SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — As sports fans around the world share the announcement of legendary golfer Tiger Woods’ upcoming course design at Marcella Club near Park City, there are some Utahns who fear these new plans could worsen the state’s ongoing drought concerns.

Utah is currently the second driest state in the nation, having much of the shortage attributed to concurrent droughts and insufficient water management. In turn, golf courses are taking much of the blame with many pointing to discoveries on their overall usage.

The anticipated Marcella Club, expected to open in 2025, will feature a ski resort and an 18-hole championship golf course measuring over 8,000 yards, passing through the region’s lush mountainsides.

This development by Woods’ firm TGR Design will be available only to those with membership and constructed in tandem with planned luxury real estate from Marcella at Jordanelle Ridge.

Water usage by Utah’s golf courses

As part of House Bill 188 Substitute in 2023 General Sessions of the Utah State Legislature, golf courses could have to undertake a study by Utah State University on their water usage between their courses and driving ranges, also addressing whether water data is public information.

Once gathered, the research will likewise identify strategic water-saving opportunities in these golf courses. Additionally, the bill would create a grant program and related committee with information published on websites.

In the original bill proposed by Rep. Douglas Welton (R-Payson), courses would have been required to report their total annual usage to the Division of Water Resources, to then be shared with the public online.

Analysis by the United States Golf Association (USGA) shows that golf courses in hot, dry climates can require as much as 6 acre-feet of water per acre per year — which equals approximately 1,955,106 gallons for each course.

However, this total is a far cry from what counties around Utah have used historically to maintain their golf courses.

According to findings in an article by Salt Lake Tribune, there were over 663 million gallons of water used between six different Salt Lake County golf courses in 2021 alone. This number, while considered very high, is shown to be an improvement over 2020, where these county courses used a total of 827.7 million gallons of water.

Reports by the Utah chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association and Golf Alliance Utah in 2021 indicate that, despite these numbers, there is a lot that courses are doing to conserve water in our state.

Some methods include using secondary irrigation gathered through runoff, wetting agents to increase the effectiveness of watering, adjusting to higher mowing heights, and sand topdressing to encourage deeper rooting.

These efforts have considerably affected conservation, with 44% of Utah golf courses reducing their irrigated acreage between 2016 and 2021.

As plans for the construction of the new Marcella Club will begin this summer, it’s still too early to forecast exactly how much water will be needed to maintain it. Though, ongoing conservation as it relates to statewide drought will be a key focus as development continues.