Twisted Stone

Twisted Stone 3

Welcome – I started this website in response to my frustration with finding information on the web and on golf courses’ websites about whether dogs were allowed to accompany golfers. Even after my research, I find that I have to call ahead to confirm the policy as there are often misunderstandings among staff, miscommunications, and changes in policy. Even then, it is always with a bit of trepidation that we arrive at a golf course what the vibe is and whether the members really feel okay with pooches invading. The first (literal) sign that this was truly a dog friendly course was a notice posted asking for all dogs on and crossing the course to be kept on a lead making it clear that canine company was a pretty common situation.

Walk – The dog friendliness was only accentuated once you got on the course where every few minutes another rambler passed by walking their dog. The walk itself was about as flat as you will find being in the Wey watershed of the Surrey plain.

Water – Water, water, everywhere…and plenty of drops to drink. There are 5 sizeable ponds around the course. They were all brimming due to a week of heavy rainfall prior to our round. In fact, the water level of the one by 15th hole seemed to be higher than the ground itself. The course runs along side the River Wey and there are half a dozen little rivulets that run through the course. With the 9th hole returning to the clubhouse, this is one course where you might get away with bringing water along for the dogs. Fortunately, the water hazards mostly flank the holes so there are few holes where you have to clear them to make the green.

Wildlife – Given the copious water everywhere, not surprising to find a flock of seagulls on one of the fairways. But the ponds also attracted a range of waterfowl including swans and mallards.

Wind Down – We dried off at The New Inn in Send. Finally, a pub that serves food throughout the day on Sunday so we didn’t have to feel rushed to finish by a certain time. A fine food it was and especially doggie friendly. They had a water bowl and biscuits both of which they brought over to the table.

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Twisted Stone 2

Chingford

Chingford 1

Welcome – Bit of a confusing welcome as there are two golf “clubs” on the same course here – Chingford and Royal Epping Forest. Chingford is the public course and Royal Epping Forest is the members only club and clubhouse that sits adjacent to it. We thought we were contacting the Royal Epping Forest, but the enquiry number goes through to the Chingford booking system. Once there, it became patently clear that dogs were most welcome, and lead free too as long as you kept them under control. Chingford is another parkland course so there are lots of dog walkers about with their dogs (though we didn’t come across any fellow dog golfers) making Rusty and Grace feel right at home.

Walk – The course is a pleasant mildly undulating traipse. A bit of up-and-down and side-to-side makes the ball play a bit tricky with cleanly hit drives rolling down an embankment at times. Grace was delighted at the fun house topography as it put her ball-finding-in-the-rough skills to work (along with the accompanying treat). Furthermore, the course was covered with lots of autumn leaves making even the straight-down-the-fairway drives a chore to find in the shell game of foliage debris.

Water – No real water on the course, but the 9th hole does finish back at the clubhouse where there is a delightful café serving hot food and a range of cakes and drinks.

Wildlife – Without the lure to waterfowl of water hazards and being quite urban (despite being a ‘forest’ enclave), the wildlife was quite limited to a urban critters – crows, pigeons and squirrels.

Wind Down – What the Kings Head in Chingford lacks in booking ability, it more than makes up for with some exceptional dog friendliness and quite a tasty menu. Travelling a distance for the day, we wanted to make sure we could get a meal. We tried booking from their website, but that facility just creates a “booking request” which says “Thank you for your enquiry, which we have received – but it is not yet confirmed... A member of our team will be in touch with you soon to confirm all your details.” When no member of the team got in touch, I sent a chaser email. The next day, still no response to the email so I called. The manager answered saying she would check it all out an call me in an hour. I waited and hour and half…no call. I called the pub again. No answer. So I left a voice message as requested. A few more hours…no call back. In the end we just took a punt and showed up and they had plenty of space for us. Still a bit disconcerting how disfunctional their communications are especially for a Sunday lunch when places can get booked up.

All was forgiven when we arrived and the place was perfect for Rusty and Grace. They had big dog biscuits at the door, several water bowls which they cheerfully filled and brought to our table. But the piece de la resistance was their special “Doggy Menu” (see below)! We haven’t seen one of these since Sunningdale. Rusty and Grace enjoyed a bonus serving of sausage and carrots, thank you very much. The people food was very nice too as we tucked into a generous Sunday roast with a beef duo (sliced roast beef accompanied by beef rib) with a side of some of the moreish, cheesiest cauliflower cheese we’ve ever had.

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West Essex

West Essex 1

Welcome – At the outset we thought that the girls might be a bit out of place at West Essex as a member came up to us at the pro shop and commented on them saying “Well, that a first” (ie. first time seeing someone golf with their dogs). They were quite welcoming and were bemused by our accounts of Grace’s ball finding abilities in the rough. But any concerns were especially allayed when we stopped at the 9th hole for some extra hydration. Half a dozen members came up to say hi to the pair and comment on how handsome they looked and how well behaved they were.

Walk – I never realized that greater London was so hilly. The first few holes seem as vertical as they are horizontal. Things flatten out mid-course until the rollercoaster starts again towards the end culminating in a crampon-optional summit at the 18th. One dividend of the nose-bleed elevation are some cracking views of the London skyline in the distance.

Water – Two big water features by the 11th/14th and 10th provide an opportunity for a sip, but also quite a few brooklets run through the course most of which were still flowing with water even with our late August play. The 9th does circle back to the club house (and halfway hut) so you do get a chance for a refreshment fueled respite.

Wildlife – The wildlife was quite limited. Even the waterfowl on the pond by hole 14 were just decoration models.

Wind Down – It is even harder to find a pub serving dinner on a bank holiday Monday than it is on a midday roast-oriented Sunday. But after calling half a dozen doggie pubs in the area (of course, from DoggiePubs.org.uk), we finally found the The Woodbine in Waltham Abbey on the edge of both Epping Forrest and the M25. Its description there (“Country pub with cask ales, dog friendly and good food”) sort of under-sells it as dos its first impressions. Cosmetically, the pub is a bit tattered with quite a bit of clutter and a hodgepodge of décor. But, when it comes to the fundamentals – food, entertainment, refreshment and beer – it really excels. They seem to have some form of entertainment from jazz singing to psychic readings every night. Their broad array of craft beers was only exceeded by the longest list of ciders and perries I’ve come across at a pub (and the bar had a few dozen varieties of gin to boot). I wouldn’t quite call the food “gastro” as the dishes weren’t especially inventive or trendy. I would call it exceptionally well-prepared pub grub. Probably the best hog roast sandwich (on brioche roll packed with pork, sage stuffing and bramley apple). Lori was delighted to find poblano peppers on the starters menu. But Rusty and Grace were especially appreciative of the extra-attentive service including dog biscuits and a fresh bowl of water brought to the table.

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Magnolia Park

Magnolia Park 1

WelcomeMagnolia Park is very happy to have dogs as long as they are kept on a lead (two people mentioned to us that they were welcome when we arrived).

Walk – Back on the Oxford Plain, the walk is leisurely flat. But what it lacks in elevation Magnolia Park adds in distance. A nearly 7k course that the club recommends 4.5 hours to play. The round includes 4 par 5s including topping and tailing your day on the 1st and 18th. And 6 of the par 4s are over 400 yards. Chivalrously, the red ties are set 50-100 yards ahead (in fact the red tie round is a half kilometer shorter in length).

Water – Part of being on the low lying plain (versus our more local Chiltern Hills) is that water settles. So Magnolia Park was had plenty of water all around with a couple of small ponds, a couple of big ones and a number of streams. They were not all major hazards as only the 2nd and 15th both had green obstructing ponds. The two massive lakes flanked alongside the 1st and 18th fairways only cause problems for the most extreme of draws or slices. The hazard in front of hole 2 had steep wooden sides making it inaccessible for a sip by the dogs (as well as a bit dangerous being hard to get out if a creature fell in), but the others all had access points. The course doesn’t return to the clubhouse until the 15th hole, but there is a halfway hut at the 11th with water.

Wildlife – Quite minimal and surprisingly little water fowl in the expansive water features.

Wind DownThe Pointer might just be the finest dog friendly pub we have ever visited. It is beyond “gastro” and really more “gourmet” eaterie. And yet its fancy fare doesn’t preclude including your best friend. In fact, dogs are welcome throughout the expansive establishment in either the back garden, pub lounge or dining room(s). Obligatory biscuits and water bowl. Many of the guests were asking about them and reaching out to give them the attention and stroking they adore. But what was one of the most dog-friendly gestures we have ever experienced is that when one of the servers was clearing another table, they passed by our table and asked if our dogs would like the steak scraps that the diners had left on their plate (Grace: “Yes, please!!”).

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Sonning

Sonning 2

Welcome – The course is quite restricted in its welcome to canine companions limiting them to weekday evenings after 5:00 pm. Even with a relatively late summer’s sundown, it’s tough to get a full 18 before dark (though the club does offer a very attractive twilight green fee of £29). Still, everyone we bumped into fussed enthusiastically over Rusty and Grace (which they quite enjoyed).

Walk – The course meanders through an entirely flat Thames Valley landscape. While the variety of trees and greenery are pleasing to the eye, the profusion of obstacle from hillocks, bunkers, shrubs and anything else the designer could think of throwing in the path of your approach can be a bit more confounding. That said, for the longer holes, the fairways were groomed as neatly as some greens as other courses.

Wildlife

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Water – The course doesn’t have any bodies of water on the course, but there is a fountain at the 7th and the 11th finishes back at the clubhouse for any water pitstops required.

Wind Down – Rather than turning to our trusty DoggiePubs.org.uk, being relatively close to home we knew just the place for a post-round wind down in Sonning – The Coppa Club. Tasty food and very dog friendly (they have dog biscuits, watering bowls AND blanket at the door as you come in). The place is spacious with a huge riverside garden so there is plenty of room for the girls to settle down on their beds (or one of the landlord’s blankets provided). When we arrived, there were lots of dogs around including another (but much younger) pair of Vizslas. The biggest bonus, after playing a late day round in the later hours of a summer’s evening, is that the kitchen serves till quite late. The only problem is that the restaurant is very big (which does make it easier to get a table) and very popular (which means that you should still book to be safe). The combination of these two things plus a limited car park means that it is always hard to find a space at the pub itself. Furthermore, Sonning is a nightmare to park in with no nearby public car parks and very limited street parking (with lots of irritable residents who are happy to get you towed if your parking strays at all from authorized places).

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Chesham & Ley Hill

Chesham and Leyhill 2

Welcome – As soon as we arrived at Chesham and Ley Hill a few members generously commended Rusty and Grace for looking so winsome. The course is set on parkland whose covenant allows dog walkers to roam freely off-lead. We not only came across other dog walkers, but also another dog golfer with a very attentive golden retriever.

Walk – The 9 hole course is transected by 3 small but busy country roads. You have to cross them a number of times to get to the next hole. So even though the course does not require leads, you might want to have them on hand to help cross the traffic safely or to provide a bit of extra control on holes that run close to the course and you want to be extra careful about your canine caddy straying onto them.

Water – No water hazards to refresh at, but there’s not really much of a need. There’s a handy water tap outside club on the back side to fill the bottles with. And the 5th tee is right next to the clubhouse so if you run out that quickly, you can refill easily.

Wildlife – The lack of bodies of water and the fairly built up suburban surroundings meant fairly little wildlife to distract or tempt the girls.

Wind DownThe White Hart Inn in Chesham was effusively welcoming to the girls and featured an enclosed beer garden out back which was a great place to dine in the warm summer’s evening and gave them a bit of freedom to wander about without worrying that they would stray somewhere. The food was first rate gastropub quality (the parsnip soup was especially tasty).

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Henley

Henley 1

Welcome – One of my other sporting websites is all about rowing and now is the apex of the UK season with the Henley Royal Regatta. In the spirit of “The Season”, we thought we would venture a bit further from Thames Valley to the Harpsden Valley for a round at Henley Golf Club. A couple of friendly greeting to the girls from the members made us feel welcome, but the most telling was that we actually saw another golfer playing with their Golden Retriever. While lots of courses welcome dogs (as many as possible catalogued here), still the acid test is how many people actually take advantage of it (to set the tone and make you not feel like such an anomaly).

Wildlife – Again, a distracting squirrel fest mostly.

Walk – Mostly a modestly undulating walk except for a few holes with greens perched on virtual precipices requiring crampons and grappling hook to summit.

Water – Despite the absence of bodies of water, the course was one of the best water supplied we have to. The course has stone water fountains on the 11th and 13th holes, as well as a toilet near both the 7th and 9th with running water.

Wind Down – For the first time ever, we tried what I guess could be dubbed a “wind up” rather than a “wind down”. We went to a pub meal before our round rather than after. It avoided all of the pressures of finishing in time before kitchens closed and it fueled us up for a sunny 18 holes. Once again turning to DoggiePubs, we decided to try the Angel on the Bridge pub right on the river and in the epicenter of Regatta buzz. The food is sort of a cross between conventional pub grub and trendy gastro. Tasty dishes sadly executed quite poorly. Both the pea with ham soup and the seafood chowder were extremely delectable, and the fish-and-chips were prepared nicely with not too batter. Unfortunately, the sides (fries, peas) were quite cold (actually the soup wasn’t hot either). And the fish goujons were quite underwhelming (also cold). Worst of all, the jugs of Pims were the weakest Pims I had ever tasted. More like Lemonade with a touch of Pims essence. But the biggest problem was the service. They mistakenly brought our starters and main together (due to a mix up in the note taking), and tragically, told me that the chowder did not have mussels in it (because I am allergic to them!) and lo and behold I found one floating in the bowl after I had taken a few sips (no effects fortunately). They were very courteous and they not only removed the soups from the bill (which we didn’t eat), but gave us our Pims (such as it was) complementary.

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Moor Park

Moor Park 2

Welcome – Despite the proud traditions in the sport and the evangelical efforts of this website, golfing with your dog remains a bit of anomaly even at the most dog-friendly courses. We are always a bit wary of how the “welcome” will compare with the protocol. The club policy might say “dogs welcome”, but you wonder if the members are really on board. Well, one thing that influences the culture of a place is the tone and example set at the top. So it was especially reassuring when upon arriving at Moor Park we met by happenstance the Chairman of the club, David, with his own best friend, George, which he brings out with him for a round from time to time (see photo directly below).

Water – No water hazards or water supplies on the course (the West Course, the other High Course does have some), but the layout of the holes that meant there a many opportunities to peel off to the manor home in a pinch. Hole 9 arrives back at the main facility (and also has its own halfway house right on the course). But also the 12th, 13th and 15th holes all finish close to the clubhouse (for the West course). The lack of water hazards seemed to be compensated for by added bunkers instead. On Hole 3, we faced a gauntlet of 4 sand traps lined up one after the other approaching the hole. And the Hole 9 had more sand than green around the hole. One perverse curiosity was that many of the bunkers were carved into a sort of post-ironic heart-shape (see photos below) despite their ubiquity being anything but sweet or endearing.

Walk – We played the West Course which is a bit less pricey (£50 twilight green fee versus £75 for the High Course) and a bit more relaxed for recreational players like ourselves. The number of holes – ie. 9, 12, 13, 15 and of course 18 – that finish close to the main facility (eg. manor home, club house, tennis courts, practice pitches, car pack) provide great flexibility in finishing or breaking up your round. We were running out of time before the kitchen closed so we stopped at the 15th. The grounds themselves are on fairly level topology; however a few greens were perched up on elevated precipices adding an arduous uphill climb to a missed chip shot rolling off the other side of the green.

Wildlife – SQUIRREL! No water hazards meant no water fowl, but the plentiful wooded hills meant lots of squirrels which provided constant distraction to Rusty and Grace (and appreciative of the on-lead policy of the course to help keep their enthusiasm contained).

Wind Down – Once again, we were constrained by serving times. Most of the kitchens at doggie pubs in the area shut at 8:30 pm. Being in the week with the longest days of the year, we want to use of every bit of sunshine. Moor House’s own restaurant also shut at 8:30 pm, but at least we could save the precious minutes of packing up the car and driving to the pub. The setting was spectacular perched on the veranda of this grand Palladian edifice watch the sun finally set on the long summer day. The dogs were settled comfortably on their beds outdoors (not allowed indoors though to note for more inclement days) while we tucked in. Unfortunately, the food didn’t quite match up to the grandeur of the locale. Fairly pedestrian pub-grub made for a somewhat incongruous 3-star meal in this 5-star venue. No complaints though as you can get fancy food anywhere, but moments in settings like these are rare treats indeed.

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Moor Park 4

London Scottish

London Scottish 1

Welcome – London Scottish is one of the most dog-friendly golf courses you will find. Probably rivaling Sunningdale (don’t know as I haven’t had the chance to experience Sunningdale first hand and am only going by reports) and maybe the best of the open visitor clubs (Sunningdale requires playing with a member and a handicap certificate). It is also outstanding for anyone wanting to give dog golfing a try as it is so relaxed. And there are so many dogs!

Dogs everywhere. There are almost as many dogs are there are people. Admittedly, this was a sunny Sunday morning and all the dog walkers were out on this park land which is open to everyone. And admittedly, we were the only people playing golf with dogs that we saw. But still, the welcome to us as dog golfers was pretty much unequalled. At the pro shop, I asked about the protocol for dogs and the response was “You can do pretty much what you like with your dogs.”

It is also a great off-lead course, but somehow we forgot our whistle (and don’t quite trust Rusty to voice commands). Amazingly, we bumped into some walkers who stopped and admired Rusty and Grace, and when we mentioned our regret about the whistle, they reached into their pocket and loaned us one of theirs for the day!

One curious constraint on playing protocol was actually put on the humans – you had to wear “pillbox red” (ie. bright red) shirt “by order of the Wimbledon & Putney Commons Conservators” (which the lovely Lori is modelling in the photo above). Fortunately, the pro shop had some to lend out for visitors (though there was a limited supply on a busy day so if you have your own, it would be easier and safer to bring it). And fortunately, Rusty and Grace has their own “red” coats. Maybe not pillbox red, but we did put on their brightest red collars for the day.

Wildlife – Perhaps due to being in the city and the dearth of water hazards and the throngs of dogs, there wasn’t much wildlife to be seen. One animal you don’t often seen on the course was all over the place at London Scottish – horses. They also have paths in the park and you saw them all over the place (I suspect they have to stick to the bridleways or else it could be the only course in the world where you could play “Horse Golf”!).

Walk – As a west London course, it was an easy walk on pretty much entirely flat ground. It’s also a relatively short course at 5458 yards.

Water – Do bring water. There are no water hazards, no water spigots and the course doesn’t return to the clubhouse until the 18th hole. There is a little rivulet on the 17th with some water, but by that time you are just about home.

Wind Down – Your options for post-round vittles are as abundant as the canines roaming the course. For starters, the clubhouse itself offers tasty baguettes and full bar with picnic tables outside (surrounded by a little fence to keep the dogs confined to the area while you eat).

In fact, London Scottish might just have the most dog-friendly “wind down” (or “rub down”) in the entire UK! At the clubhouse, the Dharma Clinical Therapies offers massage treatments in one of the rooms. The room is quite spacious and they said that dog would be welcome to curl up on the floor while the owners get their therapy session (book in advance to avoid disappointment).

Seeking a more expansive menu were turned to DoggiePubs again and there were a half-dozen top reviewed establishments within a mile or so. We were playing on a Sunday and usually our problem is that by the time we are done, the typical pub Sunday roast is finished and the kitchens close up in the late afternoon and early evening. This time we decided to do an early round and hit one of the Sunday roasts.

Our problem wasn’t lack of pubs to consider, but their popularity. We called one after another (we couldn’t reserve ahead of time because we really weren’t sure when we would finish) and they were all booked up. Often, pubs take bookings for restaurant tables, but the dog friendly areas (outside and by the bar) are first come, first serve. But in London, it seems more of, if not all, tables are bookable. Not only was there no room at the inns, but also the proprietors were a bit unpleasant on the phone responding in an almost churlish fashion of “don’t even think about coming here mate” (probably a bit stressed with the heavy crowds). Fortunately, after a few calls we hit upon The Alexandra in Wimbledon centre. When I phoned, they were very encouraging and told us that they would find a way to squeeze us in. When we arrived, there were several tables available (as lunch period was starting to taper). They had outside tables facing a cozy cul-de-sac, but we opted for one of the internal tables. When we rocked up to the bar, the first question we got was “Can I fill your dog’s water bowls for you?” The food was first rate with tasty starters and sumptuous roast platters we could barely eat all of (mind you, Rusty and Grace didn’t mind helping us with the bits we couldn’t finish).

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Sandford Springs

Sandford Springs 2

Welcome – A bit of sunshine on the weekend and a chance to grab a last minute round at Sandford Springs. As usual no other dogs around, but no one batted an eyelash at Rusty and Grace joining us around the course and several stopped to greet them.

Walk – Roly-poly landscape had its literal ups and downs. Hole 12 seemed like the Everest of fairways with its relentless ascent, while Hole 18 seemed like a merciful abyss where the slights nudge off the tee would send the ball rolling for ages down the fairway.

Water – Water, water, everywhere…but not really a drop to drink. As the name implies, Sandford Springs is awash with water hazards. In fact, the 9-hole course we first played is called “Lakes”. And lakes it has. But those are not necessarily watering holes for the dogs. First, they have quite steep banks making them mostly hard to access. But more importantly, they are all quite stagnant. Even playing in the early summer after some plentiful rain, the water was quite murky and not the most appealing for quenching a thirst. Not to worry though. The 3 courses of 9 holes each means that you are back at the clubhouse (or their “Halfway House” café) after 9 holes where everyone in your party, man and mutt, can slake their thirst.

Wildlife – All the bodies of water meant plenty of water fowl – all sort of ducks, geese, cormorants and others.

Wind Down – We played on a late Sunday. While that is one of our favourite dog golfing times as most people have cleared off, it also makes it very hard to find a dog friendly pub for some grub after the round. Most pubs serve Sunday roasts and then shut shop mid-afternoon. So we opted for the most convenient option which was dining at the Sandford Springs clubhouse itself. The dining rooms doesn’t allow dogs, but it has an outdoor patio area which does. We were also very pleasantly surprised by the pretty much gastropub quality of the vittles. The pea soup was superb, the truffle egg on brioche toast was an unexpected gourmet treat and all the food was expertly prepared.

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