Meadow Club, located in Fairfax in northern California, joined Monarchs in the Rough as one of the program’s first pilot projects in California. Since joining the program, Meadow Club personnel have incorporated monarch habitat into their ongoing environmental work. At the forefront of the course’s sustainability efforts are Director of Golf Course Mnt. David Sexton and Landscape Manager and Naturalist Carissa Brands. On their course, they have created an environment that supports happy golfers, monarchs, and a host of pollinators.
Complementing Meadow Club’s 90 acres of golf course is a border of about 25 acres of naturalized, native habitat. David and Carissa have worked with staff to expand natural areas of the course, pulling roughs in and turning off sprinklers as they have successfully established native vegetation. The natural, out-of-play areas contain about 8,000 square feet of milkweed plants, planted alongside native, flowering plants that provide nectar. Meadow Club has planted both showy and narrowleaf milkweed. Those species were selected because they are the two milkweed species native to Mount Tamalpais’ vernal pool ecosystems.
David and Carissa have experimented with various milkweed establishment methods. One of their recommendations: start small and try different techniques to find out what works best for the specific environment of your course, then begin expanding the habitat. Site selection and site preparation have been key elements for success. Locating milkweed habitat in areas with easy access to irrigation was important at Meadow Club—getting enough water to the plants has been critical for establishment, especially during the dry summers of Marin County, California. Weed pressure at Meadow Club is high, especially when project sites are irrigated. To combat high weed pressure, David and Carissa have been planting milkweed seedlings rather than direct seeding. They grow the seedlings (and seedlings of other native pollinator-friendly species) in a native plant nursery at the course.
So far, Carissa and David have spotted at least one monarch and a variety of native bees and butterflies – including a large group of California tortoiseshell butterflies that moved through the course and delighted golfers. As milkweed habitat sites mature, they hope to see more monarchs.
Responses from members have been positive due to course personnel’s careful work to get Meadow Club members informed about the important benefits provided by monarch habitat and native plants. The course highlights its environmental stewardship work in its monthly newsletter, and hosts a guided spring walk that highlights restoration efforts. Equally important are everyday interactions with golfers—staff are intentional about having casual conversations with members about a certain plants or projects that they are working on. This keeps members informed about the benefits, and is creating a course culture that encourages appreciation of native habitat and wildlife. Ultimately, members leave happier for having spent time in a healthy, biodiverse environment.
The Meadow Club will be continuing its work to support monarchs, improve course sustainability, and educate members. David and Carissa are currently planning an environmental day of work and fun, where members will have a chance to plant 200-300 seedlings and learn more about sustainability on the course. With a bit of luck, participants will be able to spot monarchs as they work!