Great to see another golfing dog carry on Grace’s tradition of finding balls in the rough. German Pointer Bandit is featured on the yinzer_golf Instagram and his person recently posted a video of his ball-finding prowess on the golf course. They appear to play in Pittsburgh (by the hashtag on the post), but I didn’t get a response as to which course welcomes them.
Congratulations to 2024 Golfing Dog Hall of Fame – Chloe. Chloe is an accomplished golfing dog who has traipsed a number of courses in her time including several guest post to Dog Golf (Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Portpatrick). Her persons, Fiona and David, have shared the following retrospective on her hallowed golfing career.
Chloe is no longer with us, so this is her back story. She would have been chuffed to hear she had been a good girl and been nominated for this honour – but more chuffed if she’d been awarded a Bonio.
She came to us aged 4; we offered a large garden, a small motorhome and several sets of golf clubs – she loved the first two, was neutral about the bags: golf was indeed “a good walk spoiled” for her, as she always had to be on a lead.
Chloe was a cocker spaniel. Based on her behaviour, she had worked with the guns but “failed” as she preferred hunting alone; she was then used for breeding until she was too old; after she was rejected by a family with a 6-year-old boy, she came home with us. We quickly learned she had high energy levels and became naughty without enough exercise for mind and body. Golf was ideal, although she didn’t tick off many golfing experiences in her eight years with us.
David’s golf club does not allow dogs on the course, so she never played there. However, during Covid, everyone walked their dogs there; Chloe loved the heather and the rough under the Scots Pines, dutifully kept off tees and greens, but stayed on the lead as we walked by the river (swimming after swans was a hazard) or alongside the SSSI (the Short Eared Owls, partridges and roe deer were just too tempting). But we were chased off by a Past President for breaking the Club’s rules (the public didn’t know). So we walked further afield: Chloe heard her first noisy nesting Herons in woods that we had never explored before, and was transfixed by the rafts of Eiders on the river at high tide.
As we found at the shorter Portpatrick course, and at Brunston Castle (near Girvan, now closed) she was not an ideal golfing companion: too keen on chasing fascinating pheasants and investigating interesting smells in the rough but no good at finding lost balls; a tugger on the lead – and strong enough to pull the trolley over if she was tied to it; bored with standing on the tee while David had yet another practice swing or put down a second ball (Fiona had sympathy with Chloe there). She was attracted to any water: puddle, pond, ditch, burn, river, sea – wet paws essential, full immersion the ideal – a course with no water was a very dull course indeed. The only time she would lie down was if we were sitting on a bank by a fairway to view passing players. And so Chloe would usually watch us leave for a round of golf, and she would then curl up to sleep comfortably on the Motorhome seats until we returned, with her head resting on the cuddly toy of choice (like “Chloe-saurus”, a dinosaur with her red and white markings) and a fresh bowl of water.
Her true skill and legacy was her easy ability to make people feel happy. Spectators by the green with a thermos of tea gave her biscuits; she loved a cuddle from anyone in the gallery (the question in Scotland is “can I clap [pat] your dog?”); golfers passing us in the car park as we donned shoes would smile at her waggy tail and say hello; golf tourists far from home missed their own dogs a bit less for a minute.
We do have another rescue dog now, but Chloe left us when we weren’t ready. DogGolf has reminded us of the joy that she brought us for eight years. Thank you.
Fiona & David
Welcome – Our visit to North Wilts Golf Course was one of the warmest welcomes throughout the day that we have ever received. We saw lots of dogs and asked if they went around the course (we were looking for a poster puppy for this post), but unfortunately, they all just visited the clubhouse with their persons as well as walked around the grounds. But everyone commented how many members did bring their dogs around for a round. We had lots of welcoming chats with various members throughout the day.
Walk – One of the finest aspects of North Wilts is its aspects. Brilliant views of the Cotswold hills that just gets better as the first 5 holes climb higher and higher. But the gradient is quite gradual so it is not exhausting.
Water – The course has no water hazards nor other water sources, but it does circle back to the clubhouse where you can top up on refreshment.
Wildlife – We also didn’t spot much wildlife on the course so no distractions there.
Wind Down – While we enjoyed a bit of 19th Hole refreshment at North Wilts, we decided to head down the road to the Waggon and Horses pub for a more substantial meal as the sunlight was waning. It was not only dog-friendly, but the dog, Ollie, we sat next to had particularly friendly owners. In fact, we ended up spending most of the meal chatting with them about the area, dogs, and all manner of topics.
A first for Dog Golf today with a guest review of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship by Fiona and David (spectating) accompanied by their golf-friendly spaniel, Chloe. The championships took place on several courses around St. Andrews where dogs are often welcome not just on the course, but by covenant, around the course by non-players.
Chloe’s report was distinctive in several ways. First, of all, it was the first review of a dog-friendly event. Walking the course as a psectator rather than a player. Second, it added a new dog-friendly course to the Dog Golf database – Carnoustie. But also , the Carnoustie course introduced a new dog protocol I had not seen as a rule. Carnoustie allows dogs on the course with players as long as another person, not playing, is attending to the dog.
Chloe (rescue Working Cocker Spaniel) took her crew to the East coast of Scotland in the motorhome in September 2022, because dogs and their people can all be spectators for free at this enjoyable Pro-Am competition www.alfreddunhilllinks.com It’s played in very good humour over St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, with the final day (ticketed) at St Andrews. It was to be Chloe’s final motorhome trip.
Starting on Sunday 25 September, we all walked round holes 1-2-17-18 at the Old Course at St Andrews, because it’s usually free for dogs attached to members of the public to walk there on Sundays. It was in the final stages of preparation for the Championship. Chloe would have preferred to get into the Swilken Burn, but she joined the queue to pose on the Bridge and carefully kept off the manicured tees and greens.
On Tuesday, we were all allowed to walk around the course at Kingsbarns on the practice day and were made most welcome. There was water for Chloe (paddling and drinking) at the Cambo Burn, which splits the course in two, and there were also plenty of drinking fountains around the course. Chloe enjoyed being cuddled by some charming greenkeepers and even by a caddie! She thought the sandy beach was tempting, but as her lead was on, she dragged us through the lumpy bumpy rough instead, following an interesting group. We found it hard going, but a Cocker’s 4-paw drive made light work of the terrain and there were some exciting smells to investigate. The day finished at the Carnoustie caravan site, where the neighbouring wood had squirrels to chase.
Thursday 29th was the first day of the Championship, with players at all 3 courses. We all walked to the Carnoustie course (no ticket barriers) and stood by the 1st Tee to hear the teams introduced – though she wasn’t interested in the cheery banter between Rory McIlroy and his dad. She was a wee star: she lay down and slept when the walking stopped, she “made my day” for a young American woman, she cadged food (like any Cocker would), she was nice to other dogs, she kept out of the Barry Burn and – best of all – she made so many strangers smile. Those memories are a lovely lasting legacy for us. The course is well set up for responsible dog walkers too, if you’re staying locally, with good paths, plenty of bins (but water only at the food & drink outlets) and an adjacent beach.
We didn’t stay for the remaining competition days (as we had in 2021), but plans are afoot (or a-paw?) to take our new young rescue over for the next Championship in October 2023. Do say hello if you see a wee ginger Cocker Spaniel called Poppy.
If you are a dog-lover and your club does not allow them, what is the best way to introduce them? Despite the popularity of our canine friends who we love having at our side at all times, one time they are regularly unwelcome is playing a round. Which is ironic because as much as we love the game, one could argue that most dogs would love a 4 hour walk with their human even more.
Playing a round with your dog in tow is an ancient and hallowed tradition in the sport of golf. Golf was originally a sport of gentlemen who shot birds in the winter and “birdies” in the summer…and they were accompanied by their trusty hounds during both. Britain (especially the home of golf, Scotland) is the most dog friendly golfing nation in the world with over 500 courses that welcome dogs, including some of the most prestigious ones like St. Andrews, Muirfield, Sunningdale and Wentworth. And yet, despite all of the heritage and popularity, the vast majority of courses still prohibit dogs. Only about 25% in the UK are dog-friendly and golfing with dogs in the USA is rarer than a par 3 albatross).
Here are three progressive steps that you and your club can take to breakdown the barriers to dogs on the fairways:
- Charity Event – The best place to start is to propose a charity event (ideally benefitting a dog related organization like Battersea Dog’s Home, Hounds for Heroes or RSPCA). The event would require all competitors to bring a dog along. Extra fun with forfeits for misbehaving dogs (e.g. barking at inappropriate times, stepping on the greens, etc).
- Special Time Slot – Assuming everyone has a delightful time at the event and the dogs are better behaved than expected, the next step is to propose a special time slot (probably the period with lowest usage) when dogs could be allowed. Of course, the period should be accompanied by strict rules (no dogs on greens, all waste picked up, dogs on leads and under control, courtesy to other members).
- Restricted Access – If the restricted time slots goes well, then you are in a position to propose expanding the hours that dogs are allowed while maintaining a number of provisos to keep everyone happy.
- One critical negotiation tactic is to propose that any venture into dog friendliness be “trialed” for a set period. This approach is the best way to overcome imagined and speculative trepidations (e.g. http://doggolf.info/index.php/2020/06/20/im-only-thinking-of-fido). My experience is that once properly experienced, the dog lovers appreciate it even more than they thought they would and the non-dog lovers are less bothered than they anticipated (or at least the objections that they raised are less substantiated by actual practice).
Dog ownership has grown by over 10% during the pandemic, with 34% of households now having a dog. The “Dog Whisperer” Caesar Millan preaches that the most important aspect to a dog’s happiness and good behaviour is adequate exercise. And a 4-hour walk is most dogs’ dream. Then, even if you have a terrible round, at least you have the silver lining of having given the dog a great walk.
Welcome – Lori and I have a tradition of visiting Italy every Easter weekend as the two public holidays in the UK (Good Friday and Easter Monday) give us a 4-day weekend. Just enough time for a 2-3 hour flight and several days of exploring a small area of this charming country. This year we centered our trip at Saturnina, famed for its aquamarine, tiered hot springs. And like many thermal springs, a resort is built around them which just happens to have an 18-hole golf course. So of course, we had to get in a round (unfortunately, the “magic algae” of the springs didn’t seem to do much for our game). Especially, as we saw dogs throughout the quite luxurious hotel, we had to ask if the course welcomed canine caddies, and they said indeed they did. When I got back, I did a bit of research on dog friendly courses in Italy and it turns out that quite a number of courses in Italy do welcome them. My theory is that golf resorts are more likely to welcome pets (eg. Cornwall), and the courses that don’t allow them tend to be striving to create an elitist vibe. I think the “country club” set thinks that the more restrictions you place on the members, the more exclusive the place seems.
Walk – Most of our walking was searching for the ball…ON THE FAIRWAY! The entire course was covered with daisy fleabane (see photo below). So scanning the area where your ball landed is a bit of a “Where’s Wally” hunting exercise finding your white dot among a sea of white dots. A great opportunity for a practicing your dog’s ball sniffing skills.
Wildlife – Only saw a flock of seagulls on one of the fairways (go figure, since we were considerably inland).
Water – Playing at the end of a very wet spring, many of the bunkers became pop-up water hazards (with that tasty muddy water dogs love). The clubhouse gave us free bottles of water, but they were so minerally they really tasted like they too had been drawn from the sand trap puddles.
Criss-crossed by streams, but given the proximity to the thermal springs, I wonder if these are a bit sulphury. The course is free of official water hazards until the end of the back nine where holes 15 through 17 are flanked by great lakes, but they are most inaccessible due to reeds.
Wind Down – The hotel hosting the course has an extensive range of tasty food and, as I mentioned, is very dog friendly. We stopped after the 9th hole for a little snack and some (non-bottled water) liquid refreshment. And if you want, you can book yourself into the thermal springs for a natural soak to ease away the fatigue and stresses of your round.
Welcome – Santa da Serra’s dog-friendly policy seems a bit low key. When we enquired, they said that they did have a few clients that had asked about bringing their dogs and they were happy for them to do assuming the dog was well-behaved and on a lead.
Walk – Like its fellow Madeiran course, Palheiro, Santo de Serra features towering undulations of landscape. In fact, you start the Machico course (the most picturesque) driving over two gaping chasms (bring extra balls!) that require mini-hikes to get around.
Water – With the 3-times 9-hole layout, stopping at the clubhouse is easy after any 9. We enjoyed our own “watering” with an extended break that included some nibbles as well as drinks.
Wildlife – Lots of grey sea gulls.
Wind Down – The clubhouse has one of the most spectacular views on the island, and one of the best club house views in the world I suspect. Tour buses come up to the club, just to see the view.
Welcome – We took an extended weekend and decided to try another set of warm climate islands in the middle of the Atlantic with few golf courses after our delightful visit to the Azores last year. So we decided to check out Madeira. In general, we preferred the Azores (more flowers and greenery and less built up), but we have to say that Madeira is at least more dog-friendly with their golf. We will always inquire about the dog policy at any course we play (even without canine companion in tow). We were delighted to find out that not only Palhiero dog-friendly but they even have their own dog mascot, Denis (see photo above). Denis was a poorly stray who wandered up to the course one day years ago and the course embraced him. He has had a rich and long life making the course his home. Also, we had the serendipity to meet one of the dog golfers who had just finished a round – Cosi (see photo below).
Walk – The spectacular views of the ocean below won’t be the only thing taking your breath away as it is a challenged roller-coaster of precipices like the island itself.
Water – The course had no water hazards or other water sources on the course, but it has “halfway houses” by both the 6th and 12th holes so you are never very far from liquid refreshment (for you or your dog).
Wildlife – A few random sea birds.
Wind Down – The obviously wind-down is the clubhouse itself. In fact, people make the windy trek uphill to the course who don’t play golf but just want to take in the spectacular vistas from the clubhouse restaurant terrace. We stopped for a “Madeira Tonic” (like a gin and tonic made with Madeira wine) and some of the local orange cake.
When I first added the reviews of the dog-friendly course to the Dog Golf website, I wanted the observations to be from the dog’s perspective and what they would care about, though I wrote about it in the first person. Robert F. Bradford (aka “The General”) recently penned a charming report of one of his golf outings with his trusty conscript Dashiell Doggett for Dogs Today magazine, but he wrote it from Pvt. Doggett’s voice. Here is an excerpt:
- “The General (as he calls himself since reading that every boy with a dog becomes Napoleon) took me on field maneuvers for the first time today…He took his bag of metal sticks out from under the back porch, put snacks for himself in the little pockets, and topped up what he calls the ‘birdie bottle’…My job was to keep an eye on them to make sure we didn’t lose them in the gullies and woods into which they kept chasing a little round white thing…Whenever they caught up with it, they would beat at it with a stick, and it would skitter away – usually sideways. Then they would say bad words, usually in a growl, but sometimes in an explosive bark, and occasionally in a yip of pain. It seemed we were on a hunt, and their talk of hooks and slices bethought me of meat, hung and carved, but it was just an imaginary safari, beating their way up a series of narrow fields, deliciously lined by trees, bushes, and flowers, until they surrounded a gopher hole with their little round white things, which they would then knock back and forth, criss-crossing the hole several times before finally making the little round white thing disappear.”
Another guest review of the 9 hole Dinvin course at Portpatrick Dunskey Golf Club, Dumfries & Galloway, by Fiona (walking) and David (golfing) with Chloe, on 3 May 2022. Fiona has helped with information on a number of Scottish courses, one of the most dog-friendly golfing areas in the world, so hopefully we will be graced with more reports from up north:
Chloe is a Working Cocker Spaniel, rescued at 4, then a fit age 12. She’s not allowed onto David’s own course (The Irvine Golf Club), so her golf walks are limited to our trips away in the motorhome. The Golf Pro said Chloe was very welcome on the Dinvin course on a lead, confirming the “walkers welcome” sign at the entrance. Players in the car park said a friendly hello to all of us. Chloe didn’t appreciate the cracking views to Ireland over the 18 hole Dunskey course on the way to the 1st tee. She doesn’t walk well on a lead and hates standing still, which isn’t ideal in a canine golfing companion. She found the Dinvin course very boring until a handsome male pheasant came out of the Dunskey estate woodlands that flank the first three holes. That cheered her up! The course was a bit like Chloe – small, quirky, and full of character. It was draped on a hillside looking inland over typical Galloway farmland, with rocky knolls, several steep ups and downs where Chloe almost pulled the walker over, very few bunkers, gorsey rough harbouring good smells for a spaniel, but no water hazards for drinking. Dinvin punched above its weight and was in very good condition: exceptional value at £12. There was no water dish back at the clubhouse, and we didn’t eat there as we’d lunched in the motorhome, but the dining room was busy. There is a good choice of places to eat down at pretty Portpatrick harbour, where there’s a small sandy beach at low tide that’s good for a dog runabout.
[Postscript – Chloe is no longer with us, after collapsing on a walk. New rescue Poppy is as yet untested as a golf companion.]