Utah golf courses say they are reducing water use.  Some can prove it.

Utah golf programs say they’re decreasing water use. Some can show it.


Murray Parkway Golf Course Saturday, April 1, 2023.

Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune


Copper Golf Membership in Magna on Saturday 1 April 2023.

Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune


Murray Parkway Golf Course Saturday, April 1, 2023.

Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune


Nice Salt Lake Collaborative

❮ ❯

Editor’s word: This text was printed by way of the Nice Salt Lake Collaborative, a options journalism initiative that companions with information, schooling and media organizations to assist inform individuals concerning the state of affairs within the Nice Salt Lake and what might be performed to make a distinction earlier than it’s too late. Learn all our tales at greatsaltlakenews.org.

Utahns rallied in recent times to tear out their lawns or let their turf flip brown, motivated by drought, a disappearing Nice Salt Lake and dwindling water provides within the Colorado River Basin.

So when some residents drove previous lush inexperienced golf programs, nonetheless lush within the thick summer season warmth, it drew their ire. And when one lawmaker floated the concept of ​​requiring golf programs to report their utilization this 12 months, solely to have his invoice crushed in committee, it led some to surprise if the properties have one thing to cover. Even John Oliver questioned the logic of Utahns watering greens of their dry, desert setting.

Alan Davis, a spokesman for the Utah Golf Course Superintendent Affiliation, is enthusiastic about turning golf programs right into a boogeyman.

Golf programs had been the hero of the pandemic, which I used to be comfortable to see, he mentioned. It introduced a document crowd to the sport.

In Salt Lake Metropolis alone, golf participation grew 25% in 2020.

So only a few quick years later, Davis mentioned, I would not say I used to be a villain [but] how shortly issues can flip round.

Those that handle the greens are working laborious to make use of much less, Davis mentioned, switching to drought-tolerant grass species, retrofitting sprinklers and letting peripheral areas go with out irrigation.

There may be additionally a change in notion, he mentioned. Brown grass just isn’t lifeless grass I’ve heard that a number of instances. Moved in the suitable course.

The Salt Lake Tribune obtained knowledge on water utilization over the previous 5 years from many of the state’s golf programs, although some publicly owned programs don’t monitor their utilization and a number of other non-public programs declined to share their data. The info is on the market for evaluate in an interactive map and a Google spreadsheet. The numbers are in acre-feet, and one acre-foot of water is sufficient to provide about two Utah households for a 12 months, relying on how a lot they use outdoor.

The information acquired present that a minimum of 40 of Utah’s golf programs have diminished utilization between 2021 and 2022 regardless of bone-dry climate. A number of programs elevated their irrigation by tens of millions of gallons.

A personal golf course perspective

Justin Woodland, superintendent of The Barn Golf Course in Nice View, is among the non-public property managers who selected to not disclose water use, however he highlighted efforts to preserve.

We consider that we should be the instance within the business, and we might be, he mentioned. We’ve left the driving vary. It is 5 hectares, we do not water in any respect. We determine if you happen to do not hit a golf ball off of it, we do not care what it appears like.

He’s experimenting with hybrid grass species and modifying the irrigation system to irrigate a smaller footprint. In 2021, the usual examiner diminished watering by 30-35%.

Spent much more cash to make the course look so much worse, Woodland mentioned.

Dying timber and drying ponds by public lanes

Murray Parkway is among the municipally owned golf programs that doesn’t monitor its water use, nevertheless it irrigates in a brand new manner by accumulating water runoff from Interstate 215 together with the groundwater building of the displaced freeway.

We get plenty of salts, we get plenty of oils, we get plenty of diesel gas within the water, which isn’t actually wholesome, particularly for ornamentals on the golf course, golf course superintendent David Carruth mentioned. It is an issue we had been prepared to take as a result of it saves us some huge cash on water.

Working all that water by way of the golf course helps filter out pollution earlier than they attain the Jordan River, Carruth added.

It is stunning how a lot water just isn’t wanted to maintain turf alive, he mentioned. And correctly maintained turf has an enormous cooling impact in the summertime.

Managers of Davis Park and Valley View golf programs, each owned by Davis County, have stopped filling ponds on the golf course and stopped watering the roughs, a lot in order that it’s beginning to kill dozens of the course’s timber, in response to director of golf Dustin Volk.

Grew to become accountable like the remainder of the general public, Volk mentioned, nevertheless it has been a sufferer.

Nobody has requested for water utilization knowledge within the 30 years Volk has labored on county golf programs, he mentioned, and it isn’t one thing they monitor or monitor. However data from the county and the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District in a information request exhibits that irrigation dropped at Valley View from 137 acre-feet in 2020 to 105 acre-feet final 12 months. Valley View, which covers 183.5 acres, had a few of the lowest water added per 12 months. acre among the many state’s golf programs in 2022. Solely Salt Lake Metropolis’s Forest Dale and Mountain Dell programs and Outlaw Golf Membership at Hideout used much less.

Davis Park has additionally seen vital reductions, utilizing 176 acre-feet in 2022 versus 208 acre-feet in 2021 to irrigate 128 acres.

Requested if that is the brand new regular for golf programs or if Davis County will return to previous irrigation strategies now that Utah has skilled document snowpack, Volk mentioned hell will observe the restrictions imposed by water managers just like the Weber Basin.

We clearly need to water sufficient so timber do not die, Volk mentioned.

He famous that in instances of drought and water shortage, golf programs usually battle with public notion of them.

Particularly when individuals had been restricted to 1 or two days per week to water, Volk mentioned, [they] drive by and the golf programs are all inexperienced. It is like, sure, however it’s important to bear in mind, was an asset to society.

Go inexperienced in Utah’s sunny southwest

In heat Washington County, golf programs use considerably extra water than these up north as a result of they function year-round.

Town of St. George owns 4 golf programs and provides water to 4 non-public properties, though its knowledge is incomplete for Bloomington Nation Membership. All of its public programs managed to cut back water use in recent times or a minimum of preserve it the identical, regardless of worsening drought situations. Town-owned Sunbrook Golf Membership went from utilizing 945 acre-feet in 2020 to 889 in 2021 to 665 final 12 months.

Nonetheless, many of the non-public golf programs with accessible knowledge elevated their use from 2021 to 2022. Entrada at Snow Canyon County Membership used 513 acre-feet in 2022, in comparison with 376 the 12 months earlier than. That is as a result of the membership’s golf course underwent a serious renovation that started in 2020, in response to interim basic supervisor Jim Cleary.

We did not run plenty of irrigation, Cleary mentioned, 2021 is a troublesome 12 months to make use of as a comparability.

The property’s adjustments included trendy sprinkler and structure programs, which Cleary mentioned will imply extra environment friendly use of water on the property.

Colby Cowan, director of golf operations for the St. George, says the town has additionally instituted extra environment friendly practices.

It would not kick the water and let it go wall to wall, Cowan mentioned. We attempt to be water clever as finest we will, whereas making it playable.

They’ve planted Bermudagrass, a warm-season species with deep roots that tolerates much less water. When the grass goes dormant within the winter, Cowan solely overlooks the fairways and tee bins, so that they irrigate a smaller space.

Golf programs, for no matter cause, have had a nasty rap on water use, Cowan mentioned. However he identified a few of their benefits.

Washington County’s delicate climate and golf greens have lured vacationers because the Nineteen Sixties, St. George Information experiences. And golf generated a $90 million financial windfall for the county in 2021 alone, in response to the Higher Zion Conference and Tourism Workplace.

It is such an financial driver for us down right here, Cowan mentioned.

Who advantages?

There isn’t a doubt that golf strikes cash by way of Utah’s economic system. The Golf Alliance of Utah commissioned a research in 2012 that discovered golf services generated $386 million in financial advantages for the state and created greater than 5,000 jobs. It additionally introduced in cash by way of tourism spending, tournaments, capital funding and elevated property values ​​for a complete financial impression of $806 million.

That was a decade in the past. It is unclear how rather more the sports activities chips are right this moment, given inflation and the rise in participation seen in the course of the pandemic. However all of the tens of millions of {dollars} generated and tons of of acres irrigated do not precisely profit everybody.

Solely 250,000 individuals participated in golf on Utah programs in 2021, the Deseret Information reported, about 8% of the state’s inhabitants. In the meantime, cities and cities throughout the state are operating out of water, even after a season of banner snow.

If what occurs by way of tourism just isn’t additionally equally useful to the neighborhood that hosts the tourism, it isn’t sustainable in the long run, mentioned Kelly Bricker, professor and director of the Hainan-Arizona State College Joint Worldwide Tourism School .

For the big quantity of land they cowl 144 acres, the common measurement of a golf course in Utah, solely a restricted quantity of individuals might be on the properties at any given time.

You can’t acquire entry [golf courses] to different actions you could park, Bricker mentioned, noting that she was not talking on behalf of Arizona State College. It’s actually a really slender use of that land.

Golf has additionally traditionally been an costly sport with excessive entry prices. The rise in participation in recent times has improved the range of the business’s contributors, however just one in 4 golfers are girls. Just one in 5 are individuals of colour.

We have talked so much about altering the usage of golf programs to be extra honest and inclusive, Bricker mentioned. Even at evening, for stargazing, as a result of they’re in open areas that sometimes haven’t any mild round them. It will be cool to reshape the notion of what and who they’re for.

In her conversations, nonetheless, it’s troublesome to get golfers on board with these adjustments. And it would not clear up the environmental issues golf programs generate, equivalent to fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that wash into streams and lakes. Nor does it cut back the assets they use.

The quantity of water golf programs sometimes use is horrendous, Bricker mentioned. And it feels very wasteful.

About 79% of accessible water in Utah goes to agriculture, whereas 9% goes to cities and cities, in response to Utah State College. This makes golf programs a relative lower in reference to the state’s water consumption. However with dwindling provides resulting in a shrinking Nice Salt Lake, groundwater depletion and interstate battle on the Colorado River, conserving water in cities and golf programs can nonetheless go a good distance, particularly as populations develop.

About 25% of Utah’s 111 operational golf programs both didn’t monitor their water use or didn’t share their knowledge. Those that offered data collectively used sufficient water to service as much as 50,000 Utah households per 12 months. That is greater than the variety of households in Logan and St. George collectively.

In some unspecified time in the future, our environments ought to dictate to us what is feasible to assist actions, high quality of life, all of it, Bricker mentioned. I’m positive that for some people golf provides to the standard of life. However is it one thing that advantages the entire society and will increase the standard of life for everybody?

For Davis, with the Utah Golf Course Superintendent Affiliation, the pandemic made clear the general public advantages of golf programs.

[Remember] what it offers to a neighborhood, what it offers to psychological well being, Davis mentioned. It’s an open area in the course of the town.

Nice Salt Lake Collaborative intern Emma Keddington contributed to this report.


Be part of 1000’s who already obtain our every day e-newsletter.

Author: ZeroToHero

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *