Chiddingfold

Chiddingford dog fold 1

WelcomeChiddingfold is smart casual, fun where a well-behaved dog fits in just perfectly. The grounds are handsome and smart, but not overly fussy. The vibe is cheery and good-natured and everyone we bumped into had a kind word for Grace.

Walk – The course seduces you with a collection of gentle undulations with copious par 3 holes. Until right at the end when you are finally weary, and then it hits you with the first par 5 on hole 17 with a mountainous climb to get to the tee (but at least then you are just a final par 3 from being at the 19th hole for refreshment). The course has a higgledy-piggledy layout with fairways and pathways crossing over one another, but at least the course is superbly well marked. “Next Tee ->” signs after every hole and huge hole numbers on the teeing green so you can spot them from a distance.

Water – A half dozen reasonably sized water hazards as well as a modest stream crossing 9 and 11 which Grace seemed to prefer to the fresh water we packed and despite the fact that it was a bit of stretch for her reaching the water level from the elevated ground for a tasty gulp.

Wildlife – A few scampering squirrels is all.

Wind Down – The “Dirty Sixth” at the Winterton Arms might just be the best wind down pub we have come across in all our dog golfing. Perfect for us with its dog-friendliness. In fact, its booking system allows you to select for “dog friendly” tables when booking (which is helpful because many pubs now have dining sections where dogs are not allowed and we often have to call for our reservations to clarify that we have Grace in tow). Also, one of the first orders of business by the server was to offer Grace up a tasty dog biscuit. We found Winterton through the (semi-)trusty DoggiePubs.org.uk. I say “semi” because DoggiePubs isn’t really curating its crowdsourced information. I am increasingly finding that the majority of links and establishments are out-of-date (website missing, places closed, telephone numbers not working). But given the glowing review for Winterton and its proximity, I chased down its new website a booked a table. I’m glad I did. I was super intrigued by its description of being “an Asian smokehouse, the love child of a rebellious barbeque joint and offbeat oriental supermarket.” The mashup of something as homespun basic as BBQ with the air of the exotic raised my expectations. And Winteron simply exceed them. As someone who has sought out top American BBQ joints in the Southern USA, their Bao Bun Brisket nonetheless ranked right up their at the top of my favourite sandwiches. I also appreciate the attention aesthetic details that the establishment has taken as well as some great investments in the customer experience like a dramatic canopy enclosing the outdoor seating and an inviting play area to occupy kids.

Chiddingfold dog golf 2

Chiddingfold dog golf 3

Lodmor

Lodmore dog golf 1

Welcome – This is my first course review of a course we didn’t actually play. We visited it, but couldn’t actually play it. Because it is such a small and uniform course, I felt I could write something useful about it just after a basic survey about it. Also, the welcome was by far the worst I have ever gotten at a golf course so I thought it would be good to document that and warn prospective visitors. Camping on the Portland peninsula for a bank holiday break, we made special plans to play a fun round here and introduce our friend’s dog Pepper (see photo at bottom) to hitting the course. The course has no website of its own and the listed telephone number is just a number for the Weymouth council who own the park and the course. The information said that it closed at 5:00 pm so we rocked up at 3:30 pm (it’s a short 9 hole, par 3). But when we got there, an older gent who appeared to be the manager said that they were “closing early due to planned maintenance at 4 pm”. “Planned maintenance” in the evening of a bank holiday weekend? Didn’t make sense, but I enquired further, “Could we just play and avoid where you are doing maintenance?” The gentleman responded, “No, it’s on the entire course. We are turning all the sprinkler systems on.” Well, looking at the decrepit course which seems to not have grounds maintenance as a priority that story not stretched credulity. So I decided to return at 4:30 pm to check out this alleged “maintenance”. The facility was shut tight and not a person in sight. No sprinkler engineer van, no sprinklers going, no manager to provide support. The lying jobs-worth just decided he wanted to cut out early for a weekend barbeque and screw the customers whose afternoon has been ruined.  Curiously, such unreliability seems to be endemic at the Lodmor Park complex as the parking signs admonish, “Please check that your attraction is open before paying for entry.”

Walk – A leisurely, holiday-esque stoll on a diminutive course on entirely flat coastal land.

Water – No hazards or natural sources, but you are never far from the entry (which has a spigot). And the course is so short (and shaded) that you could likely make it around in under an hour not needing a water stop at all.

Wildlife – Didn’t see any other critters walking around the perimeter of the course. Maybe scared off by squeals of delighted children.

Wind Down – Another motivation to write this review is to highlight this outstandingly dog friendly to stop just down the road for a post round drink – The Lookout Cafe. We DID get to enjoy this establishment. Water bowls, dog biscuits, and dogs everywhere (see below). Set on a bluff having a dramatic vista of the Weymouth seaside from Portand to Swanage is an expansive lawn where dogs are allowed to run around off lead. The café has delightful food. I wholeheartedly recommend the local crab sandwiches, but the “American fluffy pancakes” are perhaps a bit oversold as they fluffier than most British versions ( but not quite to American standards, not to mention that they served them with distinctively un-America Golden Syrup and not maple syrup).

Lodmor dog golf 2

South Winchester

South Winchester dog golf 3

Welcome – Lots of dog walking trails surrounding and even crossing some of the course meant dogs are a familiar sight on and around the course.

Walk – A gently undulating froth of lumps providing so many caroms that sometimes it seemed like we were playing pinball golf. Even the good shots would end up in random places depending on what slopes they hit. But none of the inclines had any severe gradients so it was a quite easy walk.

Water – Lots of big water hazards, but mostly inaccessible due to thick reeds surrounding them, deep drops into them, or liners providing to dangerously slippy sides. The 9th hole does return to the clubhouse as an opportunity to refill water bottles.

Wildlife – Plentiful waterfowl enjoying the water hazards including a resident heron.

Wind Down – A charming “19th Hole” provides basic fare while overlooking the 18th green (as typical) as with a waterside vista more appealing to the diners than the players.

South Winchester dog golf 2

South Winchester dog golf 1

South Winchester dog golf 4

Blacknest

Blacknest dog golf 4

WelcomeBlacknest was very happy to have Grace along (as long as kept on a lead).

WalkAnother relaxing flat course to provide a leisurely stroll which 13 year old Grace is increasingly happy to see.

Water – Blacknest seemed like the Venice of English golf courses. After the first hole every single hole of the front 9 had a water hazard to cross or flanking ominously from the side. Except for the 7th hole …which had TWO hazards to cross approaching the par 3 green. And that’s not counting the myriad of drainage ditches crisscrossing the course (see course map at bottom). Also, Hole 9 has a well outfitted halfway hut with water faucets. So no problem with thirst.

Wildlife – Lots of water means lots of waterfowl – ducks, geese, coots. Pretty much the full British lake menagerie.

Wind Down – Actually, not a wind down nor warm up, but a wait out. The front 9 was moving as slow as molasses due to an earlier society event, a newbie foursome bumbling along and lots of two-balls. We decided to ditch the playing and have a halfway hiatus (hole 9 doesn’t finish that close to the clubhouse so you have to walk the length of the par 5 Hole 18.). We had a delightful and very reasonably priced lunch at The Nest Café.

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Blacknest dog golf 2

Canine Classic Competitions

Canine Golf Competitions 1

Happy National Dog Day (in America). While North America does not actually support dogs on the golf course (except in a few rare clubs), their canine appreciation does, inspire a few special fundraiser competitions on the tournament calendar. Many of these are in aid of canine charities (and yet, still oddly don’t integrate the beneficiaries of their largesse into the day’s festivities). In fact, one charity Canine Companions Golf promotes such events and keeps a list of those on its website (as well as a number of “Putting for Pups” events).

So show your appreciation for your best friend by asking your club about allowing canine companions on your round (even if for a trial period during off-peak times), or at least join in a golfing event which at least supports better lives our puppy pals.

Canine Classic Competitions 2

Wrag Barn

Wrag Barn 1

Welcome – We have wanted to play Wrag Barn since we first started golfing with Rusty and Grace. At one of our first outings, we bumped into another dog golfer admiring them and he said, “You should go to Wrag Barn. They are very dog friendly.” Then, talking to Adam Ruck, he cited Wrag Barn as one of his favourite courses to bring his dog. And, distinctively, the course itself welcomes dogs right on its home page: “Visitors and non-members are welcome at Wrag Barn Golf Club along with well behaved dogs.” A main reason why I set up DogGolf.info is that clubs very rarely indicate on their web page even when they do welcome dogs (making Google searching for a canine-friendly course difficult). And our arrival was no disappointment as Grace was enthusiastically greeted by novice (puppy) canine member, Zack (see photo above) and his kind person. Also, a number of walking paths cross the course so we encountered a number of dog-walkers during the afternoon.

Walk – Nestled on the Wiltshire plateau, Wrag Barn is one of the flattest courses we have ever played. Even the greens were mostly level throughout which made the putting as enjoyable as the leisurely walk around the course.

Water – Water, water everywhere. More water hazards than we had played in a while. Filled by the recent downpours crossing the area which also had the several gullies flowing briskly (with fresh water Grace had to sample). Most of the bunkers were little mini lakes (fortunately, “GUR”). Normally, letting a dog into a bunker is verboten, but given the status we let Grace have play in the water (she is a bit of a water hound) and it did turn into her own personal “pub-dle crawl” as she eagerly sampled every mud puddle that she ventured into And turned her nose up at the fresh water we brought with us per usual (I guess she preferred to sample and compare the sandy bouquets wreaking of the disappointment and despair from golfers caught there).

Wildlife – A veritable countryside menagerie – cows in a field next to the 4th fairway (who took interest in Grace walking by), squirrels, rabbits, a broad array birds including a number of terns (I didn’t think we were that close to the ocean).

Wind Down – Actually, this was more of a “Warm Up” since our late tee time meant that we opted for a pre-round Sunday lunch at the Radnor Arms. It was a charming place with a delightful beer garden out back where Grace could relax on the grass. They offered up tasty dog treats at the bar. Unfortunately, the people food was a bit of a let-down. Pub-grub dressed up as gastro cuisine. The ribs were okay, the chunky chips and sweet potato fries tasty, but the lemon meringue pie was about the worst version I had ever tried (the lemon bit felt like lemon-flavoured applesauce in consistency and the meringue was too chemical tasting). Still, Lori’s 2 glasses of Primitivo went down well and must have helped as she then played her best round of the summer.

Wrag Barn 3

Wrag Barn 2

Coombe Wood

Coombe Wood 1

Welcome – Many of the Coombe Wood members we passed came up and admired Grace warmly. One member related how another member regularly brought their dog on their course (and how the dog would get all alert when its owner was going to tee off, look like he wanted to chase the drive, but then see how far it went and turn away nonchalantly with a look that said, ‘nah, I didn’t want to chase it really.’). Still, the clubhouse manager did come out to and say, at first, that dogs weren’t allowed. When we noted that we had called to confirm, he clarifies that they are allowed but a bit later in the day, but he said it would be okay because the course was pretty empty when we were there because…

Water – What Coombe Wood lacked in water hazards on the day was more than compensated by the periodic downpours that passed through the area. Fortunately, we were able to huddle under various shelters through the round (including a well timed 13th hole refreshment at the clubhouse when the biggest shower of the day hit). And fortunately, Grace had puddles on over hole to sample through the afternoon,

Walk – Finally, a nice (mostly) flat course on the Surrey plain (we had just returned from a golf trip to the Azores which has some lovely courses, but they are carved into the side of a mountain). Even the greens were pretty tabletop reducing the putting frustration we had felt coping with the undulating holes of the Azores and how home club, Temple.

Wildlife – A couple of urban squirrels scampering past dodging the rain.

Wind DownWych Elm pub is just down the road and recommended on the Doggie Pubs website. It is a charming venue with an extra charming welcome to dogs. When we arrived with Grace, they seemed more focused on Grace than us asking whether we would like dog biscuits or a water bowl. When they sat us at our table, they immediately brought the water bowl (Grace got her drink before we even order ours…which is the way it should be in her eyes). A few other dogs were there so it scores super high on dog friendliness. Unfortunately, the food didn’t score quite as high. Good for “pub fare”, but not as good as the trendy dishes and descriptions implied. They did “fancy” dishes in in a less than fancy manner. We would prefer less fancy dishes done in a fancy way. The chicken liver pate was bland and served on soggy “toast”, the “flat” bread for the humous was some strange fluffy flat-ish bread (hint: toast some pita slides for the best humous starter). The mac and cheese balls were tasty. Still, worth the trip, if you don’t get your hopes too high for the food and its trendy descriptions on the menu, for the sake of the exceptional service especially for the doggie companions.

Coombe Wood 2

Coombe Wood 3

Lorne Smith (Fine Golf) Interview

Fine Golf Lone Smith

I’ve featured the superlative golfing site Fine Golf (which was both inspirational and helpful in my starting Dog Golf UK), and recently honoured its distinguished canine pioneer, Dexter, but I had not yet had a chance to sit down with Finbe Golf’s founder and leading contributor Lorne Smith. Lorne kindly agreed to an exclusive Dog Golf UK interview where he provided an authoritative and inspiring insight in the joy of golfing with dogs:

  • What was the first course you golfed with a dog?Northamptonshire County GC, my home club, was where I trialed Dexter on a golf course. Initially, this was on a lead and then, as he became trained not to ‘run-in’, to save the secretary embarrassment when out of sight of the clubhouse I would wind his lead around his neck so he was still ‘on the lead’ to keep within the Club’s regulations while being free to roam as I allowed. This worked well for ten years as the golfers who I played with all appreciated having Dexter around. He, being so well behaved, never distracted anybody and indeed added to the relaxed social occasion.
  • What gave you the idea to bring along your dog?My wife acquired Dexter as a puppy and quickly I saw that he was biddable and wanted to please. I then went to gundog training sessions and competed with him for four years in gundog tests around the UK. As part of that he needed to become ‘steady’ on game and not run-in on them, so coming on the golf course where there are squirrels, pheasants, and hares he learnt to leave them alone. This of course helps instill steadiness when in a sheep field and makes walking in the countryside so much more enjoyable, allowing the dog off the lead knowing he will return when called by the whistle.
  • What were your biggest challenges at first?Steadiness and coming back on the whistle. Labradors require a leader figure and want to please them. Even if your children, without knowing and just for fun, ‘spoil’ them by throwing sticks for chasing etc, he knew that when he was with me on a golf course he is working with me and there is an invisible bond between us. Between the tee, where he would sit to my front side (not behind, in case he moved and was caught by my backswing, as I have seen happen with another dog that incurred a severe headache) and the green, where he would sit to one side, waiting for everybody to putt out, he would often walk down the outside of the rough, if not walking with me. He appreciated that freedom so when I whistled him back in he would obey. The best trained dogs are not automatons, their natural instincts that have been bred in over the years supply their confidence.
  • What do you observe as the most common mistake dog golfers make?Dogs should not be allowed on a green, not that they will harm it, it is simply a matter of discipline. Actually, that is not totally true as Dexter without any encouragement used to always come in among the golfers when they were shaking hands at the end of a game whether that was a green out in the country or on the eighteenth. It was as though he was saying ‘I have been part of this social occasion and I also want to thank you for having me’. Unfortunately, on one occasion in front of the clubhouse it gave an opportunity to a dog hater to come outside and try to admonish me for allowing my dog on the green. The fellow received a sensible telling-off from my three golfing partners.
  • What was Dexter’s favourite course that he walked?I do not think it made much difference as he was not really interested in the game. On courses where dogs were off the lead he enjoyed going over and saying hello to other dogs but again he always returned when called.
  • Did Dexter have any special tricks he could do on the course?To show his skills off to golfing partners I would sometimes drop a tennis ball in the rough without Dexter seeing it and after walking on would send him for it, giving hand signals to guide him to the place, before he successfully retrieved it to me. If I asked him to hunt for a golf ball during a social game to help another player he would invariably find it though I did not ask him often as he might then get the idea it was OK to generally pick balls. There was an occasion, mentioned in his obituary, when on the Struie at Dornoch a player’s ball was hit on to an island and we could not get it. I sent Dexter over the pond and asked him to look for it. When standing over the ball he looked at me for instruction and then came back with it. Most summers after that he would go for a swim on that hole to cool off. One strange activity that Dexter did towards the second half of his life was pull prickly burrs from plants and then spit them out as he shook his head before pulling another until they all were on the ground in front of him. I have never heard of any other dog doing this. I don’t think using human psychology will ever determine the reason (see video below).
  • What is the biggest misconception about golfing with your dog?They must be under your control; it is not just a dog walk. As the handler, one must always remember the others one is playing with and not allow the dog to in any way interfere. This is actually a quite stressful aspect and one day when somebody asked me on the first tee how many extra stokes I would give them for my dog putting them off, I replied that that it was he who should be giving me strokes for the time I would spend concentrating on Dexter! A relationship with a dog has to have respect on both sides. I suppose this is easier to appreciate in a working dog, as Dexter was. On the shooting field when rough shooting, the ultimate type of shooting, the handler, depending on the intelligence of the dog, its level of training and its experience, will rely on the dog’s incredibly sensitive nose and allow it to hunt with all of the out of control possibilities that permits. However, the dog relies on the handler to take account of the direction of the wind to come up on where the game are likely to be, from downwind. The dual skill is to put up game within shooting distance and then retrieve, even from across a river.

After the interview, Lorne shared these added kind words about Dexter and Dog Golf UK:

  • “Dexter was quite a dog in his beauty, his long legs, his temperament, and his achievements in both shooting and golf and four years on a lump still catches when I am reminded of him. I hope others who knew him will be enriched also by reading this interview and I thank you Bruce for your love of golfing dogs and the work you have done to help increase the knowledge of which courses will welcome golfers with their dogs.”

Dexter picture

2021 Hall of Fame Inductee–Dexter

Dog Golf Hall of Fame - Dexter

Dog Golf UK announces the 2021 Dog Golf Hall of Fame inductee – Dexter. 

Dexter the black lab is a pioneer of dog golfing whose exploits were an initial inspiration for Dog Golf UK.  When we were first looking for courses to take Rusty and Grace on to.  His person Lorne Smith is editor of the Fine Golf website and newsletter which is a rich source of information on golfing in the GB&I and was the one place I found with information on the dog protocols of various courses.  It also featured a number of pieces about golfing with your dog.

Dexter holds the world record for the highest number of different Courses Walked by a Dog – 83.  Dog Golf’s Grace is up to 72, but since we have golfed most of the dog friendly courses within an hour’s drive, and given the uncertainty about 2021 with the pandemic impact (as many courses are limiting visitors with so much pent up demand by members), and given that Grace is going on 13 years old (still healthy and vibrant but get more fatigued on the rounds), Dexter’s mark could stand for quite some time.

Dexter’s obituary a few years back documented his illustrious career.  A few excerpt highlights:

  • “In early days, taking him on the golf course formed part of his training to be patient and not ‘run-in’ on squirrels etc. He learnt to wait by the green while the golfers putted out and then moving on to the tee would be seated in the right place to the front off-side.  He was seldom interested in the golf game itself but when he saw Lorne coming down the stairs in the morning wearing his golfing plus twos Dexter would not leave his side until he was in the car and on their way in case he was left behind.  Hares are the most difficult game to stop a dog from chasing and when out at Royal West Norfolk GC, Dexter put one up near the second tee and belted across the seventeenth fairway, losing it in the salt-marsh. When it is almost de rigueur to have a dog with you at Brancaster and many dogs can be less well-behaved than Dexter, Lorne was not too worried as the players disturbed on the seventeenth fairway were not angry but enjoyed the spectacle of his embarrassment and were at least impressed by Dexter’s obedience to return on the whistle.”

I contacted Lorne about Dexter’s honour, and he shared these added reflections:

  • “I am honoured for the late Dexter to enter your lovely idea of a golf dog hall of fame. A lot of people still ask after him as he was always with me if dogs were allowed and there are lots of photos on the FineGolf course reviews with him sat in front of somewhere that I wanted to photograph.  He did become a bit of a star primarily because of how well behaved he was having been trained as a gundog with whom I competed in trials as well as working him picking-up.”

2021 Hall of Fame Dexter

2021 Hall of Fame

How To Play A Round With Your Dog

I was at first delighted to find this video posted by the prominent golfing website, Golf.com – “How to Play a Round with Your Dog”. The tone was enthusiastically supportive of dog golf and it hailed from the USA where allowing dogs on the course is very rare. Unfortunately, the well-intended piece to camera was just filled with lots of misinformation that I had to correct so that misunderstandings would not put people off dogs joining their persons for a round. I thought the most effective format to do this in was a “reaction” video (posted above), but I’ve also included a crib notes below:

  • ”This is everything you should know about playing golf with your dog.” – Well, not really. Lots of important stuff missing (like keeping them off the greens), but hey, still a good start.
  • “The first thing you must do is determine if you are playing in the morning or the evening…” – Ahem…not quite. But you do put on the screen the REAL thing that you must do which is…
  • Find a course that allows K-9 Caddies.” – In the USA, this is the hardest part. And while it gets mentioned on the screen, the narrator never actually mentions it (in the UK, no problem at all with DogGolf.com !). Unfortunately, he seems to have messed up here because when I contacted Cherry Hills Golf and Lodge to confirm if they allowed dogs, they informed me that dogs were not allowed on the course. <facepalm> But let’s carry on with looking at this well intentioned video…
  • “You’re going to want to keep a leash on your dog for optics reasons at the very least.” – Actually, this is incorrect. Golf courses are very clear about their dog policy which is either (a) “lead required” – which means on the lead attached to the golfer or the trolley at all time, or (b) “under control” – which means that the pretence of dragging a lead on the ground is not required and the dog can move freely as long as the master keeps them behaving according to the strict guidelines.
  • “Start leaving your dog bag in the same spot at the tee box. It will be a bit of a lesson for where your dog can and cannot roam.” – I liked this tip. It is an especially good tip for dog golfers who play the same course all the time.
  • “Perhaps the most important question is ‘Is your dog a chaser?’…Nothing is more important than a tennis ball or a frisbee or anything that can get you a 10 second distraction” – Ignore this advice. It is terrible. The advice is essentially saying, “If your dog can’t control themselves from chasing your golf ball, then pander to them by distracting them with thrown items.” For starters, the players behind you or next to you are not going to be thrilled with you throwing objects around them just to distract your dog while you take even more time to tee off. This advice about “chasers” should read, “If you dog can’t control themselves from chasing the ball, then they should be kept on a secure lead during the entire round to prevent them from doing so.” Period.
  • “She even left her [tennis] ball by a tee box one time.” – Aggh…no! No dogs on any greens. That includes BOTH the hole greens and the tee greens (later at minute 3:00, the video shows the narrator throwing the ball across the tee green so that Jersey tears across it. Bad owner!)
  • You can never pack enough water or treats.” – While our Grace would endorse the latter part of that assertion, the water bit is probably a bit over-stated. Better advice would be something like, “Always make sure you have plenty of water for your dog either from water faucets on the course, accessible water bodies (like water hazards or streams) or bottles carries with you.”
  • “[For water] re-use these lemonade mix cartons. They work pretty well as a water bottle and a dish to drink out of.” – Handy tip for the USA (lemonade mix isn’t a commonly found item in the UK). Not sure that the portion amount for drinking would satisfy Grace.
  • “[Figure out] how to not get to excited about the bunkers.” – Let’s be more explicit here. No dogs in the bunkers ever.

[POSTCRIPT] A few days after this video was released, a follow up written piece was posted to accompany it, “9 Key For Playing Golf With You Dog”

  1. Is your dog a morning caddie, or an evening caddie? – This is a silly, misguided tip. The key tip is “If you concerned about how well your dog might fare, then choose an off-peak playing time.”</style=”color:>

  2. Permission might be easier than you think – Again, the author totally bollixed the permission issue. Frankly, in the USA especially, permission is difficult period. Also, his info on St. Andrew is wrong. St. Andrews has dogs on it *ALL* the time (except competitions).

  3. Leash up! – Per the video commentary, this advice is too simplistic. Either (a) respect the club rules (which may require a leash), or (b) keep your dog under control at all times (and a leash might be needed for some dogs).

  4. Is your dog interested in golf? – Strange tip. Nearly all dogs will relish a long walk with their persons (which is what “golf” is to them). The only real question is whether they can (or want) to behave well enough to do so.

  5. The tennis ball is your lifeline – Worst tip ever. Don’t ever bring a tennis ball (much less throw one) on a a golf course.

  6. The water limit does not exist (and here’s a pro-tip) – Having water is indeed important and the lemonade mix container is cute (for Americans).

  7. Endless treats don’t hurt either – Ok, Grace will not be happy with me if I don’t endorse this one.

  8. Doggy waste is different – Bit of an over-kill tip. The basic tip here is “Pick up after you dog and dispose appropriately”. Period.

  9. Start ‘em young – Yeah, ok. As long and people don’t think that old dogs can’t be taught new fairway tricks. Because they are often more chilled, we find that older dogs actually make better golfing companions.