Moor Park

Moor Park 2

Welcome – Despite the proud traditions in the sport and the evangelical efforts of this website, golfing with your dog remains a bit of anomaly even at the most dog-friendly courses. We are always a bit wary of how the “welcome” will compare with the protocol. The club policy might say “dogs welcome”, but you wonder if the members are really on board. Well, one thing that influences the culture of a place is the tone and example set at the top. So it was especially reassuring when upon arriving at Moor Park we met by happenstance the Chairman of the club, David, with his own best friend, George, which he brings out with him for a round from time to time (see photo directly below).

Water – No water hazards or water supplies on the course (the West Course, the other High Course does have some), but the layout of the holes that meant there a many opportunities to peel off to the manor home in a pinch. Hole 9 arrives back at the main facility (and also has its own halfway house right on the course). But also the 12th, 13th and 15th holes all finish close to the clubhouse (for the West course). The lack of water hazards seemed to be compensated for by added bunkers instead. On Hole 3, we faced a gauntlet of 4 sand traps lined up one after the other approaching the hole. And the Hole 9 had more sand than green around the hole. One perverse curiosity was that many of the bunkers were carved into a sort of post-ironic heart-shape (see photos below) despite their ubiquity being anything but sweet or endearing.

Walk – We played the West Course which is a bit less pricey (£50 twilight green fee versus £75 for the High Course) and a bit more relaxed for recreational players like ourselves. The number of holes – ie. 9, 12, 13, 15 and of course 18 – that finish close to the main facility (eg. manor home, club house, tennis courts, practice pitches, car pack) provide great flexibility in finishing or breaking up your round. We were running out of time before the kitchen closed so we stopped at the 15th. The grounds themselves are on fairly level topology; however a few greens were perched up on elevated precipices adding an arduous uphill climb to a missed chip shot rolling off the other side of the green.

Wildlife – SQUIRREL! No water hazards meant no water fowl, but the plentiful wooded hills meant lots of squirrels which provided constant distraction to Rusty and Grace (and appreciative of the on-lead policy of the course to help keep their enthusiasm contained).

Wind Down – Once again, we were constrained by serving times. Most of the kitchens at doggie pubs in the area shut at 8:30 pm. Being in the week with the longest days of the year, we want to use of every bit of sunshine. Moor House’s own restaurant also shut at 8:30 pm, but at least we could save the precious minutes of packing up the car and driving to the pub. The setting was spectacular perched on the veranda of this grand Palladian edifice watch the sun finally set on the long summer day. The dogs were settled comfortably on their beds outdoors (not allowed indoors though to note for more inclement days) while we tucked in. Unfortunately, the food didn’t quite match up to the grandeur of the locale. Fairly pedestrian pub-grub made for a somewhat incongruous 3-star meal in this 5-star venue. No complaints though as you can get fancy food anywhere, but moments in settings like these are rare treats indeed.

Moor Park 1

Moor Park 3

Moor Park 4

London Scottish

London Scottish 1

Welcome – London Scottish is one of the most dog-friendly golf courses you will find. Probably rivaling Sunningdale (don’t know as I haven’t had the chance to experience Sunningdale first hand and am only going by reports) and maybe the best of the open visitor clubs (Sunningdale requires playing with a member and a handicap certificate). It is also outstanding for anyone wanting to give dog golfing a try as it is so relaxed. And there are so many dogs!

Dogs everywhere. There are almost as many dogs are there are people. Admittedly, this was a sunny Sunday morning and all the dog walkers were out on this park land which is open to everyone. And admittedly, we were the only people playing golf with dogs that we saw. But still, the welcome to us as dog golfers was pretty much unequalled. At the pro shop, I asked about the protocol for dogs and the response was “You can do pretty much what you like with your dogs.”

It is also a great off-lead course, but somehow we forgot our whistle (and don’t quite trust Rusty to voice commands). Amazingly, we bumped into some walkers who stopped and admired Rusty and Grace, and when we mentioned our regret about the whistle, they reached into their pocket and loaned us one of theirs for the day!

One curious constraint on playing protocol was actually put on the humans – you had to wear “pillbox red” (ie. bright red) shirt “by order of the Wimbledon & Putney Commons Conservators” (which the lovely Lori is modelling in the photo above). Fortunately, the pro shop had some to lend out for visitors (though there was a limited supply on a busy day so if you have your own, it would be easier and safer to bring it). And fortunately, Rusty and Grace has their own “red” coats. Maybe not pillbox red, but we did put on their brightest red collars for the day.

Wildlife – Perhaps due to being in the city and the dearth of water hazards and the throngs of dogs, there wasn’t much wildlife to be seen. One animal you don’t often seen on the course was all over the place at London Scottish – horses. They also have paths in the park and you saw them all over the place (I suspect they have to stick to the bridleways or else it could be the only course in the world where you could play “Horse Golf”!).

Walk – As a west London course, it was an easy walk on pretty much entirely flat ground. It’s also a relatively short course at 5458 yards.

Water – Do bring water. There are no water hazards, no water spigots and the course doesn’t return to the clubhouse until the 18th hole. There is a little rivulet on the 17th with some water, but by that time you are just about home.

Wind Down – Your options for post-round vittles are as abundant as the canines roaming the course. For starters, the clubhouse itself offers tasty baguettes and full bar with picnic tables outside (surrounded by a little fence to keep the dogs confined to the area while you eat).

In fact, London Scottish might just have the most dog-friendly “wind down” (or “rub down”) in the entire UK! At the clubhouse, the Dharma Clinical Therapies offers massage treatments in one of the rooms. The room is quite spacious and they said that dog would be welcome to curl up on the floor while the owners get their therapy session (book in advance to avoid disappointment).

Seeking a more expansive menu were turned to DoggiePubs again and there were a half-dozen top reviewed establishments within a mile or so. We were playing on a Sunday and usually our problem is that by the time we are done, the typical pub Sunday roast is finished and the kitchens close up in the late afternoon and early evening. This time we decided to do an early round and hit one of the Sunday roasts.

Our problem wasn’t lack of pubs to consider, but their popularity. We called one after another (we couldn’t reserve ahead of time because we really weren’t sure when we would finish) and they were all booked up. Often, pubs take bookings for restaurant tables, but the dog friendly areas (outside and by the bar) are first come, first serve. But in London, it seems more of, if not all, tables are bookable. Not only was there no room at the inns, but also the proprietors were a bit unpleasant on the phone responding in an almost churlish fashion of “don’t even think about coming here mate” (probably a bit stressed with the heavy crowds). Fortunately, after a few calls we hit upon The Alexandra in Wimbledon centre. When I phoned, they were very encouraging and told us that they would find a way to squeeze us in. When we arrived, there were several tables available (as lunch period was starting to taper). They had outside tables facing a cozy cul-de-sac, but we opted for one of the internal tables. When we rocked up to the bar, the first question we got was “Can I fill your dog’s water bowls for you?” The food was first rate with tasty starters and sumptuous roast platters we could barely eat all of (mind you, Rusty and Grace didn’t mind helping us with the bits we couldn’t finish).

London Scottish 2

Sandford Springs

Sandford Springs 2

Welcome – A bit of sunshine on the weekend and a chance to grab a last minute round at Sandford Springs. As usual no other dogs around, but no one batted an eyelash at Rusty and Grace joining us around the course and several stopped to greet them.

Walk – Roly-poly landscape had its literal ups and downs. Hole 12 seemed like the Everest of fairways with its relentless ascent, while Hole 18 seemed like a merciful abyss where the slights nudge off the tee would send the ball rolling for ages down the fairway.

Water – Water, water, everywhere…but not really a drop to drink. As the name implies, Sandford Springs is awash with water hazards. In fact, the 9-hole course we first played is called “Lakes”. And lakes it has. But those are not necessarily watering holes for the dogs. First, they have quite steep banks making them mostly hard to access. But more importantly, they are all quite stagnant. Even playing in the early summer after some plentiful rain, the water was quite murky and not the most appealing for quenching a thirst. Not to worry though. The 3 courses of 9 holes each means that you are back at the clubhouse (or their “Halfway House” café) after 9 holes where everyone in your party, man and mutt, can slake their thirst.

Wildlife – All the bodies of water meant plenty of water fowl – all sort of ducks, geese, cormorants and others.

Wind Down – We played on a late Sunday. While that is one of our favourite dog golfing times as most people have cleared off, it also makes it very hard to find a dog friendly pub for some grub after the round. Most pubs serve Sunday roasts and then shut shop mid-afternoon. So we opted for the most convenient option which was dining at the Sandford Springs clubhouse itself. The dining rooms doesn’t allow dogs, but it has an outdoor patio area which does. We were also very pleasantly surprised by the pretty much gastropub quality of the vittles. The pea soup was superb, the truffle egg on brioche toast was an unexpected gourmet treat and all the food was expertly prepared.

Sandford Springs 1

Sandford Springs 3