The Point at Polzeath

Point at Polzeath dog golf 1

Welcome – Dogs are “most welcome” at The Point at Polzeath, as the pro shop attendant declared. As it turns out, the owner has two spaniels who “chase him around the course”. We came upon a number of dog walkers on the course during our round. Even the affiliated hotel is dog friendly. And in fact, this is the first golf club website I’ve come across that features a picture of a dog in its main gallery.

Walk – The walk is a gorgeous seaside ramble. The course has wide, forgiving fairways and unforgiving greens set up on table tops (so the slightest inaccuracy leads the ball rolling precipitously off the side). You do have a bit of meandering to avoid the tsunami like bunkers of sand popping up everywhere.

Water – A number of streams run through the course with fresh water….

Wildlife – …However, one of the streams were home to a family of ducks that did not seem pleased by Rusty’s attention (so onto the lead the she went).

Wind Down – Our Polzeath outing provided the opportunity for a different sort of dog-friendly wind-down. We were just a few miles away from the foodie Mecca of Padstow. We had been to Rick Stein’s famous fish restaurant there years ago (and now Padstow is covered in Stein eateries and emporiums), but what we really coveted was a meal at Paul Ainsworth’s #6. Paul Ainsworth is my favourite celebrity chef. I was captivated by with warm and insightful coaching style on Master Chef a while back. Then, he graced Kerridge’s “Pub in the Park” in our home town last year. I thought he would send a few sous chefs to pump out a few token delicacies for the event, but instead he was right there on the front line working on every one of the hundreds of dishes they served that day.

So hitting #6 had been on my culinary bucket list for some time. The problem was what to do with the dogs? Ainsworth at #6 is a lot of things, but it isn’t dog friendly. It turns out that the cottage we were staying at did not allow pets to be left alone. So we went on the hunt for dog sitter at very short notice with a quite unconventional brief (“could you look after our two dogs for a couple of hours?”). Fortunately, we discovered just the most professional, warm, and accommodating dog carer – Susan Sharp (and also poised and understanding in coping with an unprecedented bolt by Miss Rusty).  She is in Wadebridge, right on the way to Padstow . So if you want the ultimate post-round refreshment (or any other dog caring while vacationing in the area), I highly recommend you look up Susan’s service.

Point at Polzeath dog golf 3

Point at Polzeath dog golf 2

Oak Meadow

Oak Meadow dog golf 1

Westward ho! First the east coast of England, and now road trip to the west. With the help of the handy Dog Golf Course Map, we plotted a golfing holiday in Cornwall (which with the Home Counties and Scotland is one of the areas with the most dog-friendly courses). But the west country is a bit further from us so we decided to break up the journey with a stop en route at Oak Meadow golf course (formerly “Starcross” under which name the website still exists). It was a perfect pit stop about 2.5 hours into a 4 hour drive. A little break from driving and good warm-up for weekend of dog golfing.

Travel Tip – If you are renting a car for your dog golf holiday, most rental agencies prohibit you carrying pets in them (Rusty and Grace had to travel in an accompanying friend’s car) so you might need to search for a special pet friendly car rental.

Welcome – First the course was a little tricky to locate. The postcode (EX6 8QG) and street address (“9 New Road”) don’t get you there using the sat nav. Go to New Road and then carry on about a half mile and it is on your right. Google Maps calls it an “Unnamed Road”, but for all intents and purposes it is the extension of “New Road”.

When we did arrive, we were enthusiastically welcomed by a dog named “Bobby” who is the unofficial mascot underscoring its dog friendly (or “friendly dog”) credentials.

Walk – One of the shortest courses with holes crossing over each other to squeeze 9 holes into a quite contained plot of land right next to the estuary.

Wildlife – Mostly seagulls squawking around.

Water – Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Being by the estuary, it’s all mostly brackish. So off we go to the “water hole”…

Wind Down – According to Doggie Pubs, there was no real “local”, so we ventured into nearby Exeter center to the 5 star reviewed The Fat Pig. It was 7 miles away but it is close to the motorways you will be re-joining whether you are going further south on the M5 or west on the A30. We had a superb meal (Lori had the pulled pork, I had the chunkiest tomato soup ever, and Rusty and Grace had their Nature’s Menu evening meal). Plenty of fussing over them by the patron and hosts (who brought out a biscuit for each).

Oak Meadow dog golf 2

Oak Meadow dog golf 3

West Park

West Park 2

Welcome – You arrive at a little non-descript shack on the outskirts (the western outskirts I suspect) of town for the West Park Golf Centre. The attendant was very happy to have Rusty and Grace along with us. West Park is not your typical golf course or club (they do call it a “centre”). It is a classic “pitch and putt”. Almost a bit like crazy golf (“mini-golf” for you northern Americans or “putt-putt” for you southern Americans) with a pitching iron added. Many might dismiss such a small scale operation, but there are many reasons to include West Park on your dog golfing circuit:

1. Relaxed – While the course is a bit untidy in places and is coupled with “foot golf” (which a few folks were playing while we were there), it does mean that there is an extremely relaxed vibe about the facility. This atmosphere can be very welcome especially to newer dog golfers or dog golfers who are particularly sensitive to the possibility of other golfers being put off by have the dogs on the course.

2. Shaded – On particularly bright days, you (and your canine caddy) might prefer a bit of shade in which case West Park has more of it than any course I have played. It is virtually blanketed with a dense canopy of foliage.

3. Challenging – All of the “fairways” are claustrophobically hemmed in on either side by thick rows of full foliage trees. A bonus “dividend” (glass half full) is that it makes these simple, little holes extremely challenging in their own right especially when it comes to any slice or draw (check out Hole 14 in the photo below which is a real needle-threading exercise).

4. Pitch/Chip Practice – When you watch a top pro golf tournament, you quickly realise that there are two ways to get a birdie – a heroic put over 5 feet from the hole, or a pitch/chip that lands within 5 feet of the hole. When the pros drive, they pretty much all drive the same distance and mostly land in the center of the fairway. In recent years, the big swinging tee shots have gone out of favour for many as the risk of inaccuracy (setting up the critical approach shot) isn’t worth the extra few yards closer to the hole. There are plenty of places to (a) practice your driving at ranges, and (b) practice your putting on putting greens. But it is harder to find places to focus on your pitch and chip game.

5. Short – Sometimes a short walk is all you or your dog have the time or energy for. That was the case with us as we had played Southwold earlier in the afternoon and had to think about heading home.

6. Value – At £7.50, it is the cheapest “18” hole dog golfing course in the database.

Wildlife – Maybe because the course is pretty close to the centre of a good sized town (Chelmsford), we didn’t see that much distracting wildlife scurrying about.

Walk – At a mere snip of 1403 yards in total for 18 holes (average of 78 yards with a longest hole of 102 yards and a shortest of 55 yards), it is a fraction of the length of conventional courses. If your dog (or you) has only the stamina or time for a short outing, this course is a great option.

Water – No water on the course, but given its small size and its windy layout, you are never more than a few minutes walk from the clubhouse if you needed a drink.

Wind Down – We concluded our dog golf weekend tour with a dinner at the White Hart just a mile down the road. The food was great (especially the Sunday roast with tons of gravy and huge Yorkshire puddings). Curiously, they had a rather strange live music act singing “get this party started” style pop songs more suited to a Friday night with your mates than a Sunday roast with your nan (especially as they had the volume cranked up pretty high). Grace and Rusty didn’t seem to mind and settled in comfortably on their blanket beside our table.

West Park 1

Southwold

Southwold 4

Our road trip to the east coast of England took us to unsung seaside gem of Soutwold. We’d heard all about iconic spots like Brighton and Blackpool, but have never heard of Southwold. It is sort of a caricature of every quaint aspect of British beachfront charm – lighthouse, pier (complete with hyperbolic barker taglines like “the best collection of homemade picture shows in the known universe“), top brewery (Adnams), and a gorgeous necklace of colourful beach huts. A just behind the main seafront is a bonus waterfront of the inlet to the River Blyth where the Southwold Golf Club is nestled.

Walk – The Southwold GC is so picturesque that I found myself taking a snap shot around every other hole (so several to share in this post). It’s a scrub marshland so very few trees providing any shade. So on the sunny days bring…

Water – There are no water hazards and if there were any, they would be brackish being in the middle of coastal marshland.

Wildlife – The wildlife naturally includes a few squawky sea gulls, but that’s about it.

Welcome – The course is very dog friendly including, our favourite, an off-lead (under control) policy.  The course sits on common land so the public do walk the course with their dogs and we came across several during our round.  There is even a bin for poo-bags by Hole 2.

Wind Down – We ventured to a Doggie Café – Habour Inn – instead of a “Doggie Pub” this outing on the recommendation of our Doggie AirBNB (If you are staying anywhere in the area, I can highly recommend Alice’s Reydon room just a couple miles down the road. She not only welcomed the dogs, but offered to look after them when we went out for the evening!). Don’t be put off by the countless signs on the approach road and the drive in the harbor itself which say “No parking beyond this point”. The Harbour Inn has customer parking right in front of it. As you drive down the gravel lane along the docks you do wonder if you are heading into oblivion, but the Harbour Inn is right the way down almost to the end. You will be rewarded with a delightful meal with even more picturesque views looking out over the boat yard and inlet.

Southwold 2

Southwold 3

Southwold 1

Diss

Diss 2

Road trip time! Some friends invited us to a dance event on the Suffolk coast so we thought that we would load up the car with club and pups, and try a few dog golf courses on the east side of the country. First stop, Diss Golf Club.

Walk – Unfortunately the road trip didn’t quite stop when we started golfing. The course is surrounded by a number of roads. And they are quite busy so you hear the buzz and rumble of traffic through most of your round. While the course has an off-lead under-control policy, we found ourselves keeping the dogs on a lead for most of the course for fear of them wandering into one of the roads flanking the course. In the front 9, only holes 3 and 6 were significantly far from roads that we felt they could stretch their legs a bit off lead.

Water – No real water on the course. No water hazards or spigots. The 8th hole is relatively close to the clubhouse so you could duck in there for some water in a pinch. The entire course is very open with little shade cover. So be sure to pack plenty of water for the dogs on sunny days (and some sun cream for yourself wouldn’t go amiss)

Wildlife – Lots of rabbits all safely sequestered in the thickets. Most of Rusty and Grace’s off lead time was spent intently sniffing these thorny hedges.

Welcome – A number of other dog walkers did pass by on the course and every golf we encountered seemed delighted to meet Rusty and Grace.

Wind Down – Having to rush off to our dance event, we didn’t get a chance to stop by a local watering hole or “doggie pub” so you will just have to check out DoggiePubs.org.uk to find a post play pit-stop.

Diss 1

The Hole 9 green is like a giant, earthen, carnival ping-pong toss. The green is in the distance with the flag just poking out from its crater. Even Rust ad Grace seem bemused by this topological curiosity.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park 1

Fenton! Fenton! Fenton!! Fenton! Fenton! Fenton! Jesus Christ. Fenton!”

Some friends in London invited us to join them for a meal on a lovely summer’s evening and so we thought we would combine the trek into town with a stop at one of the city’s own dog-friendly courses, Richmond Park.

Wildlife: The first concern was the wildlife given Richmond Park’s YouTube infamy for an uncontrolled dog – Fenton – chasing a herd of deer that live there. We tend to favour off-lead courses as our dogs are very biddable and prefer and bit of wandering freedom, but given the Fenton fame, we thought that the on-lead protocol was probably a good thing. That said, we didn’t see any deer on our round. We did see plenty of geese. From the ornamental pond by the clubhouse to the little water hazard on the 10th hole. You also pass through an extended (100+ metres) wooded section to get to the 2nd hole of the Princes Course which has plenty of distracting squirrels, but most of the course is wide open and not much other wildlife to contend with.

Welcome: We asked about the popularity of golfing with dogs there and the attendant said that “quite a few” golfers did bring their pooches, but we didn’t encounter any on our round. We did encounter lots of fellow golfers who we very enchanted by Rusty and Grace. Being a sunny Saturday, the course was quite packed with lots of bunching up and a bit of waiting at the tees. Eventually, we paired up with another two-some, a couple of very fine young gentlemen, to move more smoothly. They hit the rough a few times and we set Grace off to find his ball. They were quite impressed when Grace successfully found it buried in some deep grass.

Walk: The course is one of the flattest that we have played and a little on the short side just over 5k. There are enough trees on the course to enhance the vista aesthetically, but not really that many. As much as we appreciated the open fairways with fewer arboreal obstacles, it did mean that only about every other hole had a shaded place for the dogs to sit while we putted.

Water: Richmond Park is a bit of a parched desert when it comes to water so bring a healthy stock of water especially on the hot days. Hole 9 finishes at about the furthest point from the club house, there are no water spigots and pretty limited water features. There is the one, small stagnant pond mentioned above and a few streamlets, but they are all quite brackish and even panting Grace wasn’t interested in a sip from them.

Wind Down: We finished a bit too late to go to one of our favourite dog-friendly eatieries in town, the Petersham Nurseries in Richmond Park. And, our friends who had precipitated our urban venture were staying a bit more centrally. So we reverted to our old stand-by resource of DoggiePubs.Org.uk looking for a 5-star rated dog-friendly pub near them by Regents Park. The best option was a place called The Albany. Unfortunately, a bit of a hazard with dog-friendly city pubs is busy buzz. The most dog-friendly establishments are the most relaxed ones who seem to attract and inspire a more boisterous crowd. Also, most inner city places don’t have the real estate for a beer garden and all the al fresco tables are on the sidewalk next to the (often busy) street). It was a bit too much for us to hear ourselves talk much less let the pups settle. The proprietors were helpful to provide some alternative suggestions just around the corner on Warren Street. After checking out a few that didn’t offer food, we stumbled upon Little Nan’s Bar. The menu looked fine enough and the outdoor seating had some space between the tables and the front of the building so the puppies could be away from the street. But actually, the best part about it was that hardly any cars passed by Warren Street that time of day so we could eat al fresco quite comfortably without the rush and road of vehicles. Little Nan’s offers pretty basic fare, but itself is a particularly quirky and colourful place.

 

Richmond Park 2