Obama golfs in drought-stricken California desert

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015. Filed under: U.S. News
US President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Palm Springs International Airport in Palm Springs, California on June 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

US President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Palm Springs International Airport in Palm Springs, California on June 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Rancho Mirage, United States (AFP)   – US President Barack Obama played golf near the desert city of Palm Springs, California Saturday, shrugging off criticism that ambling around thirsty, lush greens was unseemly during a historic drought.

Obama is slated to play two courses at the weekend, Sunnylands and Porcupine Creek, a father’s day weekend escape from Washington and from the ardors of his grinding presidential schedule.

First Lady Michelle Obama and the couple’s two daughters are in Europe.

The Coachella Valley, with dozens of world-class courses, would be a natural getaway for Obama, who has played golf more than 200 times while in office – that has not been lost on his critics.

Last year Obama told an interviewer he had once carded a very respectable round of 80 – matching Tiger Woods’s first round at the ongoing US Open.

But Palm Springs is also at the epicenter of a water shortage that has prompted water restrictions not seen in four decades.

Four years of low rainfall and reduced snow melt in California have led to curbs on the use of water for agriculture and steep surcharges for overusers.

Even visitors to Yosemite National Park have been asked to show moderation.

Authorities in the western US state hope to cut water consumption by 25 percent ahead of the summer surge in usage.

The White House tried to tamp down criticism ahead of Obama’s weekend sojourn.

On Friday, between political fundraisers in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Obama met California governor Jerry Brown.

According to White House spokesman Eric Schultz, the pair discussed “federal, state, and local efforts to deal with the devastating drought and wildfires.”

Earlier, Schultz insisted that “this administration’s commitment to helping those affected by the drought is second to none,” while saying that “many (golf) courses have taken water mitigation steps aimed at water conservation.”

Obama’s White House has overturned the environmental policies of his predecessor George W. Bush by backing curbs on carbon emissions and higher fuel standards for vehicles.

He hopes to rally international backing for a major global climate deal at a summit in Paris later this year.

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