Dog Gone Rules

No Dogs Allowed

As the stats show, the strong majority of golf courses don’t allow dogs. Some have specific rules against them. Others have never really considered the issues, but when asked responded ‘no’.

The objections to dogs tend to fall into one of four main areas…

  • Wildlife Safety – especially areas where livestock or other populations of animals are very nearby
  • Sanitation – people not cleaning up messes
  • Dog Safety – dogs getting hit by balls
  • Disturbing Players – a few mistimed barks

I did occasionally hear the “slippery slope” fallacy (which is a variation of the “strawman fallacy”), ie. if ‘we had dogs all over the place it would be mayhem…’ Well, even if you become dog-friendly, it is doubtful that you will have ‘dogs all over the place’. Hundreds of courses in the UK allow dogs, but none of them have ‘dogs all over the place’.

For the sake of equal time and balanced perspective, here is a pretty comprehensive catalogue of all of the reasons provided to DogGolf.info’s survery as to why certain clubs have opted to excluded canine caddies from their courses…

General

  • You could end up with quite a few dogs on the course, barking as playing golf shot, distracting people you’re playing with, possibly going to the toilet, it would have to be on a lead and you need something to attach the lead to whilst playing a shot. H&S, stray golf balls – protect yourself and dog…? I have occasionally thought it would be useful to be able to walk the dog at the same time but players want to concentrate on their golf, not be distracted by a dog.” – Rawdon Golf and Lawn Tennis Club
  • There are various reasons such as: Dogs biting/barking at golfers. Dogs urinating/scraping on greens/course. Golfers having allergic reactions. Dog injuring itself or others on the golf course. Kids/Adults afraid of dogs. Dog lifting another players’ ball. Interfering with course maintenance schedule.” – Down Royal Park Golf Course.
  • We are constantly in a running battle with dog walkers who seem to think the course is a public space rather than private property so we could not condone players bringing dogs.” – Brookdale Golf Club

Dog Safety

  • We have a huge problem with dog walkers on the course as we have a public footpath running through the course. Trying to get non-golfing dog walkers to stick to the public path and not wander across the course endangering themselves and their dogs is a really big struggle for us. Whilst we are dog lovers and look after dogs for friends, we feel that it sends the wrong message to therefore allow golfers to bring dogs onto the course.” – Barlborough Links Golf Cub
  • We don’t allow dogs for health and safety reasons.” – Three Locks Golf Club
  • For health and safety reasons we advise dogs not to be on the course when playing.” – Abbey View Golf Facility
  • Not safe for the dog with golf balls flying about.” – Hirst Priory Golf Club
  • Health and safety issues includes the safety of your dog, for example, being hit by other people’s golf balls, and our insurance doesn’t cover any potential issues caused by dogs on the course.” – Gloucester Golf Club
  • We try not to encourage golfers taking their dogs onto the course just as this may put other golfers off their game.” – Nairn Dunbar Golf Club
  • We do not encourage it as we have a lot of rounds played and if everyone came with a dog there would be mayhem. We have a number of footpaths which cross our golf course and not all owners decide to behave in a sensible way.” – Gaudet Luce Golf Club
  • We do not allow dogs on the course, for the safety of the dog and also for the players.” – Nelson Golf Club

Sanitation

  • Unfortunately we do not allow dogs on the Golf Course due to the health impacts it could have if they foul or urinate on the playing areas.” – Westonbirt Golf Club, Gloucestershire
  • Unfortunately due to past incidents we no longer allow dogs to accompany golfers. Poorly behaved dogs and excrement. It only takes one to spoil it for everybody.” – Folke Golf Centre
  • One or two people have unfortunately have let their dogs foul on the course spoiling it for everyone leading to a ban.” – Barnsley Golf Club
  • Certain people in the past had let their dogs foul the course and run about off their leads” – Kilmacolm Golf Club
  • Unfortunately due to problems in the past with dogs fouling we no longer allow dogs on the course.” – Whiting Bay Golf Club.

Wildlife

  • Blackwood is a wild life sanctuary and therefore dogs are not allowed on the course.” – Blackwood Golf Club
  • I am afraid that we do not allow dogs on the course as we have a lot of wildlife which would be disturbed.” – La Grand Mare
  • Dogs are not allowed on the course due the resident families of deer that live on our course.” – Bishopbriggs Golf Club
  • We do not permit dogs on the course. We are on a deer park, so it could present problems.” – Belton Park Golf Club
  • The course is situated on a private estate where there is a lot of wildlife roaming about, so not conducive to dogs.” – Dundas Park
  • Dogs are not allowed on the course; the course is privately-owned and the owners do not want dogs on the land, due to the immediately-neighbouring farms and animals.” – Faversham Golf Club

Disturbing Players

  • There had been a few complaints on and off about behavior on the course over a short period. There was then a quite a bad one when a dog got free and went off barking and scaring players.” – Clacton Golf Club
  • Barking, digging, fouling, chasing squirrels, picking up golf balls, general distraction…And that’s just what my border terrier would do if I took her out golfing.” – Shandon Park golf Club.
  • As Ravelston is a tight, compact course we do not allow dogs to accompany players.” – Ravelston Golf Club

The Most Dog-Friendly Golfing in the UK

Dog-friendly golfing in the UK

Dog-friendliness lies at the extremes of the UK’s geography and socio-economic landscape. The most dog friendly clubs in the land are found in the extreme north of Scotland or the extreme south of the south coast. Similarly, they are found in the most posh, most elite clubs or conversely the least expensive, casual rock-up 9-hole courses on common land. The more to the middle of the price range or the land mass, the less dog-friendly the courses become.

I asked all 2633 courses in the UK “Are dogs allowed to accompany players on the course?”

384 of UK’s 2633 (15%) golf courses allow dogs in some capacity.

Here are the headliner stats on dog-friendliness in the United Kingdom…

  • Most Dog-Friendly Areas – Scotland, South Coast and Greater London all have a dog-friendly rate of around 22%
  • Most Dog-Friendly Counties – Suffolk (36%), Highlands (32%), Cornwall (32%)
  • Most Dog-Friendly Cities – Edinburgh (6 courses), Woking (4 courses) followed by Cambridge, Saint Andrews, Brighton, Bournemouth, Ashford, Alton, Guildford all with 3.
  • Least Dog-Friendly Areas – North Ireland (4%), North England (7%), Wales (10%)
  • Least Dog-Friendly Counties – A number of counties don’t have any (identified as yet). Counties Leicestershire, Cheshire and Warwickshire all have a single dog-friendly course putting them in the low single digits.
  • Most Lead-Optional (Under Control) Counties – Kent (12 courses), Surrey (10), Suffolk (8)

Dog Friendly Golf Courses UK heat map

Golfing with dogs not just more prevalent at the geographical extremes, but also the economic extremes. The most prestigious and expensive clubs welcome dogs and so do the most basic inexpensive parkland 9-hole par-3 courses. The exclusive clubs that welcome dogs include Wentworth, Sunningdale, The Berkshire, St. Andrews, Muirfield, Turnberry, Swinley Forest and Loch Lomond. Their legacy stems from decades ago when gentlemen members would often go hunting in winter months, but want to do something with the dogs in the summertime. And the lower end courses tend to be more relaxed about all policies and often have open-access covenants so dog-walkers are on the courses regularly any way.

A couple of the most dog friendly courses include the following…

  • Sunningdale Golf Club – The clubhouse restaurant has a special menu for the dogs dining there.
  • Goodwood Golf Club – The club has a special “Kennels Dog Membership” for dogs (the proceeds of which go to benefit the charity “Hounds for Heroes”) with special benefits of special treats, ‘clean up’ bags, walk maps and a personalised dog bowl kept at the club.

In the process of doing the research, I also uncovered some other curiosities about UK golf in general…

  • Response Rate – Despite making direct and personal contact through whatever means directed by their website (contact form, email, telephone), the response rate to my simple question was 45%. If this was a general survey, that would be a great response rate. But as a potential visitor/member asking a specific question, more than half of the UK golf courses can be bothered to respond.
  • Percent No Contact – I’m not sure what is worse…not responding or not providing any way for a member/visitor to contact you. 51 courses (2%) provided no contact details whatsoever (or the advertised website was down, email bounced or telephone disconnected).
  • Percent Closed – The list of courses pulled from Wikipedia is not a definitive list and not sure how well it is maintained, but I was still surprised to find 116 courses (5%) permanently closed.

The wording of the dog policies varies tremendously. Some are quite simple (“Dogs are allowed under control”), but some are a bit more fun…

  • Dogs are welcome! As long as they wear proper golf shoes.” – Langlands Golf Club
  • 2 rules – Clear up after them and they are not allowed to steal other players balls!!” – Machrie Bay
  • Dogs are mandatory. If you don’t have one, you can probably hire one from one of the other members” – New Zealand Golf Club

Guest Posts by Dog Golfers Wanted

Dog typing

Send us your overviews of your favourite UK dog golfing course!

Over the past few months since we started DogGolf.info, we have gotten around to a good number of dog-friendly courses in the west-of-London outskirts with a few forays into Surrey and Norfolk. We probably can comfortably make the claim that we have golfed more courses in the UK with dogs than anyone else in the world (if anyone knows of anyone who has done more, please let us know!).

Rusty and Grace have now visited most of the “under control” dog-friendly courses within a 1 hour driving radius of our home in Marlow. That covers most of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and some of Oxfordshire, Surrey and Hertfordshire. We are also plotting dog golfing holidays in dog-golfing hot beds of the south coast and the north coast (ie. Scotland).

But those outings will skim the surface of the 400+ dog welcoming courses in the UK. In order to fill the gap, I am hoping that you can help me with your own perspectives on dog golfing where you go.

A submitted course review should look at the course from the dog’s perspective and your perspective being with the dog(s). You can include a sentence or two about the course play, look, service, amenities, etc., but otherwise keep the post focused on how aspects of the club and grounds affect the dog side.

As you will know from my posted pieces, the review has four basic components:

  • Welcome: What is the dog vibe? Do the people seem happy or a bit put off by the presence of your pooch? Do you encounter other dogs? Are there any special amenities laid on for the dogs?
  • Walk: How hard is the walk? Are there distractions or dangers to the dog?
  • Water: What is the access to water on the course (eg. lakes, ponds, streams, spigots)?
  • Wind Down – The ideal piece includes a post-round visit to a nearby dog-friendly pub with a few words so people will know where to go for refreshment after a day of dog golfing.

We will also need two pictures with of your dog(s) on the course and an introduction to them (names, breed, ages, how often do they go golfing with you, what do they enjoy the most about it, what is the biggest challenge).

I reserve full editorial rights and all copyright is fully licensed to doggolf.info.

Thanks to any and all contributors.

Waterstock

Waterstock 1

Waterstock Golf Club might not put the stock in the water, but it certainly does put the legs in the dog legs. Five of the holes have some sort of dog-leg and holes 4 and 10 are virtually perpendicular.

The course is a power-hitters paradise. Five 500 year par 5s, but at least the fairways are broad and open providing a bit of leeway so you can let rip a bit. Ladies tees are a quite generous amount forward (often over 50 yards and whopping 93 yards on hole 12)

Welcome: The pro shop manager was very amiable when we mentioned our dogs. He said that 8-20 members bring their dogs. He said that one member comes every Thursday with his dog, the dog picks a ball out of the lake-balls basket in the shop at the start of the round, carries it around with him during the entire round and then deposits it back in the basket at the end of the round. He also told an amusing tale of playing a links course (Scotland is notoriously dog-friendly in golf) when he saw out of the corner of his eye a trolley scudding along the fairway being pulled by a dog attached to it like some sort of Alaskan sled dog who had obviously gotten inspired for a bit of a run despite his owner’s attempt at anchoring his lead.

Walk: Like most of the courses on the Oxford Plain, hills are the least of your worries with hardly an incline to tackle. It was a fairly conventional 6500 yards, but its openness makes it seem bigger.

Water: Its name notwithstanding, there is not actually any water on the course. No spigots and no water hazards (though there is a little lake between the driving range and Hole10, you never come close to it). Fortunately, the bar manager was very gracious and brought out fresh cold water from the bar when we made our pit stop there after the 9th hole.

Wind Down: With the days getting shorter, we were fighting daylight a bit. But at least we were blessed with a lovely moon rise over our last few holes. Instead of the caricature of howling, Rusty and Grace decided that was their cue for a bit of a lie down on the penultimate hole (see photo below). We packed up and went over to The James Figg in Thame (about 4 miles from the course). Some of the tastier food we have had at a dog-friendly pub (I had the pulled pork sandwich and Lori the chicken Caesar salad). But they do put the “friendly” into dog-friendly. We arrived a smidgeon past the 8:30 pm kitchen closing, but the manager went back to re-open it for us. Dogs are welcome in the entire pub (dining tables and bar area including an outdoor seating area out back) and just about all the patrons made a fuss over Rusty and Grace to their delight.

  

image