Alton

Alton dog golf 1

WelcomeAlton golf club is not only one of the most welcoming of dogs, but it is certainly the most welcoming club overall that we have ever played (having played over 70 different courses). On arrival, we met Millie, the resident dog who greeted us warmly (photo below). The members who welcomed us so kindly all knew the many members and their dogs who frequented the course. Mike “Hobbo” was especially kind enough to offer to take our picture which is the first shot we have of all 3 of us on a course (see above)! We stopped at the 9th hole (well, the course is a duplex setup with the “back 9” being variations on the 9 holes of the course) and could have just spent the rest of the day enjoying the affable camaraderie.

Walk – There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the course is a more modest length of 5627 yards. The bad news is that a good chunk of those yards are precipitous ascents. The course is bit like the final throes of a storm at sea being tossed up and down at the outset and eventually settling down to more flattened waters (with a bit of rocking back and forth at the ample number of dog-legs on the course). The silver lining to these high-altitude climbs is that you are treated to some amazing views of the Hampshire countryside at the summits (see below).

Water – Being on such a hilly terrain, it is no surprise that there were no water features (water spots tend to be at the bottom of hills, not the top), but there were water spigots at several places around the grounds. And the course obviously returns to the clubhouse at the 9th where there are dog bowls for Grace’s refreshment.

Wildlife – Not much on the course really, but a (fenced) field of sheep next to the 5th/14th hole (who took great interest in Grace as she passed by).

Wind Down – The “community-owned” White Hart was similarly welcoming to doggie patrons. Even before we had submitted our drink orders, the server had brought a bowl of water to our table for Grace. In fact, at one point in the evening, every single occupied table had a dog companion (and a water bowl on the floor). Unfortunately, the food didn’t quite live up to its trendy gastro-descriptions on the menu. The fancy names of the dishes on the menu didn’t match the pretty ordinary pub grub that came out of the kitchen (eg. the “triple cooked chips” are pretty much standard chips). The best part was the onion rings that had big pieces of onion with not too heavy batter.

Alton dog golf 2

Alton dog golf 3

Alton dog golf 4

Good Dog Policy

Good dog policy golf

The primary motivation for created DogGolfUK was the inability for Google to identify which clubs allowed dogs and which didn’t. Most clubs simply don’t have dog protocols noted on their websites.

Actually, many courses don’t have a policy at all! A few times, my enquiries have led to questions being tabled at the subsequent course/club Board meetings in which they decided to allow dogs (often aided by the information on the website).

One club which did post their policy prominently is Niddry Castle (see above).I thought I would share it in the post as a model for any other clubs considering adopting similar dog-friendly stances.

Best in Tow

Vintage dog golf

Who’s a good golf dog?

A common reaction we get to Grace on the golf course is, “I would love to take my own dog out on the course, but I know that he/she just wouldn’t behave.” After our last round, as we noted, we went to go see our son’s new pup, a retired greyhound named Bonbon. She was so calm and quiet, but obviously enjoys a bit of exercise, so we thought that she would make an exemplary golfing dog (and we hope to get her on the course some day). It made us a reflect on the question of “what are the key qualities to being a ‘good dog’ on the golf course?”

Many people ask about Grace’s breed thinking since she is such a fine golf partner that others of her type will be the same. Temperaments vary hugely even among dogs of the same breed. And temperament is paramount for being on your best canine behaviour on the course.

That said, Vizslas are great – clean (short-hair), intelligent, affectionate (they will often leave their food to get affection). Their biggest downside is that they require LOTS of exercise. A minimum of an hour off-lead running around and sniffing every day. It is their gluttony for particular desire which led us to dog golfing in the first place. The 7k+ walk just about starts to tire a Vizsla out.

If you are looking for a dog that you might consider taking out on the fairways with you, consider these qualities:

  • Volubility: Quiet Please! Probably the most important aspect of good behaviour is quiet. Golf courses are second only to libraries for their sensitivity to auditory distraction. So dog barking is definitely bang out of order. A few good-natured woofs to great someone, for example, are fine. But a dog who does not control their barking will be as unwelcome as a chatterbox at the tee-off. Frustratingly, how vocal a particular dog is seems to be very intrinsic to their individual nature and is very hard to train (you can train a dog to bark on command, but much hard to get them to *not* bark on command).
  • Energy: The more docile ambler is going to be easier than someone who likes to tear around (Grace definitely channels her inner Labrador in her more placid demeanour, but Rusty was a bit of a speed demon who liked to tear around). But a quite older or heavier dog, might not be up to managing an entire 18 holes.
  • Gregariousness: Golf is a social sport and even outside your playing foursome, golfers are generally congenial and cross paths on the course as balls stray near (or even into) each other’s fairway. A dog that is generally comfortable with strangers will be a much more content companion and also make such serendipitous encounters more enjoyable.
  • Biddability: It’s hard enough to get humans to behave according to the exacting protocol of the golf course, especially around minimising distractions with noise and eye line. Dogs need to follow all of these human rules. Even on a lead, the dog needs to be able to control all barking which would be a real course faux paw. And if you intend going around the “under control” courses without lead, exacting biddability is an imperative.
  • Scent: Of course, bonus fun for you and your pup is finding the ball in the rough. This will require (a) a good scent dog (like a Hunt/Point/Retrieve breed), and (b) extra training to find the scent and to point to it (don’t pick it up!).

You can see why Grace is the “face” of Dog Golf. But Rusty was just as central to our outings (when she was still with us) as she loved the outdoor adventure much more than Grace so she exemplifies the very spirit of dog golf.

Croham Hurst

Welcome – Summer is truly over and now we are getting into the “Winter Season.” That means wetter, colder and shorter days. We decided to make our way into Croham Hurst to take advantage of a forecasted break in the weather for a mid-afternoon round to squeeze in some holes since Storm Alex had kept us off the fairways for over a week now. The day started with promising glimpses of sunshine, but as we approached the course, the darker clouds enshrouded Surrey. The rounds were very reasonably priced (£20 on a weekend) so we figured we would tough out as many holes as we could in regardless of what inclement conditions welcomed us.

The most welcome part, for us and Grace, was renting a buggy. This round was the first ever time we have used a buggy in the UK. Buggies are much more common in the USA and nearly every time we have played across the pond we used one (in fact, some courses require their use). It must be either American impatience or laziness. A major dividend from a round for all of us including Grace is the exercise from a 7k+ walk. So a buggy never made sense. But this day, the last few rainclouds were scudding into the area dropping a decent dousings of rain periodically. As a result, we thought that a buggy would be a handy bit of cover to duck into during the rainy bits (which it very much was for the first half hour while the weather got its last few rain clouds out of its system). It also provided the added benefit that we could make it around the course a bit faster. Given the ever-shortening daylight (all the shorter with cloudy skies), we were able to squeeze in a few more holes with our motorized assistance and our late tee time.

Walk – The question was what to do with Grace? Have her ride with us? Have one of us walk with her while the other drove the buggy. Both of us ride the buggy while Grace ran along side? It turns out, “all of the above”. Check out our video below. On one hand, we did bring her along with us during wet spells, but she did get to run beside us otherwise. And she really enjoyed stretching her legs especially as Croham Hurst is a lead required course.

Water – As noted, there was no shortage of water on this particular day. Otherwise, though, the course has no water hazards or run-off streams. Fortunately, the 9th hole features a water fountain (off for COVID) and the 10th swings back by the clubhouse.

Wildlife – I’ve never thought of outer Croydon as a seaside resort, but the most prevalent creatures on the course were flocks of seagulls. Maybe driven inland by Storm Alex or maybe confused by where the seaside stopped and the land began after the recent drenching of the UK.

Wind Down – Another evening at the inimitable Archie Parker to meet its namesake successor, retired greyhound Bonbon. Any time we are in southeast London area we will typically be drawn to our favourite dog-friendly café in the area (now with one of our favourite dogs to visit).

Croham Hurst 1

Croham Hurst 2

Croham Hurst 3

Drift

Drift dog golf 3

Welcome – One of our recently uncovered dog-friendly places here in the UK is Drift GC. Everyone seemed nonplussed by Grace’s presence, and one particularly friendly lady went out of her way to say hello to her which Grace particularly appreciated (and she isn’t usually as enthusiastic receiving too much attention from strangers).

Walk – While the walk was nicely level, it still seemed to be a bit more tiring than its fairly conventional 6k distance would imply. Plenty of conventional sand and surf hazards, with the bonus hazard of scattered mounds. These carbuncles of turf reminded me of the many fatty lumps and bumps popping up on Grace’s aging body (which were annoying to our approach shots are they sometime are to Grace who fusses with them).

Water – Half dozen sizeable water hazards. Water fountain at the 15th and 9th (shut down for COVID) and the 9th returns to the clubhouse. In fact. the 9th had the water trifecta of a water hazard, a fountain and a halfway hut. The course could go by the nickname the “Ditch” golf club for a long sequence of drainage ditches running along the course. Your slice won’t roll far off the fairway before it is gobbled up by one of these (but in wetter times a ready source of a drink for Grace).

Wildlife – SQUIRREL! Never seen so many squirrels on a golf course. Each hole seemed to have its own resident furry-tailed rodent.

Wind Down – We set down at the nearby The Black Swan which is a charming gastropub striving for cut-above fare. The spatch cock chicken and truffle mac and cheese exceeded expectations though the “tempura” broccoli was just fried in conventional batter that was too doughy. A lovely place with lovely food.

Drift 1

Drift dog golf 2

Kilspindie

Kilspindie dog golf 1

Welcome – We had our first round on a dog-friendly course in another “country” – Scotland. Sadly (for her as much as us), Grace couldn’t join us for our weekend city break to Edinburgh, but that didn’t stop us from hitting the links for our first ever links round hosted by a dear friend, Lindsey in the land of dog friendly golf. Driving to Kilspindie we passed a number of other courses (as you do in Scotland) and on every one you could see several players with dogs. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted a member coming off the course with his spaniel in tow.

Unfortunately, we did happen upon any pups on the course itself during our round to provide a photo opp for this post, but I did find this Instagram post by Erik Anders Lang of resident golfing dog Zulu:

  • “You may know Zulu from our time with Malcolm Duck during the Un/Official Guide to Scotland. Malcolm, in his zest for life, is one of the greatest hosts in Scotland – an already highly hospitable country – telling stories and singing while his faithful Springer Spaniel Zulu jumped through the heather during our rounds at Kilspindie.”

Walk – The course is one of the shortest full courses we have played at just over 5k with no par 5s. And all flat coastal links. What energy was sapped by the bracing sea “breeze” (mini gale) was reinvigorated by the stunning 360 degree scenery in view at every step.

Water – The course features a fountain (turned off for COVID) at the end of the 10th. Otherwise, lots of “water, water everywhere” surrounded by the ocean.

Wildlife – Perhaps the most unusual wildlife creature spotted from a course (though not on the course itself) were the sea lions sunning themselves on the sand bars in the bay. While their namesake is feline, these intelligent and alert aquatic creatures have a personality and demeanor more like canines.

Wind Down – The hurried down the road to the Longniddry Inn for much needed a warming Spanish coffee (made properly) having had a big lunch at The Old Clubhouse in Gullane (which also welcomed plenty of canine companions).

Kilspindie dog golf 2

Dog Golfing Around the World

Facebook dog golfing in world

In my recent research, I happened upon the Lebanon Turf dog golf calendar. They publish a “Dog Days Of…” calendar every year:

· “It’s that time of year again where we at LebanonTurf, along with the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America (GCSAA), get to know a new round of golf dogs. Every year, we take submissions from golf courses all over the country who want their pal to be featured in our Dog Days of Golf Calendar. And each year, one of these lucky calendar dogs is chosen as our Dog of the Year, which comes with some pretty great perks.”

With 4 years of calendars (52 dogs featured including cover), I thought that the profiles about the dog and their course would be a great source of finally finding some dog-friendly courses in North America where dog golfing is virtually unheard of. However, after reaching out to the first 26 courses featured, it turned out that just because a dog was pictured on their course doesn’t mean they allow dogs. In nearly all cases, the dogs belonged to the course superintendent or grounds keeper (the Lebanon Turf customers) who brought their dog to work for the day just for the photo op.

Still, I did find Zelda (directly below) featured from the Schifferdecker club in Joplin, Missouri, USA. I did add her to my list of other courses I have stumbled on across the world adverting dog-friendliness from Croatia (see photo at bottom) to British Columbia, Canada. With several in hand, I thought I would start a Google Map of the Rest of the World courses for reference.

As always, contact me if you know any others and I would be glad to add them to the map/list (and also welcome a guest post if you are so inclined).

USA dog golfing

Croatia dog golfing

Facebook Update

Machrie Facebook

Doing some more recent research, I noticed how many golf clubs now have Facebook pages. And most of those pages have message facilities which promise prompt response. So I decided to sit down and send a message chipping away at a couple dozen a day of the clubs that I had emailed during my original research (but they never replied).

I did get many to respond to Facebook, but still overall only 133 out of 804 clubs contacted by Facebook message responded to the Facebook message – a pretty sad 16% response rate.

The good news is that the total number of dog-friendly courses in the UK identified (and profiled in the database) is now up to 521 (up from original 384) a hair under 20% (from the original 15%).

The leading areas remain the same and account for the biggest chunk of the additions. The added data just showed Scotland, South Coast and Greater London to be even more dog-friendly than first identified as they increased their dog-friendly rate of around 22% to >45%.

Berkhampsted

Berkhampsted 1

WelcomeBerkhampsted GC is one of the poshest (£70 per round on weekends) parkland courses we have played. Typically, parkland courses are at the lower end of the price and exclusivity spectrums. But the considerable number of dog-walkers passing through does amplify the dog-friendliness vibe.

Walk – Talk about a “ruff” landscape. The terrain is flat mostly (a bit of a climb to the final hole) and there are no bunkers. But more than making up for these concessions is a battery of shrubbery moats (see picture below) and bracken laden ramparts (never flanking, but always crossing the “fairway” at the most inconvenient locations). I think they hired the set designer for The Game of Thrones to plot layout this course.  This epic landscape, of course, delighted Grace who enjoyed a big uptick in the number of stray balls to sniff out.

Water – The late summer date meant that the few water hazards around were completely dried up. But the halfway house after the 8th (also near the clubhouse) has a fountain (off for COVID), and is open, serving drinks (and a few other packaged refreshments) and able to fill water bowls or bottles.

Wildlife – Curiously devoid of critters aside from a few loitering crows.

Wind Down – We had booked the top recommendation for area on Doggie Pubs – The Boat. It is a lovely canal-side establishment (but you can’t book an outdoor table, it’s first come first served). But we weren’t feeling well so we wound down with a simple cuppa at home this outing.

Berkhampsted 2

Berkhampsted 3

Army

Army 4

I don’t know what you’ve been told / But on dog golf we’ve been sold.
I don’t know what’s been said / But at Army Golf dogs love to tread.

Welcome – We didn’t see any of the dogs on the course, but none of the fellow golfers out that day seemed nonplussed by Grace’s presence. One of the biggest fears many have about dogs on the course is dreaded distraction (especially from an ill-timed bark). But Army is one of the noisiest courses we have played so I don’t think many people these are as concerned with noise. The 15th hole sits right next to the Farnborough Airport (see photo below) with a private jet surreally close giving it a bit of a crazy golf vibe. But in addition to regular jets flying past, there were a battery of helicopters hovering around and even a few drill sergeants barking their own commands nearby.

Walk – A very level battlefield which make the fairly long course (6550 yards) a manageable stroll.

Water – Halfway house at the 9th actually operating (we bought a Bakewell cake a cuppa while Grace enjoyed some water from the dog bowl left out). And the 16th finishes right by the clubhouse if you can’t quite squeeze in 18 holes with the dwindling daylight on a twilight round (those that offer is temporarily suspended at the moment). A water gully winds its way through the course flanking or crossing all but 4 holes. It was running and Grace was keen to get in it every time we arrived at it.

Wildlife – The usual commonplace woodland critters – squirrels, rabbits, crows, pigeons – plus a most unexpected memorial to another four-legged friend – equine veterans of the Boer War.

Wind Down – We ventured down the road to the nearby The Swan (found in Doggie Pubs). The evening was pleasant, but less so the outdoor seating which was all paved and nothing but less comfortable picnic tables. So we opted to sit at one of the many tables near the bar. One positive to the coronavirus precautions are that the tables in pubs are now set further apart from each other which provides more floor space for us to set Grace’s bed. The Swan included free dog biscuits in a jar on the bar and the server happily provided a bowl of fresh water for Grace. The food focuses on fancy burgers and recently added some Greek dishes as a special (I tried the pork which was different and tasty but not particularly distinctive, just pork belly and potatoes nicely spiced and cooked together in parchment). The highlight was the onion rings that had good sized onion and not too bready batter.

Army 3

Army 2