Monarchs in the Rough on golf courses

Snapshot Solution
Monarch butterflies on a milkweed plant.

Through the Monarchs in the Rough program, golf courses are encouraged to develop monarch butterfly and overall pollinator habitat. The iconic and beloved butterfly, renowned for its spectacular long-distance migration, is threatened by loss of wild milkweed – its sole larval food plant – resulting in a 90% population decline over the last two decades. The program supports and encourages the expansion of minimally-managed green spaces outside of playing areas on golf courses. The conversion of unused areas in the rough into spaces with native vegetation including milkweed has a number of ecological, economic and aesthetic benefits. By joining Monarchs in the Rough, golf courses can do their part to prevent further monarch losses while gaining recognition as an environmental leader and connecting with their communities in new ways.

Last update: 03 Nov 2021
Challenges addressed
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Scale of implementation
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Species management
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Urban planning
Science and research
United States
North America

The Monarchs in the Rough program provides golf course managers with regionally-appropriate milkweed and wildflower seeds to convert one acre of land into pollinator habitat. Reduced management in the forms of water, fertilizer and pesticide applications helps maintain habitat quality while also reducing costs for venues owners and operators. Golfers enjoy experiencing natural habitats, particularly when signage is provided to explain the benefits of alternative management actions for wildlife, as well as materials signalling the importance a course places on sustainability and biodiversity protection, can have reputational benefits. The United States Golf Association collects and publishes positive examples and best practice guidelines for managers that help them take appropriate actions and avoid problems encountered by other managers when implementing changes to support nature. Audubon International informs scientific guidelines and recognises success by designating golf courses Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries, if they meet a set of environmental management criteria. Certification can come with economic benefits: research has found a price premium for golf courses certified as wildlife sanctuaries.

Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 15 – Life on land
Connect with contributors
Other contributors
Eric Ndayishimiye
San Francisco Estuary Institute
Robin Grossinger
San Francisco Estuary Institute
Megan Wheeler
San Francisco Estuary Institute
Erica Spotswood
San Francisco Estuary Institute