Major Championship...or Major Guilt Trip?

Trust me - no one will be more glued to the TV this weekend than I.

But this year, looking at Augusta National's always-impeccable conditioning, I can't help but feel a little apprehensive.

See, last Wednesday, for the first time in California history, Governor Jerry Brown imposed mandatory water restrictions on the state's 400 local water agencies, which supply water to some 90% of the state’s residents. These agencies--and the citizens and businesses they serve--will need to curtail their output by at least 25%, or a total of almost 500 billion gallons.

The state is experiencing widespread drought conditions for the fourth straight year, with a staggering 93% of its nearly 164,000 square miles earning at least “severe drought” status.

Even though they account for only 1% of California's water use, golf courses have been specifically cited as an example of overuse of water.

Naturally, this means that if you live in or travel to the Golden State for golf, things might be changing in terms of the aesthetics of the courses you play. After all, there are patches of dry grass in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains where there would normally be five feet of snow.

At the risk of seeming alarmist, there is some good news: about 40% of California's more than 1,000 golf courses use recycled water or groundwater that are not currently subject to the restrictions. But that will likely still leave a majority of the state's golf courses looking less green and more brown than they did previously. Layouts that have tried in the past to copy Augusta National's incredibly green grass will look strikingly different indeed.

There's no reason to cancel any trips you may have planned, but putting a little extra thought into the planning process while waiting to see how the golf industry responds will keep any nasty surprises away on your next California golf trip.

Not all golf courses are designed equal, and this may be more true in California than in any other state. That's owed mostly to its size and diversity of landforms and climates, even though almost all of it is bone-dry currently.

The Los Angeles area, for example, is home to dozens of courses, but even these vary in their water-dependency. Highly manicured layouts like those found at Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach could be pressured into letting brown and yellow reign where deep green previously prevailed. But at layouts such as the excellent Rustic Canyon in Moorpark, drier conditions can enhance the intended, firm-and-fast golf experience.

(For more on why this type of golf is awesome, check out this piece from last year .)

Some courses have already taken action. Vaunted Pasatiempo, one of the great classic courses you can play (and, Like Augusta, an Alister Mackenzie design), has cut its own water usage by half, according to a report from Golfweek. This includes the first hundred yards off most tee boxes being left to brown out.

It's a bit early to tell exactly which courses will be hit hardest and which won't skip a beat. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates as we receive them.

So as you gawk at the lush, greener-than-green Augusta National turf this weekend, keep in mind that on the West coast, brown is going to be the signature color for the forseeable future.

What do you think about these new water restrictions in California? What kind of effect will this news have on golf there in the coming years? As always, let us know below!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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Major Championship...or Major Guilt Trip?
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