The drought is taking a toll on golf courses.
The impacts include less than perfect turf, paying more for water, and passing the increased costs on to consumers.
Many golf courses are focusing what water they have left on tees and greens, keeping them in good condition.
Some fairways at The Old Back Nine in Bend are showing signs of stress. The rough areas are going brown.
“You end up sacrificing things like your rough cuts, which to most golfers is not the end of the world but, to a superintendent, it makes you bleed a little inside,” said Jeff Brown, Superintendent of The Back Nine. “Especially when you had the place top notch. It’s like slowly watching your baby die.”
The Old Back Nine golf course is fortunate to have dual sources of water: Arnold Irrigation, which is currently available on alternating weeks, and domestic water from Avion Water Company.
“When you are stuck paying for each gallon, it gets quite pricey. Then it gets kicked back on the consumer,” Brown said. “There’s nothing you can do. It’s either that or you don’t have a golf course.”
The Back Nine’s green fees jumped to $35 this year from last year’s $26, primarily due to the cost of irrigating the course with more expensive domestic water.
“So you end up budgeting the centers and you have hot spots all over the golf course. What before you were able to get enough water on, now you get little dead zones all over the golf course. You are forced to give it enough water so the sod layer doesn’t die.”
Central Oregon’s 26 golf courses draw water from a variety of sources including rivers, irrigation canals and wells.
Some, such as Meadow Lakes in Prineville and Sunriver Resort’s Woodlands, use reclaimed water. As long as people take showers and flush toilets, these courses will have ample water.
Others draw water from private wells or municipal water systems.
Each golf course has unique challenges and responses to survive this summer’s extreme heat and intensifying drought.