Harpenden Common

Harpenden Common - dog golf 1

Welcome: Another “Common” course on the same weekend this time travelling north a bit to Harpenden Common. We had to wait a few minutes for a scheduled event to finish up before we started our round. So we sat outside the clubhouse to have drink Dogs are welcome on the course , but not in the clubhouse…in fact, no golf shoes of any type are allowed in the clubhouse either. Not a problem since one of the bar staff came down to greet us and offered to bring us drinks. Without even asking, our beer and prosecco was accompanied by a big dog dish of fresh water. A number of members greeted us through the day and complimented Rusty and Grace’s fine behavior and chatted a bit making us all feel very welcome.

Half of the course is on common land which gets lots of dog walkers anyway and there were plenty about during our round. There is handy poo-bag bin on the 3rd hole (by the walking path).

Walk: At £30 (twilight fee, peak fee is £40), Harpenden Common is one of the more expensive common land courses we have come across. What you get for that are well-tended, lovely grounds (grounds maintenance is one of the biggest expenses for a course) rambling over a relative flat stretch.

What you do have to navigate are some roads. They are small byways, but cars do go down them periodically. They don’t just run along the course, but they run through it. In fact two holes, 2 and 8, cross the road. Signs warn you to be on the look out for cars before playing, but dog golfers will also need to take special care with that their canine companions don’t wander across.

Water: The is one water hazard by the 7th green and the 16th tee, but it is artificial and relatively stagnant. I don’t think even Rusty or Grace fancied a drink from it. So bring your own water and the 9th does finish by the clubhouse where a fresh dish of water is always waiting.

Wind Down: We made our way over to the Elephant and Castle pub on the other side of the Harpenden Common. Another DoggiePubs 5-star pub with the clientele to match (5 dogs when we arrived). Tasty, hearty food at a reasonable price in a warm, friendly ambience.

Harpenden Common - dog golf 2

Chorleywood

Chorleywood 1

Welcome: Chorleywood is one of the doggiest golf courses we have been to. There was almost a 1:2 ratio of dogs to people. Actually, we were the only dog golfers, but the course is on public land at Chorleywood Common which is a hugely popular dog walking area. The dogs were off lead all over the place. But it wasn’t mayhem. The golfers looked out for the dogs and their walkers, and the walkers looked out for the golfers. And everyone must be very responsible as I didn’t spot a single dropping anywhere (also the park has two dog poo-bag bins at the entrance car park). Rusty and Grace even made a new friend, Tia (see photo at bottom).

Walk: A very flat course making for a leisurely walk. Due to being on public land, the course is not allowed to put up a bunch of directional signs, but the scorecards include a course map with red arrows pointing to the exit for each hole.

Water: No real water hazards on the course aside from a dried up pond on the 1st hole (and the dogs weren’t thirsty at that point).

Chorleywood is a truly relaxed course. People are chill about the dogs. The walk is easy. There are no sand bunkers and only the one small “water” hazard. The putting greens are flat with low fringe. The par is a modest 68.

Wind Down: For post-puppy round dinner, we went to a very nearby doggie pub nearly as “doggy” as the course was – The Black Horse. Appropriately situated on “Dog Kennel Lane”. There were a similar ratio of dogs to patrons there and the dogs were welcome throughout the establishment (at the bar or at the table seating toward the back). A basket of dog treats is prominently displayed on a shelf by the bar. They do ask that the dogs be kept on a lead (which is not much of a problem since they were just curled up by our table on the floor). The food is hearty and tasty with a pretty extensive menu. I struggled to finish my Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff (because the serving was so big), but that didn’t stop us from going for the Treacle Sponge with extra Custard (yum).

Chorleywood 2

Chorleywood 3

Merrist Wood

Merrist Wood - course

Welcome: We are travelling a bit further afield to find courses where leads are not required as Rusty and Grace like to stretch their legs a bit. While Surrey’s Merrist Wood does allow off-lead, they are very keen on keeping dogs “under control”. They reiterated that concern a couple of times and they have a marshal that patrols the grounds (he passed us twice) to ensure that everyone is keeping to the club protocols. We always start Rusty and Grace on lead for the first couple holes to get them oriented, settled down and to burn a bit of energy. We kept them on lead a bit longer this time not just because of concern about tight control, but also there is quite a bit a wildlife which was all too tempting – a big flock of Egyptian geese, plenty of pheasants and of course the ubiquitous rabbits.

Walk: Probably the flattest course we have played in the UK. Only a few minor hillocks to climb. But it what it lacks in elevation is makes up for in sheer distance at nearly 7,000 yards.   The hazards do rise above the ground, but rather sink deeply into it.  Merrist Wood has 80 sand bunkers (yes, I counted).  That’s more bunkers than par.  Many of them with quite steep exits.

Water:  All that sand doesn’t mean that Merrist Wood is a desert.  There’s plenty of water for the dogs.  But you can have too much of a good thing. Water hazards are generally a good thing for the dogs. A chance for a drink (see photo below) and they always enjoy exploring the reeds which directs their curiosity away from the course and other golfers. Rusty and Grace might have gotten their fill of drinking and cooling off a bit, but it did impose a few extra challenges for Lori’s and my precision (and we did lose a few balls into the drink). 14 of the 18 holes have water hazards including 5 holes with lakes (Hole 17 is 100 metres across directly in front of the green).

Wind Down: We are finding out that a bit of advance research is required for finding an accompanying doggie pub after our rounds. We like to golf late on a Sunday when the courses are less crowded (so fewer people to be bothered by having dogs around). But that means finishing around sunset between 7 and 8. Well, lots of pub kitchens close at 7:00 pm on a Sunday. So finding a pub that (a) is dog friendly, (b) has a kitchen open to 8:00 or later, and (c) is close to the course can be a bit of a confining filter. Fortunately, Ye Old Ship Inn in Guildford ticked the boxes and we had a lovely meal. Their main event is their homemade pizzas baked in their brick oven which are as good as you will find anywhere (and Grace loves the pizza crusts). Lori opted for the lasagna which was a sizeable serving, very juicy (I hate dry lasagna), cheesy (I love cheesy lasagna) and meaty. The pub has lots of casual table spread around and the dogs are welcome everywhere so you don’t have to be confined to a limited area (some pubs have a couple tables by the bar or outside where dogs are welcome, but the bulk of their dining area tables are off limits to pups).

Merrist Wood - stream

Kirtlington

Kirtlington - dog golf

The biggest divide between dog-friendly golf courses is whether leads are required or not. About 2/3rd of the courses that allow dogs do require a lead. The others simply require that they be “under control”. Kirtlington Golf Club’s policy occupies a curious middle ground where leads are “preferable”.

Even though Rusty and Grace are extremely well behaved and very biddable (voice, whistle and hand commands), we still tend to start all our outings on leads (even where they are not required). One good reason for Kirtington’s recommendation is the fact that between Holes 1 and 2 lies a field with sheep and goats protected by an electric fence. We know from past experience that Rusty’ inquisitive nature would certainly have earned her a zap on the nose if we hadn’t had her on the lead there.

Later on in the round, since there weren’t many players on the course, we let them off to stretch their legs a bit in the wide open fairways of Kirtlington. Hole 7 comes back to the sheep pen so back Rusty went on the lead.

Welcome:  The course has a very dog friendly demeanor. A number of folks commented that one of the course managers has her own dog who accompanies her to the clubhouse (but not on the course).

Walk: Kirtlington had probably the most best [sic] views we’ve ever enjoyed on a golf course. And we didn’t have to climb arduous hills to get them. Instead, the course sort of sits like a table top at the edge of the Cotswolds with nearly broad vistas overlooking the Oxford Plain on nearly every hole.

Water: A couple of water hazards on the 7th and 12th were maintaining their water levels even in the heat of August (most appear to be lined to keep the water in place).

Wind Down: The doggie pub for the day was The Boat Inn in Thrupp (5 stars on DoggiePubs). They have a spacious enclosed garden as well as good sized bar area where dogs are very welcome. Our dogs got offered a biscuit by the barman before we had even ordered our drinks. A few other dogs joined us during our meal. And a hearty meal it was just perfect for an appetite worked up by 7+ kilometers of walking. The extensive menu filled two sides of an A4 sheet. The nachos with beef chili was superb (though a bit on the hot spicy side, be warned). Most of us had the “Hock and Cock” (ham hock and chicken) pies with chips and gravy, with our friend Ian (in photo below with wife Jenny) opting for the steak (perfectly cooked). And it turned out that Rusty and Grace’s food hadn’t thawed out thoroughly, but one of the other patrons was a canal boater moored up outside and they took the packets to their boat to zap them in the microwave for us.

Kirtlington - dog golf 2