Golf courses are helping the environment — one monarch butterfly habitat at a time

Posted at 1:33 PM, May 06, 2019

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Behind the scenes at pretty much any golf course is a person who takes pride in keeping up the greens.

"You'll find that most golf course superintendents are naturalists," said Joseph Hubbard, golf course superintendent Boca Delray Golf and Country Club in Florida.

Hubbard planted a butterfly garden between holes 5 and 6. Shortly after, the insects appeared.

"Next thing you know, you've got tons of butterflies flying around, there will be a no-fly zone for drones or anything like that," he said.

The garden is part of the Monarchs in the Rough program, a partnership between Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund .

In 2017, it started handing out seeds and signs to golf courses committed to planting at least an acre of monarch habitat. So far, 460 courses across North America have signed on.

"Butterflies are important pollinators and prey for things like birds, but really they're sensitive to environmental change and serve as an early warning system for when something is going wrong in the environment," said Marcus Gray the program manager of Monarchs in the Rough.

Gray said the butterfly population has dropped by more than half over the last 30 years. And while golf courses take up about 2.3 million acres of land, they only use 30 percent of that for the game.

The monarchs program re-establishes natural habitats where butterflies thrive and introduces courses to larger environmental practices

"Things like water quality, water conservation, pesticide or chemical use reduction and safety and education outreach, environmental planning and wildlife habitat ... so they can put all those things together in one small project and see how it would work on their property and then scale that up," Gray said.

Monarchs in the Rough is looking to expand this year on courses west of the Mississippi and in the Midwest, providing more opportunity for other pollinators at risk.

"We'll be part of the whole hub of bee highways, butterfly highways," Hubbard said.

And more beauty for everyone to enjoy.

"Slow down," Gray said. "Take time, smell the roses in essence and watch the butterflies and watch the little miracles around your life."