I’m Only Thinking of Fido

One dividend of the lock-down has been a chance to invest a bit more time into finding dog-friendly courses in the UK. A big help has been the rise of social media. Now most courses have Facebook pages and they appear to be more responsive to Facebook messages than they were to emails when I conducted my initial research a few years ago (stay tuned for updates).

In the process of enquiring about course policies, I got the following answer:

  • As much as we love dogs unfortunately we cannot permit them at the course for their safety. It’s our club’s policy for the safety of players and their treasured pets. We wouldn’t wish to risk a dog to come loose and get hit by a golf cart or a car, or get lost on the course.”

If a golf club does not want to have dogs on their course, then that is their prerogative. But I do object to this faux-righteous justification that it is for the sake of the dogs.

There is zero evidence that dogs on golf courses represent any substantive dangers above and beyond just being dog. And the standard policies of having a dog “under control” or “on a lead” dramatically reduces the risk any dog faces to any hazard (golf related or not).

Dogs have been an integral part of the golfing since its beginning. The oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the world are also the most dog-friendly – eg. St. Andrews, Sunningdale, Wentworth, Muirfield, Turnberry. In the UK, over 500 courses welcome dogs and yet there are virtually no cases of dogs being seriously hurt by their presence.

If you Google “dog hit by golf ball”, you come up with 2 instances – one in Winnipeg, Canada in 1926, and one questionable account (very few details and unsubstantiated in any other reports) in Rossendale in 2010. In both cases, the dogs were running freely and out of control so the obvious safety measure would be to insist on control or a lead which all courses who allow dogs do.

The bizarre extremity of the course’s excuse reminded me of the song from the musical “Man of La Mancha” called “I’m Only Thinking of Him”. Two relatives embarrassed by Don Quixote’s behavior seek to get him committed to an insane asylum to alleviate their discomfort:

But or what he’s done to me
I would like to take and lock him up
And throw away the key!
But if I do… but if I do
There is one thing
That I swear will still be true
I’m only thinking of him.

Feel free to abandon the tradition of golfing with dogs  (as old as the sport itself), but don’t blame it on the dogs or credit yourself as caring for the dogs’ welfare.