Bramley

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, DoggiePubs.org 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

Epping

Epping 1

WelcomeEpping wasn’t just completely welcoming to Grace, but they all the players we came across were exceptionally amiable. As typical during the post-COVID golf craze, the course was packed, but everyone was in good spirits and generously coordinating play.

Water – More water wonderland with 7 water hazards. Only the 3rd hole was the hazard directly between the tee and the green. And even then it was a modest 100 yard distance to cross. All of the others were unobtrusively lurking off the side tempting the stray shot. All water holes were very accessible for Grace and she enjoyed wading into each for a quick lap.

Walk – Rockin’ and rollin’. The course winds up and down (considerably) and side to side overlapping on itself. The ups take you to some striking vistas (though the nearby M25 is not the best of them). This was one of the most visually interesting courses we’ve played in a long time. The 12th hole is a short par 3, but with a phalanx of topiary shrubs filling the approach making one of the most whimsical obstacles I seen on a course like playing on a Tim Burton film set.

Wildlife – Despite all the water features, we didn’t see any water fowl (most of the water pools were fairly small). Just a few urban fowl – pigeons, crows – fluttering past.

Wind Down – We tried to hit the Forest Gate Inn just down the road but arrived 5 minutes past their 7:30 pm closing time on Sundays. It looked like a good and convenient watering hole with plenty of outdoor seating.

Epping 2

Epping 3

Sutton Green

Sutton Green 4

Welcome – Everyone at Sutton Green was quite nonplussed by Grace’s presence and at the end one of the club managers came by and fussed over Grace much to her delight.

Walk – Another leisurely flat course.

Water – Water, water everywhere and plenty of drops to drink. Sutton Green is a regular water world. With seven water hazards including one flanking the 9th and 10th holes large enough to have its own gravitation field, and four others scattered across the course. In fact, 10 of the 18 holes abutted a water feature. On top of that, the 6th hole had a water fountain (though it was not working, maybe dismantled for COVID19 precautions). And the 9th hole returns back to the clubhouse for refills or even a more relaxed libation at their outdoor bar area looking over the course. And if all that wasn’t enough, we got a passing rain squall which when over produced a lovely rainbow that last for several holes (see pictures below)

Wildlife – The water wonderland is an obvious lure for waterfowl of all sorts especially Canadian Geese, Egyptian Geese and mallard ducks. And while dogs are obviously expected to pick up their mess, no such rule exists for the geese and others so watch your step.

Wind Down – We went down the road to the closest Doggie Pub taking bookings ending up at the Bird in Hand (see photo at bottom). It was unrated on the Doggie Pub site, but after visiting we gave it its first rating of top marks – 5 stars! They were extremely welcoming of Grace fussing over her as well, putting water bowls out, etc. The food was delicious gastropub grub. And the service was particularly attentive (including initiating moving us to another table when a neighboring big table started to get quite loud and boisterous).

Sutton Green 5

Sutton Green 8

Sutton Green 3

Bramshaw

Bramshaw 1

Welcome – Our New Forest get-away weekend took us to Bramshaw the following day. They have two 18 hole courses. The Manor Course is the fancier one by the clubhouse which does allow dogs, but only during quiet times. The Forest Course is just down the road a few hundred meters (you have to drive their after you pick-up your bag-tag at the clubhouse). Being in the thick of the New Forest common land, dogs (golfing or not golfing) run freely all over the place. The New Forest course set in the untethered wilds of the New Forest with wandering ponies and other assorted creatures where the dogs fit right in. Many dog walkers traverse the grounds and we came across a group of ramblers on the 5th hole with a half dozen dogs in tow

Wildlife – We came across a handful of legendary ponies during our round, but much fewer than the New Forest course itself. And no cows or other livestick.

Walk – Bramshaw’s New Forest course is a bit more topologically eccentric than the simple grasslands of New Forest golf club. In fact, we ended up nicknaming it “Ferngully” after the classic children’s animated film because the course was littered with ferns and gullies. In fact, half the holes seemed to be hidden away in some Hobbiton-esque crevasse nestled in some hidden corner against the forest itself. And if your ball didn’t get magically made invisible in some secluded corner of a Bag End facsimile, then it might just have rolled into one of the myriad fern croppings littering the “fairways”.

Water – A the bottom of all of the gullies, were little rivulets with some water which often seemed fine enough for Grace to take a sip from, but they weren’t flowing that much this late into the dry season of the summer.

Wind Down – We proceeded to The White Hart at Cadnam for a lovely Sunday roast. With Grace quite puckish herself, we asked the server if the kitchen had any scraps from the roast prep (eg. gristle, fat) that we could treat her to. A few minutes later they generously brought out a little bowl of cut up roast beef pieces that looked good enough for a human to enjoy (though Grace gobbled them down before we got any ideas).

Bramshaw 2

Bramshaw 3

New Forest

Welcome – I don’t know if there is a more dog-friendly course around, but I’m sure you’d struggle to find a more animal-friendly course anywhere than New Forest. Four-legged creatures freely grazing far outnumber the mere iron-toting bipeds. The myriad of dog-walkers crisscrossing the area were the least of the animal kingdom represented. The video above provides a bit of a flavour of the farmyard experience – horses on the green (though pretty much always on the fringes as the green itself simply doesn’t have long enough grass to nibble). All of the herd seems pretty non-plussed by the golfers passing by.

Wildlife – The whole eponymous New Forest area is defined by its distinctive pastoral “wildlife”:

  • “The New Forest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in Southern England, covering southwest Hampshire and southeast Wiltshire. It was proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror, featuring in the Domesday Book. Pre-existing rights of common pasture are still recognised today, being enforced by official verderers.Commoners’ cattle, ponies and donkeys roam throughout the open heath and much of the woodland, and it is largely their grazing that maintains the open character of the Forest. They are also frequently seen in the Forest villages, where home and shop owners must take care to keep them out of gardens and shops. The New Forest pony is one of the indigenous horse breeds of the British Isles, and is one of the New Forest’s most famous attractions – most of the Forest ponies are of this breed, but there are also some Shetlands and their crossbreeds.” – Wikipedia

Walk – On the courses, New “Forest” is a bit of a misnomer given how few trees there on the course itself. New “Prairie” is a bit more like apropos with its general flat topology and especially with the herds of wild horses, cattle and deer roaming all day. While the fairways are mostly wide open, there are plenty of trees on the fringes to provide shade at most of tees and greens.

Water – No really natural sources on the course and no return to clubhouse.  The course map shows a small stream in the middle of the course (touching holes 9, 1, 15, 16, and 17) as well as a water hazard between 11 and 12, but they were all pretty desiccated.  So fill your canteens before setting out.

Wind Down – One of our catalysts to coming down to the south coast was to visit some dear friends we have not seen for some time. As a result, our wind down was a BBQ in their sumptuously manicured garden. The course itself was open and serving beers and other refreshments which would have otherwise tempted us had we not been anxious to join our friends.

New Forest 1

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Marlborough

Marlborough 4

Welcome – Extending the serendipity of meeting Percy and Winnie at Shrivenham Park earlier this week, one of the courses they had played was Marlborough which just happened to be the next on our itinerary. And lo and behold, after many rounds of not meeting any fellow dog golfers, we came upon another regular on the fairways, Holly (see above). Meeting her was simply the icing on the cake of a very warm welcome to Grace by the various members we met (the course was quite crowded in ongoing the post-lockdown golf craze) and plenty of other dogs being walked on the periphery (the course sits on common land abutting the Marlborough Common itself).

Walk – One of the most picturesque courses we have seen (hence I was a bit more snap happy than usual). It starts with a lovely clubhouse garden (see photo directly below). Mind you the rather confusing COVID signs to the pro shop started out round with a rather extensive hike before we had even started out on the course. The course itself felt like a traversing the North Sea. The front 9 is quite stormy with towering rollers and being tossed side to side with fairways set at various angles. The metaphorical sea calms down in the back nine with more gentle undulations on a generally flat expanse. The entire course is set on top of an elevated plateau which provides dramatic views of the Wiltshire countryside in every direction.

Water – Not much water on the course itself (no water hazards), but not only does the 9th come back around to the clubhouse, but the 13th and 16th come back fairly close to the clubhouse if you desperately needed a refill or drink.

Wildlife – Murder! For some reason, all green areas around the clubhouse were attracting a more murder than Jack the Ripper with crows everywhere.

Wind Down – Just down the road, we found The Bell at West Overton who we not only very doggie friendly with water bowls on offer, but also had a pretty good system for the managing the coronavirus safety. They had the obligatory PPE, screens and one-way system, but they also added a capability that you would send your order to them on WhatsApp. Not only did it reduce server circulation in the establishment, but it also facilitated a logging for them of your contact details for the purposes of tracing and tracking. The food was delicious gastro-fare (I especially enjoyed the Venison Wellington).

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MArlborough 7

Shrivenham Park

Shrivenham Park 4

Welcome – Playing Shrivenham Park is like dating a skateboarder…a bit of rough with a relaxed demeanor and more dangerous than meets the eye. Grace was thrilled at the abundant rough (as well as at Dad not having his best day off the tee on the front 9) which meant plenty of treats for finding the ball in the tall grass. The easy-going vibe was great for Grace as we are often apprehensive as to how receptive fellow golfers will be to our canine caddy regardless of the club policy. But the course was exceptionally dog-friendly.

Dog walkers traversed the parkland course throughout the round with plenty of new butts to sniff passing by. In an extraordinary bit of serendipity, we happened upon Winnie and Percy (see photo above) as well as their golfing human, Adam Ruck. As it happens, Adam is the author of the seminal dog golfing article “Courses That Welcome Dogs” in the Telegraph. This piece was one of the first I came upon when I was researching the subject to create the website. Today if you Google “dog golf”, is article is the 6th highest item to appear.

Walk – Shrivenham Park winds around like that drunken skater boy with paths crossing over fairways and holes even crossing over other holes. It’s a bit of a meandering pretzel layout, but at least it has very clear signs pointing you to the next tee. One lovely aspect of the grounds is the sheer diversity of types of tree. It was like a showcase of British arboreal diversity.

Water – Like the paths on the course, streams of water also weave their way through the grounds with several being quite fresh (and satisfying for Grace to rehydrate from).

Wildlife – Mostly a range of squirrels keeping a watchful eye on all the dogs walking by.

Wind Down – We were able to resume regular wind-down service at a nearby doggie pie, the Carpenters Arms, who not only had quite comprehensive COVID protocols for patrons, but also had a different entrance for dog-toting patrons (see photo below). The dog-friendliness of the pub hits you even before entering with prominent signs welcoming doggie drinking buddies. And the signs of welcome just continued inside with a special doggie treats menu (see below) which Grace appreciated hugely. The human menu had a fairly typical pub range of offerings, but also had several pizzas on offer which we extremely tasty (and Grace loves the “pizza bones”, aka crust).

Shrivenham Park 5

Shrivenham Park 6

Shrivenham Park 1

Shrivenham Park 2

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