President Obama traveled to California over Presidents’ Day weekend to highlight the drought emergency, calling for shared sacrifice to help manage the state’s worst water shortage in decades. He then spent the rest of his trip enjoying the hospitality of some of the state’s top water hogs: desert golf courses.
Over three days, the Duffer in Chief played two of the most exclusive private courses in the Palm Springs area: the Sunnylands estate, built by publishing magnate Walter Annenberg, and Porcupine Creek, the 19-hole course owned by billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
Taken together, the 124 golf courses in the Coachella Valley consume roughly 17% of the region’s water, and one-quarter of that is pumped out of its groundwater aquifer, according to the Coachella Valley water district. Statewide, roughly 1% of the state’s water goes to keep fairways green. Each desert course, on average, uses nearly 1 million gallons a day in the hot and dry climate, three to four times the amount used by the average U.S. links.
This appears in the March 03, 2014 issue of TIME.