Happy Halloween from Grace and all of us at Dog Golk UK! May all your rounds have more treats than tricks.
Welcome – While we didn’t meet any fellow dog golfers, we did see lots of dog walkers going through and around the course on trails that share the land of Epsom Downs so we didn’t feel out of place at all. Many of the walkers had their dogs off lead so we felt that letting the hounds loose (under control) was perfectly normal too.
Walk – That said, we did keep the girls on the lead for the majority of the course simply due to the proximity of a number of busy roads flanking and criss-crossing the course and we didn’t want them (especially Rusty) inadvertently wandering on to them. The 5th through 7th and the 14th-15th are your best places away from the roads to let them stretch their legs. The course itself is one of the most enjoyable we have played. It is on the short side (par 70 and 5780 yards) making it a bit more manageable hike. Third, the course does have some undulations in the topography, but none seemed overly steep or difficult to summit. At the topmost part of the hilly bits are some of the finest views of London in the distance.
Wildlife – Coincidentally, aside from a few birds and squirrels loitering around, the only wildlife we came upon was a horse rider crossing behind the 5th green. So the walking paths must be riding trails as well. I guess we shouldn’t have been too surprised since the south side of the course abuts the Epsom Downs race course. The 9th and 10th parallel the Epsom Downs racetrack (so if you time your round well enough, you could catch a few races going past you).
Water – The course is devoid of hazards. Neither sand traps nor water hazards. A few holes in we were congratulating ourselves on avoiding them until we realized that there had been none to avoid. While this encumbrance free play adds to the golfers enjoyment, it does mean no water on the course for the dogs
Wind Down – Once you start on your round, the course doesn’t swing back to the clubhouse until the 18th. But if you want a mid-round break, both the 5th and 10th holes finish right next to the Derby Arms pub which has a 4-star rating on DoggiePubs.org (“Lovely Gastro Pub, dogs are only allowed in the cosy bar area however the full pub menu is available. Lovely atmosphere and great food!”).
DogGolf was partly inspired by a range of dog friendly sites we use (eg. DoggiePubs). Another great site, TheLonDog, covers everything canine in London and caught up with us recently to learn more about the world of golfing with dogs:
“Dogs and golf. Two words that one may think have little chances to be found in the same sentence. Not for entrepreneur Bruce Lynn, founder of website Dog Golf, who – following a happy encounter – went on a mission to map out all golf courses that allow hounds in the UK. We chat with him about his discoveries and insights into dog-friendly golf courses in London: a very unexpected thing you can try in the capital with your dog!”
Welcome – Hampton Court Golf Club gave us perhaps the warmest dog golfing welcome we’ve ever had. We were greeted at the clubhouse by members with their own dogs (including an adorable and dachshund/corgi mix who was especially friendly when my sausage bap came out). We found ourselves surrounded on the course by a considerable number of dog walkers who have access to the grounds. But the best welcome of all was by a resident veteran golf Beagle, Poppy (see photo top). We had taken a bacon buttie break after the ninth, but being a weekend morning the course was quite packed and slotting into the back nine was going to be a bit of a challenge. Until Poppy (and her master Khalil) came by in her own two ball and invited us to join them. We formed a very affable foursome where Khalil was able to share lots of insights and background about the course (eg. the course was previously known as “Home Park” until some Americans with more marketing hype took it over). It was the first golfing dog friends we have made since friends of ours first introduced us to dog golfing.
Wildlife – Deery me! What wildlife! The round was also distinguished by having by far the most chock-full collection of fauna. The usual little critters like squirrels and geese, but the main event was the roving herds of deer. A pack of a dozen or so resting in the rough on nearly every other hole (see photos below). Apologies (or “you’re welcome”) for the record number of pictures, but it really did feel like “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”…or perhaps more currently “Walking With Dino-Deers” because these stags were gigantic. The size of horses. But they seemed utterly content to just lie there with golf balls whizzing past them. And even dogs walking by. They didn’t seem to mind when Rusty and Grace passed within feet of them (see photos below). If you ventured closer than 20 feet, they did start to get alert and one would stand up so we tried to keep our distance beyond that. The course attendant passed by and was happy to see the dogs but did reiterate the importance of keeping them on a lead. He said if a dog does decide to approach them, then they get up and start stampeding and there is no stopping them (“Fenton!…Fenton!!…Jesus Christ…Fenton!”). And despite how biddable Rusty and Grace are, we were happy to have them on lead because I’m not sure that Rusty would be able to resist an unwelcome friendly greeting to these curious creatures.
Walk – After what seems like an eternity of hiking rolling hills, Hampton Court was a treat in its table-like flat terrain throughout.
Water – The course is flanked by a couple of bodies of water, but neither are easily accessible. The “Rick Pond” across the boulevard leading to the palace as well as a good size pond flanking the 5th hole. There is a water fountain by the 2nd hole which you can also hit when you return to the 9th tee.
Wind Down – Turning once again to the handy DoggiePubs.org which provides reviewed dog-friendly pubs in order of proximity to target location. So we plugged in the “KT1 4AD” postcode for the Hampton Court Golf Club and up popped The Albany a mere “0.6 miles” away. A literally, even at my age a stone throw (or at least a pitching iron strike) from the 5th hole itself. Well, it is true that the Albany is virtually next door to the golf club…but only if you scale a brick wall and swim across the Thames (see map below). The driving distance is 3.5 miles. Still, you need to drive most of that just to get out of the expansive Hampton Court grounds. The establishment is a stunning riverside eatery virtually on top of the Thames. The food was tasty, but unfortunately the service woefully understaffed (two people managing both the drinks and the food orders at the bar meant an incessant scrum like last orders at a Balham bar). Still, sitting Thames-side on such a lovely day with plenty of room (the lower seating area even has some grassy areas which are a bit of a softer place to settle for the dogs) made the waiting more tolerable.
Wokefield Estate is a palatial complex with hazards of a size that rivals its sprawling country house namesake. A new benchmark for largest lake was the body of water on the 12 hole completely as long as the hole itself. For birdie position on this par 3, you have to traverse every inch of it. It reminded me of the dreaded 5th hole on the Shangri-La Villingili course in the Maldives. And the water extends further from there with rivulets extending from each end linking it to yet another sizeable body.
The sand traps are just as a leviathan sometimes larger than the greens themselves. In fact, Lori referred to them as “sand lakes”. Sort of the Morecombe Bay of golf courses (and just as dangerous). The trap at Hole 2 is like some runaway deformity with random appendages protruding in various directions like some giant, ball-eating, flat-world octopus. And the size of so many traps doesn’t mean the sand has been sucked up into a few big pits. There’s plenty of sand left for a huge number of smaller traps as well (71 in total to be precise).
Welcome – When I originally contacted Wokefield, they said that dogs were “welcome on a lead or under control”, but when a booked the tee time, the pro shop mentioned the lead again. As a result, while I have included the comment “on a lead or under control” in the Notes section of their profile, I have ticked them as a “Lead Required” course. Given all the wildlife around, it’s probably not a bad thing to have a bit of extra constraint to guard against temptation.
Walk – After so many hilly courses, Wokefield was a welcome relief as a nearly flat landscape.
Water – Eight water hazards in total, many of which are quite sizeable (see above) means that you are never very far from a sip of water for the dogs (and most quite accessible with gentle embankments in places to set down to them).
Wildlife – A virtual menagerie. Pheasants in all the rough. Rabbits too.. Water fowl galore. And even llamas by the exit!
Wind Down – For the first time since starting this site, we took our wind down at the halfway point with a tasty lunch and refreshing drink at clubhouse itself near the 9th Hole. Being a hotel operation, they had an extensive menu that was available all day long. The burger on brioche and very crunchy chips quite exceeded our expectations (though admittedly a bit pricier than your typical pub fare).
Expand your mind as big as the traps that surround you and get Woke to dog golfing.
Welcome – Off to the dog golfing desert of the UK – the Midlands. My wife and I have long wanted to visit the Lake District and Blackpool to dance in the Tower Ballroom. Our previous dog golfing expeditions this year have taken us to coastal extremes – Norfolk to the east and Cornwall to the west. Now it is time to try the northwest coast. The outset of the trip underscored the challenges keeping information up to date. We originally planned to stop off at Brookfield GC about two-thirds (bit over 2 hours) of the way up to Blackpool, but when we set off and called for a tee-time, it turns out that they had shut down operations since I spoke to them last year. We then tried Enville and Burslem and both no longer allow dogs (the website database has been updated). We finally found Sedgley (aka Mark Butler Golf Academy) just past Birmingham. They are happy to have dogs, but are concerned that they be properly controlled with a lead and looked after (eg. cleaned up after) which they make clear when you arrive. That said, everyone there seemed very happy to welcome Rusty and Grace.
Walk – It’s mostly all downhill from the expansive vista at the clubhouse (see photo above). Unfortunately, you do have a Matterhorn like climb back up to the 8th and 9th at the end of your round (but being a short course it was all quite manageable).
Water – No water on the course, but again, being a short course you don’t have too long to go before you are back at the clubhouse for some water.
Wildlife – And not a lot of wildlife to speak of.
Wind Down – The doggie pubs situation in the area is nearly as limited as the dog golfing. We turned to our trusty site, DoggyPubs.org.uk, and went through about the first dozen without any luck to find one open and serving. So we had to make do with proceeding on our way for our northwest passage and simply stopping at a motorway services for some refreshment.
Welcome – The pro shop was most enthusiastic when I double checked about the dog friendly protocol. His response was that “most golf courses are aren’t they?” Well, unfortunately not (only about 15%), but it was encouraging to hear him think of it as “normal”. During the round, we also noticed a few local dog walkers passing through so the players must be used to dogs on the course.
Walk – The course is laid out on mostly flat countryside. The few elevations seem to be reserved for some precision shot par 3s. Except for the sand bunkers. Or should I say “sand abysses”. The course designer Harry Vardon made extensive use of “sleeper faced bunkers”. That means, like coal mines, the hole is so deep that you need to prop it up with wood planks. In fact, Hole1 has two bunkers with stairs going down into them (see below). Some sand traps seemed like they would benefit from lifts descending into their depths. But Hole 1 is nothing compared to the hole right after. Hole 2’s entire fairway is a sunken hazard topped by an edifice of sleepers more intimidating than Pointe du Hoc. Like baleen plates of a Blue Whale that has beached itself on the course and has taken to gorging on golf balls instead of krill. Throughout the course, some side of the bunkers are more suitable for abseiling than pitching.
Water – No natural bodies of water on this savannah like plain, but the course has provided water fountains at the 6th and 12th holes (which provided a fresher drink for the girls that the water in the bottles getting tepid in our carts).
Wildlife – We didn’t really encounter much in the way of wildlife except the obligatory squirrel here and there.
Wind Down – We decided that after a parching 32 degree round (even well supplied with drink), a doggie pub wind down was not only going to be too late for dinner, but too late for our urgent thirst. So we decided to grab a drink at the Sandy Lodge clubhouse. They have a particularly comfortable outdoor seating area and some alto-cumulous clouds were making for a Sistine Chapel like sunset worth savouring as much as our ice cold beverages. On his own initiative, the bartender also came out with a bowl of water for the girls which was especially considerate.
Welcome – Calcot Park is quite content to have dogs are long as they are on leads and looked after (euphemism for ‘make the mess is cleaned up’).
Walk – And the course is quite picturesque with gently undulating ups and downs in the landscape.
Water – Calcot Park has only one body of water, but it is a doozy. One of the biggest ponds (nearly a proper lake) I have seen at a golf course. And quite accessible to the dogs (over on the bridge side) to grab a sip.
Wildlife – Oh deer! This big body of water has attracted some big creatures. Notably deer. We saw deer about a half dozen times during our round.
Wind Down – For our wind down we opted for another DoggiePubs recommendation, the semi-eponymous Fox and Hounds Pub.
One caveat is that you might need to use your hounds’ sniffing skills to find the pub as it is not actually where it says it is (The British have the reputation for being the worst at giving directions, but actually it really the case that they are terrible with creating addresses. They are all vague and inconsistent. Numbers going up one side of the street and then down the other side, streets stopping and then starting again after some hiatus, vague addresses that have some house name on a street several miles long, etc.). The official address on their website and most listings is “Station Road”. Except that the pub isn’t actually on Station Road. It is sort of near Station Road (again, the British with the approximate addresses), but Station Road isn’t even the adjacent street. You take Station Road, then you go on Hangar Road and then you get to the pub which is actually on Deans Copse Road. I asked why their address said “Station Road” and the publican replied, “Oh, years ago this street used to be called ‘Station Road’.” History preservation I guess.
Their sign announces – “Furbabies Friendly – dog beds, water bowls, toys, paddling pool, poop bags, towels, free treats, ice cream @£3.50, and lots of fuss from the staff.” We were welcome by a couple of sweet resident French bulldogs accompanied by a jack russell and availed ourselves of the free doggie treats at the bar. We also ordered up the doggie ice cream. We have read about this stuff, but never tried it. Grace enjoyed it thoroughly (see photo at bottom).
A sign on the bar says “Vote for us for the Dog Friendlist Pub of the Year 2018” so they are setting their bar high. They’ve got (all) our votes! It was there that we found out about the competition and entered it ourselves, so while you are on the site, vote for DogGolf too!
Dog Golf UK is nominated for the annual Dog Friendly Awards in the UK. Please vote for us to help raise the profile of dog golfing in the UK and make it even more welcome.
“Since 2003 we at DogFriendly have been helping businesses to open their doors to responsible dog owners and have given our members access to the largest database of dog friendly places to visit safe in the knowledge that their dogs will be as welcome as they are.”
Please vote HERE.
Welcome – Chobham gave us a delightfully warm welcome and noted that quite a number of members bring their dogs around for rounds. That is more than we can say for the first course we tried to golf at that day – Pine Ridge. We arrived and double checked on the dog protocol and they responded, “No, we don’t allow dogs”. Now actually, I had Pine Ridge’s dog (friendly) protocol down verbatim in more detail than just about any other club from when I called them some months ago – “We do allow dogs to walk around the course with the players however your dog would need to be on a lead. If your dog barks excessively we would ask you to take your dog off the course. No water on course.” That’s not something you make up or accidentally jot down. Fortunately, we were able to pull up DogGolf.info on the phone and find Chobham just down the road. But the incident did raise a few caveats.
- 1. DogGolf.info isn’t perfect – I try to research and update all the information, but mistakes can get made (not least of which by the club itself, in fact the golf pro implied that a previous employee might have been misinformed).
- 2. Always double check – Protocols and be fluid and change over time. Or the club might have special rules on the for the day due to and event or some other reason (we had tried to call Pine Ridge several times, but their phone system was on the fritz so part of our problem was getting hit by the double whammy of faulty info combined with inability to double check as we usually do).
Walk – Chobham GC is a remarkably picturesque course with dimension and variety in the landscape without alpine peaks to climb, and enough trees for shade without threading the needle through leafy couloirs.
Water – Water, water everywhere…and plenty of drops to drink. In fact, perhaps the most watery hole in the entire UK (at least the most of the many dog-friendly courses we have played) is at the 6th hole. There you will find an accessible lake (a nice graduated bank the dogs and walk down to get a drink), a toilet building (with a sink for refilling water bottles) AND a water fountain outside. A regular Minnesota of golf courses with its land ‘o lakes – 5 to be exact. Not pokey little water hazards, but proper, expansive ponds. Despite the scorching UK heat wave, these bodies of water were still ample and the dogs had a great opportunity to refresh along the course.
Wildlife – Like the oases in the desert and the water holes on the savannah, where there’s water, there’s wildlife. And Chobham was more a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom than just about any course we have seen. The standard line-up of woodland creatures, ie. squirrels, rabbits, but also a teeming range of water fowl, ie. big gaggle of geese marching across the 4th fairway, moor hens, blue heron. It was a good thing that the course had a lead required policy because I think even Rusty and Grace’s biddability would have been challenged.
Wind Down – Too late for dinner service, but too parched to carry on home without a stop at our own water hole so down the road to a Doggie Pub recommendation, The Crown. A fenced in area at the front, a beer garden out back, and a welcome to dogs in the pub. A malamute puppy (and a big as Grace and Rusty combined) who is a regular greeted the girls with enthusiasm, but the girls were a bit less impressed.