “nay water, nay golf.” Actually, we never say “nay,” but you get the point.

For much of the region irrigation is dependent upon imports; local supplies don’t suffice. And with both main sources of those imports – California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack and the Colorado River Basin – producing less precipitation, that less precipitation coming more in the form of rain than snow, and that less snow yielding less runoff for transportation to the population centers, it’s clear that instead of dealing with periodic drought, we may well be dealing with permanent drought.

With all of that in mind, the SCGA, USGA and the rest of the game’s alphabet soup of leadership organizations determined that the time had come to combine forces to produce something more comprehensive than another focused forum or symposium. We decided to produce something genuinely meriting the appellation, “summit” – less educational conference than blueprint for golf continuing to be a robust part of California’s recreational tapestry.

Click here to go to SCGA landing page to learn more – how to register for this free of charge event and glean information about the summit and many of the confirmed speakers – a distinguished lot of academics, agronomists, hands-on practitioners, and senior managers at the Southern California Metropolitan Water District (MWD), the agency that provides water for 19 million Southern Californians.

Some might call the subject matter of the summit the game’s existential challenge. And they’d be right. As much as golf has done to reduce its potable water footprint, and make no mistake about it, golf has done much in the last quarter century, it has to do that much more that much faster if it expects to keep its place in California.

Again, click here to get all the information, including how to register.

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It’s not about water per se, but given that water is an inescapable part of anything re golf in Southern California, Cal Poly Pomona’s July 28 open house at its Center for Turf, Irrigation, and Landscape Technology (CTILT) is about water to the degree to which training the next generation of golf course superintendents is about training them to provide quality conditions with less and less water over time.

The way higher education works in California, albeit not the way it works in the great land grant colleges of the upper Midwest and Great Plains, is that the University of California does the research, and the State Colleges do the more practical training/teaching. In other words, turf research is done at UC Riverside; practical hands-on training is done at Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. And while we wouldn’t say the two never do meet, that is often how things work in practice.

Golf is a disproportionate contributor to Dr. Baird’s UC Riverside Turf Research Program, and golf has benefitted mightily from those investments. Many of the water saving practices and technologies attendees at the August 18 water summit will hear about began their life at UC Riverside, and when California had benefit of two turf research programs, at UC Davis as well.

Golf has not been as generous to the state college programs in recent years, and the state colleges have not been as active as they once were in training tomorrow’s superintendents – due in some part to the game’s 2005 – 2016 lull and in some part to the role played by those middle America land grant colleges in providing much of California’s agronomic talent for so many years.

Whether it’s the usual suspects we hear so much about in California’s inability to attract out of state talent – e.g., housing costs, taxes, traffic – or the simple running of a historical course, the state’s golf community was having trouble attracting that Midwestern trained talent before COVID upended the labor market. Now the problem is critical.

Cal Poly Pomona’s CTILT has significantly upped its game to meet this challenge, and in the last couple of years is again educating superintendents who are working in the industry in this state. But as the school has upped its game, particularly in terms of bringing women into a sector long in sore need of them, the golf community needs to up its game in proportion or the momentum will be lost. Even though some of the state’s current budget surplus has gone to higher education, the support provided by the state to both UC and the State College System is still a pale imitation of what it once was. Those disciplines that get funded are those disciplines that provide it from their respective private and nonprofit sectors.

As described by the school, here are some of the program’s immediate priorities:

  • Program support to enhance the student experience to support travel, educational field trips, internships, and scholarships ($50,000 annual).
  • Investment in continuing to improve facilities and equipment. For example, sponsorship of a technician to help maintain the current facilities ($15,000 annual) or funding for necessary tools, such as a rough mower, gas powered hedge trimmer, aerator, shovels, rakes, and lopper/pruning saws ($10,000 annual; gift-in-kind).
  • Opportunities to foster student and faculty research surrounding innovative technologies, such as remote sensing, GIS, and SMS ($50,000 annually, with the potential for matching funds from the California state’s Agricultural Research Institute or ARI).

That’s a lot of bang for very little buck. Let’s see; golf likes to boast that it is an $84 billion industry nationally, a $13 billion industry in California, and its professional adjunct the PGA Tour gives untold millions to charity.

When the announcements and invitations from Cal Poly Pomona go out in the next few days (SCGA will make the information available), we’ll see what the golf community can do both in terms of attending the school’s open house and supporting the education of tomorrow’s superintendents.

Click here for detail about the program.

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