Drought partly to blame for closure of Carmel Highland Golf Course

SAN DIEGO - The drought is at least partly to blame for a North County golf course going out of business.

California's drought, along with rising water costs, have forced employees at Carmel Highland Golf Course to only water the main fairways until the golf course closes in 2015.

Jerry Kelley, who's been golfing at the Rancho Penasquitos course for the past 20 years, said he's noticed how a lack of rain has impacted the course. He said news that it's closing doesn't come as a surprise.

"I can tell they [have] been letting it run down a little bit; they're having a hard time, water's always been a problem here," Kelley said.

The owners say over the past five years, the revenue has dropped close to 50 percent, with an annual loss of $500,000.

A drop in business combined with the water crisis has forced course managers to cut back water usage to save money.

"We've cut off watering our rough areas and concentrating relocating the heads to the fairways and concentrating on our greens and tees," course general manager Howard Fujimoto said.

John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources, said one more dry year could mean dramatic cuts for both businesses and residents.

Gov. Jerry Brown has already asked Californians to reduce water usage by 20 percent. Laird said the issue now is how to make those cuts fair.

"Do you want residential people to take a little more and businesses a little less? It really is a decision-making process of how to allocate that risk," said Laird.

The golf course owners have not said what they plan to do with the land when the course closes next year.

Kelley said it's unfortunate to see it go after 50 years in the community.

"It's easy to come to and I'm sad to see it going," Kelley said.

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