Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle dog golf 2

And other delightful account from the roving northern Dog Golf correspondent team of Bertie and Steve:

Having visited the highest and oldest nine hole golf courses on this holiday we then played Alnwick Castle. This would be easier for controlling Bertie as we were joined by the youngest daughter. On arrival went in to pay, told the lady the secretary had said we could bring a dog, she didn’t bat an eyelid “no problem”.

Now Alnwick Castle is a real 18 hole course, and it is a club that is on the up. I understand the Duke of Northumberland owns the land. While we were there work had started on a new club house and there will also be a number of expensive properties built on the outer edge of the course.

It is £15 a round and a small charge for trolleys and the current clubhouse is next to one and eighteen so nine if furthest from the clubhouse, this will change as the new clubhouse is right in the middle of the course.

The day we went there was a seniors competition on and none of these even noticed the dog. Mrs B parred a short par 3, well done her. Couple of seniors saw her drive the ball straight onto the green and then me shank it wide left onto their tee. They were still waiting to play as we arrived and the old fellas just gave me that pitying look as i was clearly being outclassed. One whispered “My wife does that when i play with her as well”!

The course opens up into an open parkland course with good views of the surrounding countryside. There are some steep climbs but overall it was in excellent condition. There were lots of ground staff knocking about and they all waved and said hello as wed passed with Bertie.

On returning to the clubhouse for a drink the bar staff insisted that Bertie be served first taking a bowl of water out to him before we could even order ours!

It is a good course and the addition of a new clubhouse will really enhance the experience, we speculated about buying one of the houses should our lottery numbers come in.

Alnwick Castle dog golf 1

Alnwick Castle dog golf 3

Alnmouth Village

Almouth Village 1

Bertie (and Steve) provides another first-hand report on a Northumberland course while Grace relaxes in the backyard for a well-deserved break and a bit of recuperation:

Alnmouth Village Golf Club is the reason why we took up golf. When Bertie was a puppy we stayed in Alnmouth and Bertie loved the beach so much we have been back a few times. There is a magnificent nine hole course between the village and the beach, it really is stunning. We always said it would be great to play the course hence we started golf lessons and this was the first time we would actually play the course instead of just walking the dog on it!

We played twice, once just us and then with another couple who came to stay for a couple of days, they have a Jack Russell. Alnmouth must be the most dog friendly place in Britain, dogs are welcome everywhere.

The clubhouse has lots of picnic tables and dogs are welcome inside as well. They do the whole range from bacon butties to Sunday lunch. It’s incredibly friendly and £15 for nine holes. Trolleys, just help yourself and put them back afterwards.

The course is flat apart from one hole, the sixth. You drive up onto the plateau onto another fairway with a short iron shot onto the most elevated green, it’s a short sharp incline and its a blind shot requiring you to ring the bell for the next group to play.

The next tee gives you amazing panoramic views of the course and Northumbrian shore. It’s a quite satisfying tee shot as you see your ball fall downwards onto the fairway below. It’s a typical links course and if your ball disappears into the rough don’t bother looking for it!!!

Members are so used to dogs, as we played and crossed other parties they would wave ask if we were on holiday and pass on tips for the next hole. On one occasion we were just walking Bertie on the path alongside the course watching others play. Bertie spotted a ball on the fairway and ran to retrieve it with two mortified owners running after him. The four ball just fell about laughing while the owner of the ball just complained that Bertie could have dropped it nearer the hole.

Alnmouth Village Golf Club is England’s oldest nine hole course and remains an enduring course to play you are ever anywhere near.

Almouth Village 2Almouth Village 3

Alston Moor

Alston Moor dog golf 1

I am sad to report that Grace might just be entering dog golfing retirement as she is suffering from a lame right-rear leg making it very difficult to walk. The debilitation has slowed her down and is combined with some other indications that she is simply becoming a very old girl (14 years old in a few weeks). I am happy to report that one of Dog Golf UK’s supporters, Bertie (and his person, Steve Brown, unofficial “northern correspondent”) has stepped up to share a number of guest posts from their recent Northumbria golf tour. Thanks Bertie (and Steve)!

Alston Moor Golf Club – The highest golf course in England. Bertie, our Tibetan terrier is two and a half years old. Having a dog changes a lot of what you and where you go on holiday. We have now gone to the same Northumbria cottage three times since we got Bertie. During that time we have also started playing golf, so whereas the three hour drive from Lancashire to the cottage would have been broken up with a quick stroll along Hadrians Wall we now look for golf courses!

So Alston Moor Golf Club fitted that description perfectly. It is a remote course with wonderful views of the North Pennine moors. I had emailed the club secretary who made it clear Bertie would be welcome. It was £15, which is outstanding value.

On arrival we were welcomed by the secretary and as the weather was bad we had the golf course to ourselves. The course has ten greens, nine holes with eighteen tees. The course was in really good condition with some tricky holes. The course also had two defibrillators, it is a steep climb back towards the clubhouse! The clubhouse was closed while we were there so plan to not have access to standard facilities.

We saw deer just yards from the course and bertie had a great time.

What did we learn about dog golfing? If you hook him up to the trolley he pulls it over. And, we need a second lead to attach him to benches etc while we tee off. Eventually we gave in and gave him his own golf ball.

Alston Moor will definitely be visited again on our journeys north.

Alston Moor dog golf 2

Golfen Met Hond

Lady dogs 1

Today DogGolf.info features an exclusive piece by international dog golfing advocate in the Netherlands, Linda Van Borssum. I stumbled upon her Facebook page “Golfen Met Hond”. It included lots of lovely posts about her fairway adventures with her two pups as well as great references to other dog friendly courses on the continent and even several shout outs to DogGolf.info. She kindly shared her dog golfing story with us:

I have been playing golf for a while. Mostly 9 holes because I have 2 dogs and I don’t want to leave them at home alone for too long.

Then one day…..

I saw an advertisement of The Dunes; a golf course in Zandvoort, the Netherlands. They were organizing a golf fair and invited people to join. So I asked my golfing friend and her husband in the Facebook comments where the event was being advertised:

  • Me: “Hey Simone, this looks nice, shall we go?
  • Simone: “I think that would be fun. But what about the dogs?” (we both have dogs and Zandvoort is a 4 hour drive for us).
  • Nigel (owner of the Dunes)“Just take the dogs with you!
  • Me: “No way, is that possible? I have never seen a dog on a golf course.
  • Nigel: “Yes, off course that’s possible. It’s also common here to go for a round of golf with your best friend/your dog

What a great idea. We often play golf on different courses in the Netherlands and when we are on holidays abroad. But when we take the dogs with us on holiday, we thought that playing golf would not be possible. This Dunes opportunity is something we want to try.

So off we went to Zandvoort, the four off us, with our dogs. Especially my dog Brigges (the black one, a Rottweiler, 5 years old) thought this was a great idea. First off all he likes to come along wherever we go. He likes to exercise. And he likes to do chores. And soon we noticed: he likes to run after the ball. (but he is a bit too strong to just run off, so bad idea!) He has to wait first and can only start walking when we tell him to. Then he looks for the ball and points to it with his nose; not touching it, because that is, of course, not allowed. He is also not allowed to come on the green so he has to wait a while. Otherwise, we are afraid he would leave pitchmarks with his nails. And we haven’t been able to train him on reparing pitchmarks.

It took some practicing. But Brigges loves to practice and to find the ball. He is very proud when he does. And he finds a lot of balls (even ones we didn’t hit ). He also likes the Ping-sound of the driver. In fact so do we, when its sound like a good hit . Dabbert (The red dog, a Boulab, 3 years old)) just likes to walk and watch. He doesn’t care so much to do the exercises and listening is not his cup of tea. But he likes the walk and the company. They both don’t care so much for other dogs or people on the course. But once we saw a herd of deer running across hole 3 at the Ullerberg, Ermelo. They liked that a bit too much. But we always have them on the leash on the course. Just for these kinds of moments!

Anyway; dogs enthusiastic, we enthusiastic. We wanted more. But it turns out: not everyone is enthusiastic about dogs on the course in the Netherlands. You get a lot of comments from people who think this is a really bad idea. “I don’t take my cat or my bird in the cage either, so leave them dogs at home! What’s next? What if he gets a ball on his head? Dogs don’t belong on the golf course. What will he do when I yell Fore?” etc.

Well, here’s a tip. You can train your dog for FORE. And you can train your dog for a lot more. Sometimes better than people, I guess. Ever noticed when someone yells FORE a lot of people look up to see where the FORE-ball is coming from?

Anyway, I asked our dog-trainer to come up with a few exercises to train the dogs for a nice walk on the course. Sit and wait even when strange things are moving before you, is always a good exercise!

And when you try this golfing with dogs; not to forget; bring enough water and some snacks for your hairy friend. A lot of courses welcome your dogs but most restaurants don’t.

My dogs are strong enough to walk all day. And they don’t care about hills or rough fields. But they don’t like it when it’s too hot. And I always carry poopbags. Just in case. But I walk the dogs before we go golfing.

I got more and more excited and wanted to check what more I could find. Where I could bring my dogs to the golf course. It opens new opportunities for vacations for example. I checked in England, Scotland, Germany, France and it’s all perfectly normal to walk with your dog there. Even St Andrews is dog friendly. After a bit off digging, I found out that there are also a number of golf courses who are dog-friendly in the Netherlands. Then I thought; maybe there are other dog owners who want this too so I have created a Facebook page: Golfen met hond (the page is in Dutch). Through the page, I found that a lot of people want to take their dog(s) with them so I made a list and put it on Facebook and I got a lot of tips from people to make the list even longer and longer.

Some courses reacted because they got completely excited. It resulted in competitions for “dogs and owners”, the first one in the Netherlands. Of course, at The Dunes. I wonder if it was the first one ever? I hope to organize another contest this year in September.

What I like about this, is that all of a sudden, I am in contact with people in and out of the Netherlands. People who want to take their dog on vacation and want to play some golf.

And that’s how I became the lady with the golfing dogs .

Lady dogs 2Lady dogs 3

Cranleigh

Cranleigh 1

WelcomeCranleigh isn’t just dog-friendly, but family-friendly. When we arrived, a number of small children were enjoying lunch on the clubhouse terrace. It wasn’t long into the round that we encountered our first fellow dog-golfer. He was accompanied by a wired-haired Vizsla cross (actually Grace is from a wired-haired litter, but came out smooth coated) named “Buda” (as in the Hungarian capital, Budapest – see photo directly below). Her person informed us that he mum and sister were also on the course that day. Our enquiry about the dog protocol told us that dogs were allowed under control so Grace got to amble beside us with a bit more freedom, but shortly into the round, a golfer came up to inform us that the rule was now “lead required” (so Grace go harnessed up for the rest of the round and I have updated the database).

Walk – At first blush we thought the course would seem shorter at a more modest 5644 yards and only a few inclines to climb, but many of the holes seemed quite long. The layout was a bit disorienting for the unfamiliar. The tee signs were flat on the ground so you couldn’t spot from a distance where the next tee was. A few signs pointed to the next tee, but some to some serious searching (we accidentally teed off the 15th thinking it was the 4th). Perhaps in keeping with its dog friendliness, it featured no less that 8 dog legs (including the 12th which was nearly a 90 degree angle). The course is lies in amidst picturesque landscape, but the grounds itself aren’t fussily manicured (the bunkered were hard-packed and the greens as bumpy as Grace’s growth-ridden hind quarters) which contributes to a relaxed vibe.

Water – Nearly every hole has a drainage ditch crossing the fairway and there is a water hazard at Hole 4 (after which the hole itself is named – “Fern Pond”). They were all pretty dry, and if they are dry after the March we have just had, I suspect that they never get very laden. The course never returned back to the clubhouse, so pack plenty of water. It does have a half-way house at the 8th and 14th, but it’s been closed since the pandemic and the water fountain there is dismantled.

Wildlife – Quite a menagerie of squirrels, crows and a pheasant.

Wind Down – The Red Lion Inn was a welcome sight after the long walk for our old girl and a lovely doggie welcome they provided. They tucked us in a far corner so Grace could curl up on her blanket out of people’s way. They then brought her a dog bowl of water and set it next to her. She was so dog tired that she didn’t even get up onto her feet to lap it up, but just drank lying down. The food was just as satisfying for us human golfers. It is gastro-pub fare done distinctively and great variety (more desserts on offer than I have seen for quite some time).

Cranleigh 2

Cranleigh 3

Cranleigh 4

Cranleigh 5

Risebridge

Risebridge 1

WelcomeRisebridge gave one of the warmest doggie welcomes yet. Well, warm meant literally and best in Grace’s eyes for sure. Being a more than chilly day in January, we stopped at the main building (which is also conveniently the “halfway” hut at the 9th hole), to warm our bones with what was some quite delicious vittles. I had the meaty muffin and Lori a most cheesy omelet with chips. And Grace had a couple of heated sausages offered gratis by the kind proprietor. We offered to pay for them and she responded, “That’s okay. We like dogs around here.”

Water – Water is a bit of a moot subject in middle of the winter. There are puddles everywhere and one doesn’t get as thirsty in the colder weather. Still, the course had quite a number of water run-offs throughout the course and a few small water features near the 5th, 11th and 14th holes. And the clubhouse has a dog water dish on the patio for mid-course or end of round refreshment.

Walk – Like most clubs in the London area, the course was pretty much flat throughout. Well, “flat” in the overall layout. Many of the fairway we flanked by elongated hillocks which gave the sensation of playing in a trough. Also, the fairways themselves weren’t exactly “flat”, but instead characterized by cross-wise ripples in the turf like some frozen liquefaction of an earthquake. If the soggy ground didn’t stop your approach shot in its tracks, the array of mini sleeping policemen did.

Wildlife – More magpies around than you can shake a salute at, but otherwise not much to distract Grace.

Wind Down – I’ve already exceptionally warm welcome from the clubhouse café which offered a range of freshly cooked food and plenty of re-hydration alternatives (hot and cold).

Risebridge 2

Risebridge 3

Hall of Fame Inductee 2022–Millie

Millie Hall of Fame

DogGolf.info is proud to announce the induction of Millie into the Dog Golf Hall of Fame. Millie has distinguished herself with an extensive golfing career of over 200 rounds on over 70 courses. Her golfing person, Terry, recently shared a post about one of her latest outings. In a very special scoop, Millie has shared her own personal perspectives of a dog’s life on the fairways:

Millie – A life as a golf dog

Well, it all started when I was about 6 months old. My owners, Terry and Jenny, were keen golfers but always left me with their daughter whenever they went to play. On this occasion Terry decided that I was old enough to come along and so began my golfing experience.

The first course I visited was Thorpeness. I had to wear my harness which was attached to the golf trolley by a lead. I soon learned not to pull as the golf trolley would topple over! I very quickly learned to sit quietly whilst shots were played and to wait patiently whilst visits to the green were made.

Thorpeness was very quickly followed by a number of visits to other local courses that allowed dogs – Dunston Hall, Diss, Bungay, Brancaster, Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth to name but a few.

My first golf holiday was to East Sussex visiting Cooden Beach, Crowborough, Mid Sussex, Royal Ashdown, Lewes, Seaford, Seaford Head and Littlehampton, Since then we have visited Shropshire, Northumberland, Scotland and Kent, each area more than once. I have clocked up over 200 rounds of golf on about 70 different courses.

Last year Winnie arrived to join me on the course. She very quickly learned the ropes and its great to have the company on a round together. We love the fresh air, the walk and just being with our owners – I wish they would let me off the lead to chase that squirell!

Millie is 6 and is currently passing on her caddying expertise to fellow working strain black Labrador, Winnie (1 year old).

Millie HOF 2

Millie HOF 3

2002 Hall of Fame

Redlibbets

Redlibbets guest review

Another kind reader and keen dog golfer is Terry Aston who shared their experience at Redlibbets. Redlibbets is one of several dog-friendly courses that he introduced me to and I have added to the database. His fairway adventures are shared with not one, but two black labs – Winnie and Millie. Millie is herself a golf connoisseur of some distinction having visited 65 courses in her career putting her right up there for lifetime bests with Grace, Rusty and very few others. They we also accompanied by his wife, Jenny. I find it a curious that yesterday’s guest, today’s as well as Lori and myself are husband-wife teams. I wonder if playing with dogs is relatively more popular with those golfers who treat the sport as a family affair? Here is Terry’s report:

Yesterday, Nov 16, Jenny (my wife), Winnie and Millie – our 2 black labs – played at Redlibbets, Kent.
We were made to feel very welcome and one member went through every hole telling us what to expect, we were nearly late for our tee time. Teeing off the first was a slight dogleg but fairly level and was a gentle introduction to the course. All the fairways were pristine and the greens in excellent condition. The whole course was superb and there was a good variety of holes. The course was set out over 2 sides of a valley with a couple of the fairways running along the bottom of the valley. For the time of year we were surprised at how good a condition the course was in. The 2 dogs really enjoyed their walk which was a fairly easy walk with a couple of steep climbs. We would not hesitate to return if in the area. The bar was open for food but we didn’t stay. All in all, a successful day.

Bakewell

Bakewell 1

While I have been limited in getting out on the (UK) courses, a few dog-loving readers have been more ambitious and have shared some guest posts reviewing more courses for DogGolf.info! First up is Steve Brown (and “Mrs. B”) with their canine caddy, Bertie. They play a number of course in the north of England (which are great to hear about since it would be a long way for us to go and that region is relative less represented in dog golfing):

To begin with we are novice golfers, don’t even have a handicap, we are also relatively new dog owners with Bertie the Tibetan Terrier not quite two when we visited Bakewell. It was my third visit to a golf course and Mrs B and Bertie’s first.

We were on holiday and found the dog golf website which really encouraged us to take Bertie with us.

We emailed the club secretary before booking. She was excellent and a real credit to all those volunteers who keep local clubs alive. She encouraged us to play but did say they didn’t normally allow dogs but come back to her if that was a problem. We did, telling her the tee time we wanted no one else was booked in and it was late in the day. We understood that the dog would be on the lead and kept of greens and bunkers. We offered to contribute for Bertie’s green fees!

Having got the go ahead we booked a 2pm tee time. It’s a small club with a clubhouse with 9 holes with two different tees for each hole. We met several club members on the round and no one questioned Bertie’s presence and all were very accommodating and friendly.

The course is high on the hillside offering fantastic views over Bakewell. It is steep in parts and it’s a good workout. Tee shots are sometimes over the previous greens and one over a bridleway and another over a small country lane.

We all had a great time and you do need to make accommodations for having a dog, swapping the lead over etc, however we were last out so there was no pressure from players behind us.

My takeaways from this first attempt at dog golf are:

  • Plan how you intend to play with the dog ie who will do what, do not just set off.
  • Pick a quiet time of day.
  • Engage the club you want to play at, recognise they might have concerns, leave your contact details so they have some confidence if something went wrong.

We would definitely play Bakewell again, it’s a great little course which is challenging. The secretary was brilliant. It has encouraged us to take Bertie out with us again.

Most of all Bertie led under the table in the pub that night, result!!

Bakewell 2

Why Aren’t More USA Courses Dog Friendly?

Southern Hills - dog greeters

Happy New Year! Long time since I’ve checked in. Primarily because the English winter weather has descended making rounds hard to squeeze in between the gaps of rainfall and the shrinking daylight hours. Fortunately, we were able to juggle the various COVID controls and get ourselves to the USA to see family for the holidays. Lori’s family lives in North Carolina which is quite a popular golfing destination and we not only had plenty of courses to choose from, but warm and dry weather to play in!

One of our rounds was at the Southern Hills Golf Course in Danville, Virginia. When we arrived, we were greeted by a couple of charming canines (see photo above) and thought that we might just have stumbled on a rare dog-friendly course in America. Unfortunately, the friendly welcome was confined to the pro shop and dogs were not allowed to accompany players. But I did have a very friendly and informative chat with the proprietor about some of the distinctly American challenges to welcoming dogs so I thought that I would share them here:

  1. Less Dog Friendly in General – The USA is simply less dog-friendly than Europe. This “20 Most Dog Friendly Countries in the World” list features 13 European countries and the USA is nowhere to be seen. Our American friends are astonished that we can bring Grace to accompany us not just on the golf course, but also to pubs and cafes for meals.
  2. Less Walking the Course – Not wishing to propagate the “lazy American” stereotype, but our visit made it clear that walking the course is much less common. We had always noticed the preponderance of buggies on American courses when we played there in the past. In some courses, buggies are virtually mandatory. Southern Hills didn’t even offer trollies to rent (though you could carry your bag). In fact, Versed noted that Americans are 6 times more likely to use a golf cart than Brits. And if you’re not walking the course, it doesn’t make much sense to bring your dog along.  An article in Golf.com observed:
     
    Sure, golfers in every country forego carts, but in the British Isles walking is more or less compulsory; you generally need a medical exemption to get a cart. Whatever the conditions — in wind, rain or hail — Brits grab a trolley and off they go.”
      
  3. More Insurance Restrictions and Lawsuits – As much as Americans don’t like walking, they notoriously do like to file law suits. As a result, insurance (the public liability insurance that you purchase to protect your from lawsuits) dictates many aspects of business and public life. This consideration was also prominent for Southern Hills who told us that their insurance company would flat out not permit them to have dogs on their course.  I was able to get an expert perspective from Peter Small, Area Senior Vice President of RPS Bollinger Sports & Leisure who specialise in golf course cover:
     
    “Some policies have an ‘animal exclusion’ and other don’t, however if the dog is not owned by the golf course and a member of the public brings their own dog on to the course, there is really no liability on the golf club for the actions of that dog. I would assume most golf courses would require a waiver signed prior to allowing the dog on to the premises which would/should put the sole responsibility of the dog on the owner. Many other variables could impact the coverage depending on what state the club is located in.”

  4. Less of a Tradition – UK tradition of golfing with dogs started from the gentlemenly roots of the sport which shot birds with their dogs in the winter and shot birdies with their dogs in the summer. This heritage created a tradition very early in the sport’s history. The first golf club in America, Saint Andew’s GC in Yonkers NY was set up more than a century after the nearly eponymous home of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland east coast led the way with establishing the sport in the USA. On the other hand (or other side of the country), game (pheasant) shooting as a sport started more on the west coast and Midwest. So in the formative years of USA golfing, bird dogs were not as prevalent among the golfing crowd.