Redlibbets

Redlibbets guest review

Another kind reader and keen dog golfer is Terry Aston who shared their experience at Redlibbets. Redlibbets is one of several dog-friendly courses that he introduced me to and I have added to the database. His fairway adventures are shared with not one, but two black labs – Winnie and Millie. Millie is herself a golf connoisseur of some distinction having visited 65 courses in her career putting her right up there for lifetime bests with Grace, Rusty and very few others. They we also accompanied by his wife, Jenny. I find it a curious that yesterday’s guest, today’s as well as Lori and myself are husband-wife teams. I wonder if playing with dogs is relatively more popular with those golfers who treat the sport as a family affair? Here is Terry’s report:

Yesterday, Nov 16, Jenny (my wife), Winnie and Millie – our 2 black labs – played at Redlibbets, Kent.
We were made to feel very welcome and one member went through every hole telling us what to expect, we were nearly late for our tee time. Teeing off the first was a slight dogleg but fairly level and was a gentle introduction to the course. All the fairways were pristine and the greens in excellent condition. The whole course was superb and there was a good variety of holes. The course was set out over 2 sides of a valley with a couple of the fairways running along the bottom of the valley. For the time of year we were surprised at how good a condition the course was in. The 2 dogs really enjoyed their walk which was a fairly easy walk with a couple of steep climbs. We would not hesitate to return if in the area. The bar was open for food but we didn’t stay. All in all, a successful day.

Bakewell

Bakewell 1

While I have been limited in getting out on the (UK) courses, a few dog-loving readers have been more ambitious and have shared some guest posts reviewing more courses for DogGolf.info! First up is Steve Brown (and “Mrs. B”) with their canine caddy, Bertie. They play a number of course in the north of England (which are great to hear about since it would be a long way for us to go and that region is relative less represented in dog golfing):

To begin with we are novice golfers, don’t even have a handicap, we are also relatively new dog owners with Bertie the Tibetan Terrier not quite two when we visited Bakewell. It was my third visit to a golf course and Mrs B and Bertie’s first.

We were on holiday and found the dog golf website which really encouraged us to take Bertie with us.

We emailed the club secretary before booking. She was excellent and a real credit to all those volunteers who keep local clubs alive. She encouraged us to play but did say they didn’t normally allow dogs but come back to her if that was a problem. We did, telling her the tee time we wanted no one else was booked in and it was late in the day. We understood that the dog would be on the lead and kept of greens and bunkers. We offered to contribute for Bertie’s green fees!

Having got the go ahead we booked a 2pm tee time. It’s a small club with a clubhouse with 9 holes with two different tees for each hole. We met several club members on the round and no one questioned Bertie’s presence and all were very accommodating and friendly.

The course is high on the hillside offering fantastic views over Bakewell. It is steep in parts and it’s a good workout. Tee shots are sometimes over the previous greens and one over a bridleway and another over a small country lane.

We all had a great time and you do need to make accommodations for having a dog, swapping the lead over etc, however we were last out so there was no pressure from players behind us.

My takeaways from this first attempt at dog golf are:

  • Plan how you intend to play with the dog ie who will do what, do not just set off.
  • Pick a quiet time of day.
  • Engage the club you want to play at, recognise they might have concerns, leave your contact details so they have some confidence if something went wrong.

We would definitely play Bakewell again, it’s a great little course which is challenging. The secretary was brilliant. It has encouraged us to take Bertie out with us again.

Most of all Bertie led under the table in the pub that night, result!!

Bakewell 2

Why Aren’t More USA Courses Dog Friendly?

Southern Hills - dog greeters

Happy New Year! Long time since I’ve checked in. Primarily because the English winter weather has descended making rounds hard to squeeze in between the gaps of rainfall and the shrinking daylight hours. Fortunately, we were able to juggle the various COVID controls and get ourselves to the USA to see family for the holidays. Lori’s family lives in North Carolina which is quite a popular golfing destination and we not only had plenty of courses to choose from, but warm and dry weather to play in!

One of our rounds was at the Southern Hills Golf Course in Danville, Virginia. When we arrived, we were greeted by a couple of charming canines (see photo above) and thought that we might just have stumbled on a rare dog-friendly course in America. Unfortunately, the friendly welcome was confined to the pro shop and dogs were not allowed to accompany players. But I did have a very friendly and informative chat with the proprietor about some of the distinctly American challenges to welcoming dogs so I thought that I would share them here:

  1. Less Dog Friendly in General – The USA is simply less dog-friendly than Europe. This “20 Most Dog Friendly Countries in the World” list features 13 European countries and the USA is nowhere to be seen. Our American friends are astonished that we can bring Grace to accompany us not just on the golf course, but also to pubs and cafes for meals.
  2. Less Walking the Course – Not wishing to propagate the “lazy American” stereotype, but our visit made it clear that walking the course is much less common. We had always noticed the preponderance of buggies on American courses when we played there in the past. In some courses, buggies are virtually mandatory. Southern Hills didn’t even offer trollies to rent (though you could carry your bag). In fact, Versed noted that Americans are 6 times more likely to use a golf cart than Brits. And if you’re not walking the course, it doesn’t make much sense to bring your dog along.  An article in Golf.com observed:
     
    Sure, golfers in every country forego carts, but in the British Isles walking is more or less compulsory; you generally need a medical exemption to get a cart. Whatever the conditions — in wind, rain or hail — Brits grab a trolley and off they go.”
      
  3. More Insurance Restrictions and Lawsuits – As much as Americans don’t like walking, they notoriously do like to file law suits. As a result, insurance (the public liability insurance that you purchase to protect your from lawsuits) dictates many aspects of business and public life. This consideration was also prominent for Southern Hills who told us that their insurance company would flat out not permit them to have dogs on their course.  I was able to get an expert perspective from Peter Small, Area Senior Vice President of RPS Bollinger Sports & Leisure who specialise in golf course cover:
     
    “Some policies have an ‘animal exclusion’ and other don’t, however if the dog is not owned by the golf course and a member of the public brings their own dog on to the course, there is really no liability on the golf club for the actions of that dog. I would assume most golf courses would require a waiver signed prior to allowing the dog on to the premises which would/should put the sole responsibility of the dog on the owner. Many other variables could impact the coverage depending on what state the club is located in.”

  4. Less of a Tradition – UK tradition of golfing with dogs started from the gentlemenly roots of the sport which shot birds with their dogs in the winter and shot birdies with their dogs in the summer. This heritage created a tradition very early in the sport’s history. The first golf club in America, Saint Andew’s GC in Yonkers NY was set up more than a century after the nearly eponymous home of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland east coast led the way with establishing the sport in the USA. On the other hand (or other side of the country), game (pheasant) shooting as a sport started more on the west coast and Midwest. So in the formative years of USA golfing, bird dogs were not as prevalent among the golfing crowd.

Lavender Park

Lavender Park dog golf 1

WelcomeLavender Park doesn’t just welcome dogs…it welcomes everybody. It is dog-friendly, family-friendly, everybody-friendly. Such a relaxed vibe makes it very welcoming for any one apprehensive about taking their dog out for a round for fear of how other players will react. The course is popular with novices just learning and families having some fun so no one is particularly precious about being distracted from their shot.

Walk – Just over a single kilometre for the 9 hole pitch and putt (well Hole 1 is a drivable 226 yards). On completely flat ground makes it probably the easiest course we have ever walked.

Water – There are no water hazards except for a stagnant pond in the centre of the course (which is inaccessible due to steep banks anyway). But you are never very far from the clubhouse if you are desperate for a drink (or actually, right across the street from the 7th hole are two pubs).

Wildlife – Mostly just scampering lit’uns dabbling in the game.

Wind Down – Maybe the easier the walk, the nicer the wind down as for the second time in a row we enjoyed a particularly sumptuous post-round meal at the nearby The Winning Post pub. Grace was welcomed by a bar crowd that seemed to have more patrons with canine chow-time companions than without. Being a Sunday, a roast was the special of the day and Grace particular appreciated the gravy-laden meat trimmings (it was one of the finer roasts we have eat with a some particularly interesting and tasty veg accompaniment instead of the usual, steamed-to-death soggy broccoli, peas and cauliflower).

Lavender Park dog golf 2

Burford

Burford dog golf 1

Welcome – Another catch up with our friends out west gave us the opportunity to try out another Cotswolds course, Burford. Their welcome to dogs was made clear with a water bowl placed right at the entrance to pro shop as we went into pay.

Water – There are no water hazards on the course or even little streamlets. 7th tee does have a water fountain, but not it is not working (it might be still shut off from COVID). But the 9th does have a traditional finish at the club house where you can stop in for a refill (or even more leisurely drink at the spacious outdoor patio by the bar).

Wildlife – SQUIRREL! The torture for the golfer are the copses of trees lining the narrow fairways that put the “thick” into “thicket”. And the nightmare for some dogs will be the plethora of squirrels living in those trees and scampering across the fairway on a regular basis.

Walk – The Wiltshire Plain course lies on the one of the flattest areas we have played for some time making it a most leisurely stroll though you could still get some lively views of hills rising in the distance.

Wind Down – Another fuel-up instead of wind-down, this time at the Maytime Inn. Due to the logistics of the day, we stopped in for a pre-round lunch rather than a post-round dinner. We enjoyed one of the most delicious golf day meals in a long time. The Maytime not only defines gastro-pub with a truly gourmet menu, but it also has a splendid outdoor garden with more views of the surrounding hillsides (unfortunately, they weren’t serving food outside despite the sunny day). The major problem for Grace was that there wasn’t more scraps or leftovers for her to enjoy as we polished everything off handily.

Burford dog golf 2

Cotswold Hills

Cotswold Hills 3

Welcome – Venturing a bit further afield with a personal invitation to Cotswold Hills from a longtime friend and member there, Andrew Pickup. He was intrigued to see Grace’s joy and energy on the course which convinced him to give dog golfing a go with his own cheery Labrador Bailey.

Water – No water hazards to sip along the course, but it does circle back to the clubhouse at the 9th if you need a refill (and a welcoming water bowl sit out on the clubhouse deck).

Walk – Top rate topology for the course walk which has a gently undulation about it providing just enough elevation for some lovely vistas while never feeling that you are summitting the Matterhorn to get to the next hole.

Wildlife – SQUIRREL! While the rough was low, the course is punctuated by plenty of copses which seem to attack as many of our shots as it did squirrels.

Wind Down – We enjoyed a refreshing brew on the clubhouse deck and then retired to The Beehive down the road for a more robust meal. Very tasty food, happy to have Grace and spacious enough dining area that she could settle comfortably into her bed.

Cotswold Hills 1

Cotswold Hills 2

Chiddingfold

Chiddingford dog fold 1

WelcomeChiddingfold is smart casual, fun where a well-behaved dog fits in just perfectly. The grounds are handsome and smart, but not overly fussy. The vibe is cheery and good-natured and everyone we bumped into had a kind word for Grace.

Walk – The course seduces you with a collection of gentle undulations with copious par 3 holes. Until right at the end when you are finally weary, and then it hits you with the first par 5 on hole 17 with a mountainous climb to get to the tee (but at least then you are just a final par 3 from being at the 19th hole for refreshment). The course has a higgledy-piggledy layout with fairways and pathways crossing over one another, but at least the course is superbly well marked. “Next Tee ->” signs after every hole and huge hole numbers on the teeing green so you can spot them from a distance.

Water – A half dozen reasonably sized water hazards as well as a modest stream crossing 9 and 11 which Grace seemed to prefer to the fresh water we packed and despite the fact that it was a bit of stretch for her reaching the water level from the elevated ground for a tasty gulp.

Wildlife – A few scampering squirrels is all.

Wind Down – The “Dirty Sixth” at the Winterton Arms might just be the best wind down pub we have come across in all our dog golfing. Perfect for us with its dog-friendliness. In fact, its booking system allows you to select for “dog friendly” tables when booking (which is helpful because many pubs now have dining sections where dogs are not allowed and we often have to call for our reservations to clarify that we have Grace in tow). Also, one of the first orders of business by the server was to offer Grace up a tasty dog biscuit. We found Winterton through the (semi-)trusty DoggiePubs.org.uk. I say “semi” because DoggiePubs isn’t really curating its crowdsourced information. I am increasingly finding that the majority of links and establishments are out-of-date (website missing, places closed, telephone numbers not working). But given the glowing review for Winterton and its proximity, I chased down its new website a booked a table. I’m glad I did. I was super intrigued by its description of being “an Asian smokehouse, the love child of a rebellious barbeque joint and offbeat oriental supermarket.” The mashup of something as homespun basic as BBQ with the air of the exotic raised my expectations. And Winteron simply exceed them. As someone who has sought out top American BBQ joints in the Southern USA, their Bao Bun Brisket nonetheless ranked right up their at the top of my favourite sandwiches. I also appreciate the attention aesthetic details that the establishment has taken as well as some great investments in the customer experience like a dramatic canopy enclosing the outdoor seating and an inviting play area to occupy kids.

Chiddingfold dog golf 2

Chiddingfold dog golf 3

Lodmor

Lodmore dog golf 1

Welcome – This is my first course review of a course we didn’t actually play. We visited it, but couldn’t actually play it. Because it is such a small and uniform course, I felt I could write something useful about it just after a basic survey about it. Also, the welcome was by far the worst I have ever gotten at a golf course so I thought it would be good to document that and warn prospective visitors. Camping on the Portland peninsula for a bank holiday break, we made special plans to play a fun round here and introduce our friend’s dog Pepper (see photo at bottom) to hitting the course. The course has no website of its own and the listed telephone number is just a number for the Weymouth council who own the park and the course. The information said that it closed at 5:00 pm so we rocked up at 3:30 pm (it’s a short 9 hole, par 3). But when we got there, an older gent who appeared to be the manager said that they were “closing early due to planned maintenance at 4 pm”. “Planned maintenance” in the evening of a bank holiday weekend? Didn’t make sense, but I enquired further, “Could we just play and avoid where you are doing maintenance?” The gentleman responded, “No, it’s on the entire course. We are turning all the sprinkler systems on.” Well, looking at the decrepit course which seems to not have grounds maintenance as a priority that story not stretched credulity. So I decided to return at 4:30 pm to check out this alleged “maintenance”. The facility was shut tight and not a person in sight. No sprinkler engineer van, no sprinklers going, no manager to provide support. The lying jobs-worth just decided he wanted to cut out early for a weekend barbeque and screw the customers whose afternoon has been ruined.  Curiously, such unreliability seems to be endemic at the Lodmor Park complex as the parking signs admonish, “Please check that your attraction is open before paying for entry.”

Walk – A leisurely, holiday-esque stoll on a diminutive course on entirely flat coastal land.

Water – No hazards or natural sources, but you are never far from the entry (which has a spigot). And the course is so short (and shaded) that you could likely make it around in under an hour not needing a water stop at all.

Wildlife – Didn’t see any other critters walking around the perimeter of the course. Maybe scared off by squeals of delighted children.

Wind Down – Another motivation to write this review is to highlight this outstandingly dog friendly to stop just down the road for a post round drink – The Lookout Cafe. We DID get to enjoy this establishment. Water bowls, dog biscuits, and dogs everywhere (see below). Set on a bluff having a dramatic vista of the Weymouth seaside from Portand to Swanage is an expansive lawn where dogs are allowed to run around off lead. The café has delightful food. I wholeheartedly recommend the local crab sandwiches, but the “American fluffy pancakes” are perhaps a bit oversold as they fluffier than most British versions ( but not quite to American standards, not to mention that they served them with distinctively un-America Golden Syrup and not maple syrup).

Lodmor dog golf 2

South Winchester

South Winchester dog golf 3

Welcome – Lots of dog walking trails surrounding and even crossing some of the course meant dogs are a familiar sight on and around the course.

Walk – A gently undulating froth of lumps providing so many caroms that sometimes it seemed like we were playing pinball golf. Even the good shots would end up in random places depending on what slopes they hit. But none of the inclines had any severe gradients so it was a quite easy walk.

Water – Lots of big water hazards, but mostly inaccessible due to thick reeds surrounding them, deep drops into them, or liners providing to dangerously slippy sides. The 9th hole does return to the clubhouse as an opportunity to refill water bottles.

Wildlife – Plentiful waterfowl enjoying the water hazards including a resident heron.

Wind Down – A charming “19th Hole” provides basic fare while overlooking the 18th green (as typical) as with a waterside vista more appealing to the diners than the players.

South Winchester dog golf 2

South Winchester dog golf 1

South Winchester dog golf 4

Blacknest

Blacknest dog golf 4

WelcomeBlacknest was very happy to have Grace along (as long as kept on a lead).

WalkAnother relaxing flat course to provide a leisurely stroll which 13 year old Grace is increasingly happy to see.

Water – Blacknest seemed like the Venice of English golf courses. After the first hole every single hole of the front 9 had a water hazard to cross or flanking ominously from the side. Except for the 7th hole …which had TWO hazards to cross approaching the par 3 green. And that’s not counting the myriad of drainage ditches crisscrossing the course (see course map at bottom). Also, Hole 9 has a well outfitted halfway hut with water faucets. So no problem with thirst.

Wildlife – Lots of water means lots of waterfowl – ducks, geese, coots. Pretty much the full British lake menagerie.

Wind Down – Actually, not a wind down nor warm up, but a wait out. The front 9 was moving as slow as molasses due to an earlier society event, a newbie foursome bumbling along and lots of two-balls. We decided to ditch the playing and have a halfway hiatus (hole 9 doesn’t finish that close to the clubhouse so you have to walk the length of the par 5 Hole 18.). We had a delightful and very reasonably priced lunch at The Nest Café.

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Blacknest dog golf 2