Sandy Lodge

Sandy Lodge dog golf 1

Welcome – The pro shop was most enthusiastic when I double checked about the dog friendly protocol. His response was that “most golf courses are aren’t they?” Well, unfortunately not (only about 15%), but it was encouraging to hear him think of it as “normal”. During the round, we also noticed a few local dog walkers passing through so the players must be used to dogs on the course.

Walk – The course is laid out on mostly flat countryside. The few elevations seem to be reserved for some precision shot par 3s. Except for the sand bunkers. Or should I say “sand abysses”. The course designer Harry Vardon made extensive use of “sleeper faced bunkers”. That means, like coal mines, the hole is so deep that you need to prop it up with wood planks. In fact, Hole1 has two bunkers with stairs going down into them (see below). Some sand traps seemed like they would benefit from lifts descending into their depths. But Hole 1 is nothing compared to the hole right after. Hole 2’s entire fairway is a sunken hazard topped by an edifice of sleepers more intimidating than Pointe du Hoc. Like baleen plates of a Blue Whale that has beached itself on the course and has taken to gorging on golf balls instead of krill. Throughout the course, some side of the bunkers are more suitable for abseiling than pitching.

Water – No natural bodies of water on this savannah like plain, but the course has provided water fountains at the 6th and 12th holes (which provided a fresher drink for the girls that the water in the bottles getting tepid in our carts).

Wildlife – We didn’t really encounter much in the way of wildlife except the obligatory squirrel here and there.

Wind Down – We decided that after a parching 32 degree round (even well supplied with drink), a doggie pub wind down was not only going to be too late for dinner, but too late for our urgent thirst. So we decided to grab a drink at the Sandy Lodge clubhouse. They have a particularly comfortable outdoor seating area and some alto-cumulous clouds were making for a Sistine Chapel like sunset worth savouring as much as our ice cold beverages. On his own initiative, the bartender also came out with a bowl of water for the girls which was especially considerate.

Sandy Lodge dog golf 2
Rusty and Grace hanging their heads in despair at the sand pit chasms.

Sandy Lodge dog golf 3

Calcot Park

Calcot Park dog golf 1

WelcomeCalcot Park is quite content to have dogs are long as they are on leads and looked after (euphemism for ‘make the mess is cleaned up’).

Walk – And the course is quite picturesque with gently undulating ups and downs in the landscape.

Water – Calcot Park has only one body of water, but it is a doozy. One of the biggest ponds (nearly a proper lake) I have seen at a golf course. And quite accessible to the dogs (over on the bridge side) to grab a sip.

Wildlife – Oh deer! This big body of water has attracted some big creatures. Notably deer. We saw deer about a half dozen times during our round.

Wind Down – For our wind down we opted for another DoggiePubs recommendation, the semi-eponymous Fox and Hounds Pub.

One caveat is that you might need to use your hounds’ sniffing skills to find the pub as it is not actually where it says it is (The British have the reputation for being the worst at giving directions, but actually it really the case that they are terrible with creating addresses. They are all vague and inconsistent. Numbers going up one side of the street and then down the other side, streets stopping and then starting again after some hiatus, vague addresses that have some house name on a street several miles long, etc.). The official address on their website and most listings is “Station Road”. Except that the pub isn’t actually on Station Road. It is sort of near Station Road (again, the British with the approximate addresses), but Station Road isn’t even the adjacent street. You take Station Road, then you go on Hangar Road and then you get to the pub which is actually on Deans Copse Road. I asked why their address said “Station Road” and the publican replied, “Oh, years ago this street used to be called ‘Station Road’.” History preservation I guess.

Their sign announces – “Furbabies Friendly – dog beds, water bowls, toys, paddling pool, poop bags, towels, free treats, ice cream @£3.50, and lots of fuss from the staff.” We were welcome by a couple of sweet resident French bulldogs accompanied by a jack russell and availed ourselves of the free doggie treats at the bar. We also ordered up the doggie ice cream. We have read about this stuff, but never tried it. Grace enjoyed it thoroughly (see photo at bottom).

A sign on the bar says “Vote for us for the Dog Friendlist Pub of the Year 2018” so they are setting their bar high. They’ve got (all) our votes! It was there that we found out about the competition and entered it ourselves, so while you are on the site, vote for DogGolf too!

Calcot Park dog golf 2

Calcot Park dog golf 3

VOTE for DOG GOLF!

Dog Friendly vote

Dog Golf UK is nominated for the annual Dog Friendly Awards in the UK. Please vote for us to help raise the profile of dog golfing in the UK and make it even more welcome.

Since 2003 we at DogFriendly have been helping businesses to open their doors to responsible dog owners and have given our members access to the largest database of dog friendly places to visit safe in the knowledge that their dogs will be as welcome as they are.”

Please vote HERE.

  

Chobham

Chobham dog golf 1

WelcomeChobham gave us a delightfully warm welcome and noted that quite a number of members bring their dogs around for rounds. That is more than we can say for the first course we tried to golf at that day – Pine Ridge. We arrived and double checked on the dog protocol and they responded, “No, we don’t allow dogs”. Now actually, I had Pine Ridge’s dog (friendly) protocol down verbatim in more detail than just about any other club from when I called them some months ago – “We do allow dogs to walk around the course with the players however your dog would need to be on a lead. If your dog barks excessively we would ask you to take your dog off the course. No water on course.” That’s not something you make up or accidentally jot down. Fortunately, we were able to pull up DogGolf.info on the phone and find Chobham just down the road. But the incident did raise a few caveats.

  1. 1. DogGolf.info isn’t perfect – I try to research and update all the information, but mistakes can get made (not least of which by the club itself, in fact the golf pro implied that a previous employee might have been misinformed).
  2. 2. Always double check – Protocols and be fluid and change over time. Or the club might have special rules on the for the day due to and event or some other reason (we had tried to call Pine Ridge several times, but their phone system was on the fritz so part of our problem was getting hit by the double whammy of faulty info combined with inability to double check as we usually do).

Walk – Chobham GC is a remarkably picturesque course with dimension and variety in the landscape without alpine peaks to climb, and enough trees for shade without threading the needle through leafy couloirs.

Water – Water, water everywhere…and plenty of drops to drink. In fact, perhaps the most watery hole in the entire UK (at least the most of the many dog-friendly courses we have played) is at the 6th hole. There you will find an accessible lake (a nice graduated bank the dogs and walk down to get a drink), a toilet building (with a sink for refilling water bottles) AND a water fountain outside. A regular Minnesota of golf courses with its land ‘o lakes – 5 to be exact. Not pokey little water hazards, but proper, expansive ponds. Despite the scorching UK heat wave, these bodies of water were still ample and the dogs had a great opportunity to refresh along the course.

Wildlife – Like the oases in the desert and the water holes on the savannah, where there’s water, there’s wildlife. And Chobham was more a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom than just about any course we have seen. The standard line-up of woodland creatures, ie. squirrels, rabbits, but also a teeming range of water fowl, ie. big gaggle of geese marching across the 4th fairway, moor hens, blue heron. It was a good thing that the course had a lead required policy because I think even Rusty and Grace’s biddability would have been challenged.

Wind Down – Too late for dinner service, but too parched to carry on home without a stop at our own water hole so down the road to a Doggie Pub recommendation, The Crown. A fenced in area at the front, a beer garden out back, and a welcome to dogs in the pub. A malamute puppy (and a big as Grace and Rusty combined) who is a regular greeted the girls with enthusiasm, but the girls were a bit less impressed.

Chobham dog golf 2

Postcards From the Edge of the Green

Dog golf postcard 3

(especially as dogs should be kept off the green)

A bit of a hiatus for some overseas holidays (where the dogs can’t join us and there is actually not hardly any golf). But I thought I would send a postcard (or postcards) nonetheless to our readers. Some vintage cards depicting dog golf in various guises.

Dog golfing originates from the earliest days of the sport when it was a gentlemen’s pursuit. Well-heeled gentry would hunt in the winter and golf in the summer. Or in other words, shoot birds in the winter and shoot birdies in the summer. So it was quite common for a golfer to take his trusty hounds, who had served him so well in shooting season, when he had a sunny outing on the course. I recently saw some fun vintage golfing postcards displayed at St. Enodoc and wondered if any such prints had been done which included dogs. The ones I uncovered are shared here.

Dog golf postcard 1

Dog golf postcard 4

Dog golf postcard 2

Caversham Heath

Caversham Heath 1

Welcome – The club’s official stance on dogs is that leads are required, but since there was virtually nobody on the course (there had been a club competition earlier during the weekend), the pro shop said we were okay to take them off the lead if we kept them under control and cleaned up after them. Over the course of the round, we did come across a walker with a couple of sweet golden retrievers who enjoyed meeting our girls and having a brief little play.

What was a bit less welcoming were the sand traps littered around like confetti on the Champs Elysees on after the World Cup Final. I think below is how they determined the hazard design for the course…

  • Do statistical analysis of where people are most likely to hit their ball on the hole. Put one right there.
  • Make it bigger.
  • No, even bigger.
  • Add some nearby for good measure.
  • Heck, just surround the hole with sand bunkers.

The 11th and 16th holes have 7 bunkers each. The area covered by the bunkers surrounding the par 3 13th covers more space than the green itself. Are the owners of the club owners of some sand and gravel who just sold off their gravel division? Very dog friendly course, but don’t bring your cat.

Walk – With the wide open spaces, Rusty and Grace enjoyed having a bit of freedom to stretch their legs. And while the fairly pervasive long grass lining the fairways turned out to be a bit of a nuisance for our wayward drives, Rusty enjoyed sniffing around in them and Grace got several treats for finding those balls in the rough.

Water – There are two good sized water hazards on the course in good condition. One by the 17th and one which touches both the 6th and the 16th (so you the dogs can take a drink on both the front and back nine there). The water was in surprisingly fresh condition given the dry conditions.

Wildlife – Not much visible except for flocks of gulls loitering on the fairway and a bit nonplussed by balls whizzing by them. As the sun set, we did hear the plaintive (and frankly bit distressing) crepuscular serenade of a libidinous monk jack.

Wind Down – Squeezing out the last bit of summer sun, we didn’t get off the course until about 9:30 pm when all the pubs in the area had stopped serving food. DoggiePubs recommended The Packhorse which is just round the corner from the course and our golf partners said she her bridge club played there periodically and it is a very nice establishment.

Cavershm Heath 2

Richings Park

Richings Park 1

WelcomeRichings Park is course with a very laid back vibe so a few puppies in tow didn’t phase anyone.

Walk – Probably the flattest course we have ever played. With it wide fairways that we rock hard from the recent dry spell, we clocked some of our longest drives setting us up for one of our best scores.

Water – The 9th hole does finish by the clubhouse. A fair number of water hazards, but all were much too stagnant and algae ridden for even Grace to drink from them (mind you we are in the middle of a record heat wave which might have brought the features to record low levels of fresh water).

Wildlife – A few random bunnies and squirrels scurrying about.

Wind Down – We started heading off (courtesy of a DoggiePubs recommendation) for the Golden Cross only to be let down in a big way. We made a booking, but when we arrived they told us that they had shut the kitchen because it was too busy. Go figure. Obviously not an establishment keen on customer service (or even having more customers). But they sent us down the road to their “sister” pub, the Horton Arms. They were happy to welcome us and serve us food.

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Richings Park 2

Harewood Downs

Harewood Downs 1

Welcome – More like Harewood Ups and Downs. Harewood Downs first welcomes you with a stunning vista of the surrounding Chiltern countryside as the landscape plummets in front of the clubhouse exposing an expansive dell. And your first hole will present a similarly inviting descent as the fairway drops down a steep hill so a little tap down the middle will gain a hundred of more yards of just rolling momentum virtually right to the green. Possibly the most achievable birdie hole I’ve played in ages.

Walk – But be careful…as the old saying sort of goes, ‘what goes down, must come up again!’ The entire course is a rollercoaster of thrilling downhill shots that will give you some of the longest drives of your career (once the ball finally stops rolling), followed by mountain climbing expeditions to re-conquer the course summits. Most of the downhill fairways are blind so Grace’s ball sniffing skills came in especially useful not for finding the ball in the rough, but just finding out where in on the fairway the shot ended up (often dozens of yards more forward due to inertia). Thank goodness we had carts as lugging a bag around would have been downright Sherpa like.

Wildlife – Just the normal golf course wildlife – squirrels, rabbits, llamas. Llamas?? Yes, there is a pen of domestic llamas at the 2nd hole. They are safely fenced in and seemed as curious about us as the dogs did about them (you might wanting to stay spitting distance away and I do mean that literally).

Water – Not real water hazards (no ground flat enough to for water to settle on), but water fountains at the 4th and 10th holes! Great for dog owners getting a sip as well as filling dog water bowls.

Wind Down – Despite our challenges with DoggiePubs.org last round, we turned to our trusty resource again and it came up trumps with the superb recommendation of The Swan in Amersham. They have an expansive seating area by the bar with plenty of room to lay down the dogs’ blankie’s for a post-round nap while we eat (some pubs are so small and cramped we struggle to find a place to put the dogs that is not in the way). The food is gourmet standard and diverse (they have an entire vegan menu). After an evening of ups and downs at Harewood Downs, we definitely finished on an “up” at the Swan.

Harewood Downs 2

Harewood Downs 3

Harewood Downs 4

Rickmansworth

Rickmansworth 3

WelcomeRickmansworth is very relaxed parkland course where every golfer who passed u as we approached the first hole stopped to greet Rusty and Grace.

Walk – Like many Chiltern courses, it is a bit up and downy at least it is a bit shorter at 4446 yards. It feels like a proper course, but just more par 3s (7), moderate length par 4s (all around 300 yards), and only a single par 5.

Wildlife – Beware the fox poo (Rusty found it and rolled in it), but no visible critters.

Water – Nothing. Nada. No water hazards. Pack drinks for everyone in your party.

Wind Down – Once again DoggiePubs scored for us recommending the Rose and Crown in Amersham. Not just tasty food (we had steak and ale pie and specialty burgers), but also one of best vantage points for sunset over the Chilterns in its back garden (so maybe cut your round a tad short if need be to get there before the sun goes down).

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Rickmansworth 1

Thorney Park

Thorney Park 1

Thorney Park might just be our favourite dog-friendly golf course since Temple. And Thorney Park bests it by (a) allowing dogs under control (lead not mandatory), and (b) having a very service-oriented clubhouse (especially serving food to hungry golfers).

Welcome – One of the warmest welcomes we have received at golf course ever not just for the dogs. The gentleman in the pro shop asked if we had played there before and because we hadn’t, he gave us a comprehensive course guide (most shops charge for those). Throughout the day, everyone we encountered were enchanted by the dog and Rusty and Grace lapped up the attention. When we stopped at the clubhouse for a drink after the 9th hole, the manager Jerry came out and had a delightful chat with us.

Wildlife – One of the ponds had a gaggle of Canadian geese swimming in it (including a family of newborn goslings), but well beyond the curious noses of Rusty and Grace at the water’s edge.

Water – Water, water everywhere. There are 7 water hazards on the front 9 touching every one of its holes. Aesthetically picturesque. Providing a drink for the dogs, quite handy. The back 9 is a bit drier with just one long stream paralleling the 11th, but then also a quite dramatic water feature on the 17th. There you have drive over the stream (that continues to the 11th) and avoid going off the back to a big pool with a fountain. Well, it’s not just the ball you want to avoid going in the water. We learned a big lesson about dogs and vinyl lined ponds. Many ponds are lined with vinyl to keep water from leaching away. Grace and Rusty ambled over to the inviting pond for a sip of water and both slid right in on the vinyl surface. Not only that, they couldn’t get out! WARNING: Dogs going into vinyl coated ponds could get trapped. We saw their difficulty immediately and yanked them out from the bank, but they were a little startled by the situation. A bit more water than they bargained for.

Walk – The many water features, punctuated by several footbridges, add to a very attractive scenery for the course. The vistas beyond the course do have a few more urban sights like a crane here and a metal structure there. And a major power line dissects the course crossing a couple holes (which just gave me a new/added excuse for my slice…magnetic field interference). But the most welcome aspect of the landscape were the shade trees. Some courses can be very wooded with lots of shade, but then you are threading a needle on your approach shots. Other courses offer wide open and very wayward shot forgiving fairways, but then you are exposed to the hot sun (or drizzle even). Thorney Park was a perfect balance of open lies with always (and I do mean always) a shade tree next to the hole where the dogs can sit down while you do your chipping and putting.

Wind Down – Our first ever clubhouse wind down for dinner. Many clubhouses serve food, but many, like the pubs on Sunday, close the kitchen relatively early. In the summer months, we like to hit the courses late in the day when there are few golfers (which is easier for golfing with the dogs) and it is a bit cooler. As it happens, when we decided to golf Thorney Park, we turned to our trusty DoggiePubs website and could not find a dog friendly pub with a seating after 8:00 pm. We went through a dozen pubs in the area and all were stopping earlier in the day. May pubs lay it on for a big rush for Sunday carveries and lunches and so finish up relatively early. But Jerry keeps the clubhouse open to dark which can be past 10:00 at night in the summer. He was happy to serve us up a late meal which was as tasty as it was appreciated. He had the butterflied Cajun chicken with chunky chips and a very satisfying side salad. All while enjoying the cooling summer’s evening on the terrace looking over the course.

Thorney Park 2

Thorney Park 3