Irrigation Management And Water Conservation Efforts In California July 14, 2010 By Pat Gross

(L) The use of a portable moisture probe has helped superintendents fine tune irrigation applications to keep the turf healthy without over-applying water. (R) Eliminating irrigation in out of play areas, such as tee banks, helps to conserve water without affecting the playability of the golf course.

Many golf courses throughout California suffered the effects of mandatory water cutbacks in 2009, and the same is true in 2010.  As of June 1st, customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power are subject to Phase III water restrictions requiring a mandatory 15% reduction in water use as well as restrictions on days and times that water can be applied.  Variances to the ordinance were granted to golf courses if they agreed to an additional 5% reduction.  Some of the actions taken by golf courses as a result of the water restrictions included:

  • Eliminating irrigation in the rough and practice range facility.
  • Reducing water applications to the fairways.
  • More focus on hand watering isolated dry spots.


Some courses throughout the region have done an exceptional job of improving irrigation efficiency and reducing water use by taking the following actions:

  • Raising and leveling low sprinklers.
  • Performing an irrigation system audit and catch can test to evaluate irrigation coverage.
  • Replacing worn sprinkler nozzles.
  • Programming the system for multiple short cycles of irrigation (cycle/ soak) to prevent irrigation runoff.
  • Regular application of soil wetting agents to improve water penetration.
  • Use of portable moisture sensors and in-ground moisture sensing devices.


So far, there has not been a drastic reduction in the playing quality of golf courses as a result of the cut backs.  Although some golfers react to minor turf discoloration, many appreciate the firmer, faster conditions.

Several golf organizations are actively engaged in water issues throughout California, including the SCGA, NCGA, California Alliance for Golf (CAG), all of the GCSA chapters, University of California Riverside, and the USGA. 

Source: Pat Gross,