Bramley 1

Welcome –Our welcome started with our “wind up” at the club house. Arriving considerably early for our appointed tee time in the toasty weather we decided to start our round with a refreshing drink at Bramley GC terrace with a lovely view of several fairways below. Several members took fond interest in Grace that she would have appreciated more had she not been so impatient to get walking.

Walk – I never quite appreciated that Surrey was particularly mountainous until our Bramley round. The entire course seems carved into the side of a cliff. A multidimensional maze that makes you feel like you were in the heart of St. Clements with all of the call-up bells being rung all around (by hitting with irons, of course, due to COVID19 protocol). But finding hole was nothing compared to finding some of the tees themselves. Yellow and reds were often far apart from each other (and not in line with the hole). On the 4th hole, the yellow tee is about 100 yards to the right of the red tees and a few dozen metres below them in elevation. Lots of comment between Lori and I saying, “There’s my tee, so where’s yours?”

Water – The course has water fountains at 6th and 9th hole (as well as a toilet at the 9th), but the fountains were all decommissioned due to COVID19 protocols. In the middle of the course – holes 7 through 13 – it seems like nothing but water hazards. I was relieved that most were flanking rather than impeding, and Grace was relieved for their easy access to cool her paws on the hot day and grab a drink.

Wildlife – The profusion of water features attracted the usual collection of water fowl (Canadian Geese, Egyptian Geese, Mallards) including 2 “Swans” set in the middle of the pond by the 16th and 18th that were Mannequin Challenge world champions.

Wind Down – Down the road was the lovely doggie pub, The Seahorse. A spacious garden which was perfect for the sultry summer’s eve. Unprompted, the host brought Grace a bowl of water which she welcomed as heartily a Lori and I did our distinctive cocktails (Pineapple Daiquiri for me and a Blood-Red Orange and Grapefruit Gintonica for Lori). With the crepuscular calefaction and the gimlet gratification felt just a touch transported to a tropical resort. All of the fare is a cut above typical pub grub (though maybe just short of gastro-pub quality), but it was all just bonus to the delicious drinks were savoring into the evening.

Bramley 2

Bramley 3

Bramley 4

Bramley 5

Banstead Downs

Banstead Downs 2

Welcome – Another very four-legged-friendly course with equally friendly two-legged members at Banstead Downs. This day, the crowded course brought member Paul, out on a singleton round, into making our two ball into a friendly three ball. And we came upon one of the most generous 4-balls ever who let about a half-dozen groups behind them through. The parkland course was packed with the dog walkers so Grace was not out of place at all.

Walk – The scruffy parkland fairways billow out expansively endlessly dimpled with mounds and depressions. You think you have hit squarely into the fairway, but as you march out to your second shot you get a little worried as you can’t see your ball anywhere. Eventually you stumble upon it settled in one of the many bowls across the course.

Water – Hole 7 did have a water fountain, but it was all wrapped up due to COVID19 precautions. No significant water features and the course doesn’t make its way back to the clubhouse until the 15th hole., so fill your canteens to the brim before you head out on a toasty day.

Wildlife – The wildlife including a rogue’s gallery of usual suspects – squirrels, pigeons, crows, etc.

Wind Down – Often we bemoan the lack of good signposting on courses pointing to the next tees (especially as we are typically golfing new courses), but this day we were absolutely flummoxed by some of the worst signposting we have ever come across for a pub – The Harrow (aka “The Harrow Cheam”). If you type in “The Harrow” into Google Maps, you get something which is listed at “Sutton, High Street”. The map shows a “Cheam” and it shows a “Sutton” down the road. Eventually, we just went into The Harrow in Sutton, Cheam or wherever it was and they told us we had come to the right place. Unfortunately, let us down here saying in its summary “Dogs are very welcome in all but one area which is fine.” Actually, it is the opposite…”Dogs are very welcome in none but one area (the garden).” And while the pub is open for food until at 9:00 pm table seating staying open until 11:00 pm, the garden (the only place dogs are allowed) closes at 9:00 (ie. done with your food and out). Despite all the mixed up information, we did have just enough time to squeeze in a drink and some light bites. The food was a cut above standard bar-chain fare while not quite being gastro-pub standard. The best part was that the garden had these individual private hut enclosures which were both heated and had their own individual televisions (so we were able to watch part of the Fulham-Brentford game).

Banstead Downs 1

The Millbrook

The Millbrook 5

Welcome – Our visit up country to The Millbrook started most auspiciously being greeted by golfing dog Louie (in photo below with his human). And at the end of the round, when we were the last few people coming off the course we saw the most bizarre and fun thing with someone (must have been a staffer) “walking” their quite spirited Weimaraner by following him in a golf cart as he tore down the walking path. Pure doggie joy.

As is the norm during these days of post-lockdown golfing fever, parties got a bit compressed and we ended up bumping up with another two-ball including club member Jason who was wonderfully engaging and so we ended up joining with them for the back nine.

Walk – Most hilly courses have one uphill hole followed by one downhill hole. But in the UK’s own version of Canyonlands National Park, this one crams the whole up and down thing into single holes. The Millbrook hits you with its vertical eccentricity right out of the gate with a 1st hole that you wouldn’t believe you were playing properly if the pro shop didn’t set you off saying “now let me tell you about the first hole…” The “fairway” is just a gaping chasm of heathland. The climbs out of these pits of despair are so deep that they have switchbacks. The Grand Canyon “Rim to Rim” race is arguably the most challenging ultra-endurance race in the world (9 miles down and 9 miles up), and these holes are like mini Rim-to-Rim challenges. Then the course designer thought “I wonder if I can make dog-legs at as steep an angle as these fairways?” The course may be dog-friendly, but the dog-legs on the 1st and 13th were decidedly golfer-unfriendly with their virtual acute angles.

The bunkers would seem a trivial concern when your entire fairway is one expanse of sunken earth, but they didn’t scrimp on sadism with the sand traps. Someone at the club must have found one of those tunnel-boring machines and contrived a way to dig holes straight down. Figuring out that it would take too long to dig all the way to China, they stopped halfway, tossed in a load of sand and said “good luck” folks (see photo at top).

And just to add to the quirkiness of the course, 3 of the greens are shared between front nine and back nine holes. These shared greens are huge, but still a strange sight to see four folks on the putting green at one time.

Water – The course features a sizeable aqueous hazard that requires traversing on both the 6th and 7th hole. As inaccessible as it seemed to make the greens, the water was easily accessed for a hot day’s drink by Grace.

Wildlife – The small lake in the middle is home to a range of water fowl, but the best bird mega-ticked in the course was my first ever Eagle. And I found it on a particularly challenging example of The Millbrook’s signature topography – hole 9 – where you have to drive across the Valley of Doom onto a North Slope of Despair. But it landed about 30 feet from the green and I followed with one of those eye rubbing shots – a 40 foot chip shot that dribbled into the cup (see photo at bottom).

Wind-Down – Facing the double challenge of finding a pub in the Milton Keynes area and finding a pub open into the evening on a Sunday, we simply opted for our refreshment at the clubhouse bar. They serve a range of food (which we weren’t hungry enough for) as well as drinks you can eat and drink at one of two outdoor areas (which do include a water bowl for the pups).

The Millbrook 1

The Millbrook 4

The Millbrook 2

The Millbrook 3

The Millbrook 6

“Bledlow Ridge”

Bledlow Ridge

Welcome – Grace and we discovered an incredibly dog-friendly course with probably the most exclusive club membership in the UK right in our own neighbourhood – “Bledlow Ridge”. We had been invited to play a round at our much favoured Temple GC with a warm-up “round” (well, more a round of drinks than golfing) at our good friends Neil and Sarah. Their lovely country links included an admittedly small facility, but what it lacked in expansive playing field, it made up for in expansive views. And what it lacked in playing limitations, it made up for in fewer dog limitations as their high-tech playing surface meant that the dogs could wander freely wherever they wanted including the greens themselves. In addition to a new “course”, Grace met two new buddies, Baxter and Bailey. They weren’t quite ready for the big fairways, but they were literally right at home at Bledlow Ridge.

Walk – Ten metres from end to end, and completely flat, makes the walk by far the easiest in the UK.

Water – The “course” had dog bowls on ready offer (and stronger stuff for the golfer sthemselves).

Wind Down – Our follow up to the elite “Bledlow Ridge” (membership is strictly vetted) was a full round at Temple GC hosted by Neil (the founder and owner of Bledlow Ridge GC) who is a member there as well. We were quickly reminded of why we were so infatuated with Temple when we first played it at the outset of our dog golfing odyssey. The clubhouse and 18th hole might simply have one of the best course views in the UK. The dog friendliness is evident as we were greeted by a couple of canine companions at club deck when we arrived. The course is challenging enough (especially summiting some holes like the 17th) and interesting enough (plenty of twists and turns and the inimitable vortex of doom on the 10th). To top it all off, being out on the hottest day of the year, the club was sending around a cold drinks cart which kept us refreshed especially having quickly consumed our several bottles of water we had brought along.

Bledlow Ridge 1