Dog Golfing Around the World

Facebook dog golfing in world

In my recent research, I happened upon the Lebanon Turf dog golf calendar. They publish a “Dog Days Of…” calendar every year:

· “It’s that time of year again where we at LebanonTurf, along with the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America (GCSAA), get to know a new round of golf dogs. Every year, we take submissions from golf courses all over the country who want their pal to be featured in our Dog Days of Golf Calendar. And each year, one of these lucky calendar dogs is chosen as our Dog of the Year, which comes with some pretty great perks.”

With 4 years of calendars (52 dogs featured including cover), I thought that the profiles about the dog and their course would be a great source of finally finding some dog-friendly courses in North America where dog golfing is virtually unheard of. However, after reaching out to the first 26 courses featured, it turned out that just because a dog was pictured on their course doesn’t mean they allow dogs. In nearly all cases, the dogs belonged to the course superintendent or grounds keeper (the Lebanon Turf customers) who brought their dog to work for the day just for the photo op.

Still, I did find Zelda (directly below) featured from the Schifferdecker club in Joplin, Missouri, USA. I did add her to my list of other courses I have stumbled on across the world adverting dog-friendliness from Croatia (see photo at bottom) to British Columbia, Canada. With several in hand, I thought I would start a Google Map of the Rest of the World courses for reference.

As always, contact me if you know any others and I would be glad to add them to the map/list (and also welcome a guest post if you are so inclined).

USA dog golfing

Croatia dog golfing

Facebook Update

Machrie Facebook

Doing some more recent research, I noticed how many golf clubs now have Facebook pages. And most of those pages have message facilities which promise prompt response. So I decided to sit down and send a message chipping away at a couple dozen a day of the clubs that I had emailed during my original research (but they never replied).

I did get many to respond to Facebook, but still overall only 133 out of 804 clubs contacted by Facebook message responded to the Facebook message – a pretty sad 16% response rate.

The good news is that the total number of dog-friendly courses in the UK identified (and profiled in the database) is now up to 521 (up from original 384) a hair under 20% (from the original 15%).

The leading areas remain the same and account for the biggest chunk of the additions. The added data just showed Scotland, South Coast and Greater London to be even more dog-friendly than first identified as they increased their dog-friendly rate of around 22% to >45%.

Berkhampsted

Berkhampsted 1

WelcomeBerkhampsted GC is one of the poshest (£70 per round on weekends) parkland courses we have played. Typically, parkland courses are at the lower end of the price and exclusivity spectrums. But the considerable number of dog-walkers passing through does amplify the dog-friendliness vibe.

Walk – Talk about a “ruff” landscape. The terrain is flat mostly (a bit of a climb to the final hole) and there are no bunkers. But more than making up for these concessions is a battery of shrubbery moats (see picture below) and bracken laden ramparts (never flanking, but always crossing the “fairway” at the most inconvenient locations). I think they hired the set designer for The Game of Thrones to plot layout this course.  This epic landscape, of course, delighted Grace who enjoyed a big uptick in the number of stray balls to sniff out.

Water – The late summer date meant that the few water hazards around were completely dried up. But the halfway house after the 8th (also near the clubhouse) has a fountain (off for COVID), and is open, serving drinks (and a few other packaged refreshments) and able to fill water bowls or bottles.

Wildlife – Curiously devoid of critters aside from a few loitering crows.

Wind Down – We had booked the top recommendation for area on Doggie Pubs – The Boat. It is a lovely canal-side establishment (but you can’t book an outdoor table, it’s first come first served). But we weren’t feeling well so we wound down with a simple cuppa at home this outing.

Berkhampsted 2

Berkhampsted 3

Army

Army 4

I don’t know what you’ve been told / But on dog golf we’ve been sold.
I don’t know what’s been said / But at Army Golf dogs love to tread.

Welcome – We didn’t see any of the dogs on the course, but none of the fellow golfers out that day seemed nonplussed by Grace’s presence. One of the biggest fears many have about dogs on the course is dreaded distraction (especially from an ill-timed bark). But Army is one of the noisiest courses we have played so I don’t think many people these are as concerned with noise. The 15th hole sits right next to the Farnborough Airport (see photo below) with a private jet surreally close giving it a bit of a crazy golf vibe. But in addition to regular jets flying past, there were a battery of helicopters hovering around and even a few drill sergeants barking their own commands nearby.

Walk – A very level battlefield which make the fairly long course (6550 yards) a manageable stroll.

Water – Halfway house at the 9th actually operating (we bought a Bakewell cake a cuppa while Grace enjoyed some water from the dog bowl left out). And the 16th finishes right by the clubhouse if you can’t quite squeeze in 18 holes with the dwindling daylight on a twilight round (those that offer is temporarily suspended at the moment). A water gully winds its way through the course flanking or crossing all but 4 holes. It was running and Grace was keen to get in it every time we arrived at it.

Wildlife – The usual commonplace woodland critters – squirrels, rabbits, crows, pigeons – plus a most unexpected memorial to another four-legged friend – equine veterans of the Boer War.

Wind Down – We ventured down the road to the nearby The Swan (found in Doggie Pubs). The evening was pleasant, but less so the outdoor seating which was all paved and nothing but less comfortable picnic tables. So we opted to sit at one of the many tables near the bar. One positive to the coronavirus precautions are that the tables in pubs are now set further apart from each other which provides more floor space for us to set Grace’s bed. The Swan included free dog biscuits in a jar on the bar and the server happily provided a bowl of fresh water for Grace. The food focuses on fancy burgers and recently added some Greek dishes as a special (I tried the pork which was different and tasty but not particularly distinctive, just pork belly and potatoes nicely spiced and cooked together in parchment). The highlight was the onion rings that had good sized onion and not too bready batter.

Army 3

Army 2

Dulwich and Sydenham

Dulwich and Sydenham 1

Welcome – Today’s dog golfing venture we had planned for a long time since it is in the neighbourhood where our son lives – Dulwich and Sydenham. All of the members we happened upon greeted us warmly (in a socially distant manner) and one in particular noted that he was always pleased to see dogs out with their owners on the course. But there is nothing more welcoming than a fellow golfing dog and we happened upon a most charming one named Alfie (see photo below) who was ever so sweet to Grace and thoroughly enjoy his day out with his human.

Walk – I never thought of southeast London as the mountainous region of the metropolis, but I guess nearby areas such as Tulse Hill, Herne Hill, Streatham Hill, Dog Kennel Hill (!), Brixton Hill, Pollards Hill and Forest Hill should have provided a clue. Several holes did require some quite orthogonal traverses.

Wildlife – This course has more Canadian Geese than a Mountie’s Molson beer fest at a moose ranch (see photo below). Geese are to D&S what ponies are to the New Forest. At times it seemed that either we were being stalked by a flock of them, or else each hole had its own resident flock.

Water – In wetter times, the many water hazards – a ratio pretty of much a little pond or stream for every hole – might have provided some handy on course refreshment for Grace, but in the late summer when we played last week, they were all dried out. There is a halfway hut at the 8th hole and though the café is not operating, the toilets are available and have running water. Also, the 7 and 15 pass by the clubhouse if you wanted to make a quick detour in a pinch, but may be difficult in all but the most empty days. The course also has water fountains at the 3rd and 15th, but those are turned off due to COVID protocols.

Wind Down – We chose our wind down spot a little bit further than we had to (in the city there are plenty of pubs all around) albeit just over a mile away by foot – The Archie Parker. Full disclosure, The Archie Parker is a café where our son (one of Grace’s favourite humans), Chase, works and he has been a key part of setting it up and building it with his partner, Zoe. It turns out that “Archie Parker” is himself a dog (Zoe’s). Now since passed away, but the dog-friendly ethos remains. While it commands top reviews for the area, we were especially drawn to visit by the warm weather since they opened Forest Hill’s only café garden out back where we joined Chase, Zoe and our daughter (and her dog Joey) for lovely drinks (next door is their sister venue the Forest Hill Gin Club so G&Ts were the tipple of choice).

Dulwich and Sydenham 2

Dulwich and Sydenham 3

Dulwich and Sydenham 5

Dulwich and Sydenham 6

Dulwich and Sydenham 7

Dulwich and Sydenham 8

Dulwich and Sydenham 9

Aberdovey

Aberdovery 1

Dog Golf UK’s first guest post and a particularly notable one at that. A new friend of dog golfing, Adam Ruck (photo t bottom), who we met at Shrivenham Park by serendipity, Adam is one of the seminal chroniclers of dog golfing with a high profile piece he wrote for the Telegraph titled “Courses that Welcome Dogs”. We’ve shared a number of notes and he has very generously volunteered to provide a particularly delightful post of our first Welsh course covered:

When I learnt from this excellent site that Wales is among the least dog-friendly golfing corners of what for the moment, however inappropriately, we still call the United Kingdom, I felt an extra surge of pride in the lovely course – and excellent club – that have grown from a string of holes my great grandfather implanted at Aberdovey in the mid-1880s, using a set of nine flower pots acquired from Mrs Timber Jones. 

Aberdovey is a colourful little resort that sits with its toes in the sand on the sunny side of the Dovey estuary, half way up the coast of Cardigan Bay. A friendly green wall of hills shelters the village from cold winds. It was this mild climate and the poor health of a family member that brought my great great grandparents from their home near Machynlleth, all of 9 miles upstream, to winter quarters on the coast. Great grandfather brought his young family to reside with them for the 3 month duration of his winter leave from an army posting at Formby, where he had taken up golf.

He brought his clubs with him and, when the mood took him to spend less time with his family, carried them through the village to the open ground beyond the station, a strip of marshy ground between the railway line and a chain of mountainous dunes thrown up by the west wind and the Irish Sea.

Now drained, this gorgeous links boasts the finest greens in the Principality and bunker sand so soft you could fill an egg timer with it. As a playground it has given as much pleasure to our dogs as to me, and considerably less anguish. Admittedly, the round is beset with temptation in the form of the ever-present smell and sound of the sea, so close and yet out of bounds; not to mention the tantalising stream of dogs that cross our path on their way to the beach, pulling bearers of cricket bats, kites and surfboards in their wake.

My dogs are not alone in sensing and on occasion succumbing to the call of the sea. Only last month, on a warm Sunday evening when the course was empty but for an agonisingly slow four-ball in front of us, a friend and I stripped off beside the 12th green, ran down to the beach and into the waves. We soon caught up with the four-ball again, my friend in bare feet and I missing one sock, a seagull having made off with it. Aberdovey is a holiday course and looks kindly on such irregularities of turn-out; at least, in August it does.

Among the local friends and visiting relations with whom Arthur Ruck shared his sport on the common was his brother Richard, who became a much better golfer and took over as the prime mover of Aberdovey golf, designing the first 18 hole course and founding both the club and the Welsh Golfing Union. Another who caught the golf virus was Arthur’s close friend and brother in law Frank Darwin (son of Charles), who passed it on, along with a lifetime attachment to Aberdovey, to his son Bernard. This Darwin grew into a golfer of high quality and a writer of equal distinction, in fact the GOAT among golf writers and a rare sports journalist who took part in many of the events he was reporting on (several Amateur Championships and the 1922 Walker Cup in New York).

Bernard Darwin’s Aberdovey stories are many and colourful. Golfing antiquarians and the collectors who bring their hickories to Aberdovey for an annual match against the club all know the ‘mere schoolmaster’ who achieved the heroic feat of slicing his tee shot onto the railway at eight of the first nine holes (the layout of the course was a little different then). Then there’s Mrs Evans and her ‘biltong’ lunches …. and the caddie with Ovid in his pocket …. and the greenside bunker with its castellated rampart. My favourite is the nameless member who dug a trench across the fairway to commemorate his longest drive. I do hope he was an ancestor of mine.

But it is the story of Mrs Timber Jones that has brought immortality to my great grandfather. When I telephoned the secretary of nearby Royal St David’s to book a tee time recently, he asked if I would be bringing any flower pots with me.

At 6100 yards, Aberdovey is not a long course, and that is part of its charm. A proud moment in the club’s history is celebrated in an essay Darwin wrote for The Times in January 1933, entitled The Great Revulsion. After the great James Braid had been brought in to lengthen the course and sharpen its teeth in preparation for some important championship, the members rose up and voted to change it back again. A similar mistake was made a few years ago, when an ambitious incoming manager commissioned a new set of even-further-back tees. Monthly competitions were held, using the so-called ‘Darwin Tees’, but nobody entered. The tees are overgrown now, and not missed, unlike the cows that kept us company until the club reached deep into its pocket to pay off the local farmers. I miss them, anyway.

The layout might be described as an old-fashioned ‘out and back’, but it is not quite that simple: the course performs an 90 degree turn to the right through the opening holes as it swings around the point where estuary meets open sea, before following the beach north for a mile towards Towyn; and turns left on the way home. And there are zigs and zags where short holes cross the course. In his ‘A Round of Golf Courses’, Patric Dickinson likens it to ‘a badly tied bow tie, with the knot at the 3rd and 16th holes, like Scylla and Charybdis waiting to shipwreck golfers.’

The 3rd is the once-infamous Cader, a blind short hole with a sandhill to clear, named after southern Snowdonia’s presiding mountain. Seventy years ago, Dickinson could still call this hole a ‘hideous Caliban of a creature’ but since then Cader has seen its teeth blunted. The wind and the hacking of furious golfers have taken their toll on the mountainous dune. The cavernous waste bunker that devoured weak tee shots has become a grassy bank, and the green is now a generous crater.

The 16th, by contrast, hides nothing and has lost none of its charm. The railway’s curve, shaped like a perfect draw, intrudes on the direct line from tee to green. It makes a fascinating short par 4, tempting the tiger with the idea of an eagle, or better; while the voice of experience advises an iron shot to the fairway and a precise approach to the most complex of Aberdovey’s greens, ingeniously designed to repel.

Darwin selected the 16th as Aberdovey’s contribution to his cigarette-card ‘perfect round’ of favourite holes from around the country. Others might pick the short 12th with its raised green commanding an end to end view of Cardigan Bay, from Bardsey to St David’s. Now that Aberdovey has abandoned its high tees at 13 and 14 – more’s the pity – this is the only place on the course where the golfer can pause to look down on the sea, as described. If you find a stray white sock up there, it’s mine.

Enough of the course. Play it, enjoy, and marvel at the value of its modest green fee. Why not make a 27-hole day of it? Holes 1 to 5 and 15 to 18 make a terrific 9-hole loop; stronger, some would argue, than the full 18. Dogs are welcome except on competition days, and Aberdovey requests that they be kept on the lead. That might be advisable anyway, if yours is a water-loving dog or one that loves digging in the dunes and racing crazy circles on the beach (don’t they all?). Otherwise you may spend more time searching for a lost dog than trampling the rough for your ball.

19th hole. At the golf club, Gareth pulls an excellent pint of Gaslyn ale, brewed in Portmadoc by Purple Moose; dog bowl and water tap on the hard standing below. The kitchen does a nice line in toasties as well as more sophisticated fuel, and there are evocative old photos to admire, alongside cabinets full of silverware and my great grandfather’s clubs. Pole position in the village is the balcony of The Britannia’s Look-Out Bar. Look out for the brass of Birmingham, showing off its 4x4s and jetskis.

Dormy Houses. The golfer’s hotel and a time-honoured family favourite is The Trefeddian (www.trefwales.com), which looks down on the third and 16th greens and beyond them the shining ocean. Dogs are welcome here and at Yr Hen Stablau (www.selfcateringcottagewales.co.uk) a 3-bedroom cottage in the grounds at Pantlludw, the house near Machynlleth where Bernard Darwin spent summer holidays with his grandmother, practising his swing under the yew tree on rainy days.

Aberdovey 2

Aberdovey 3

Aberdovey 4

Wessex

Wessex 1

Welcome – Our recent camping “stayUKation” gave us not only the opportunity to notch another dog-friendly course, but also a new county to our list of dog golfing experiences – Dorset. Wessex golf centre was minutes down the road from our camp site overlooking Chesil Beach in Weymouth.

Walk – Under 3,000 yards and all of them flat make this executive course a particularly light dog walk.

Water – With the course being so small, you are really never that far from the clubhouse you could scurry back to if in desperate need of a drink. The 5th hole does sit on the far end of the course and features a small pond which had some fresh water from a recent downpour to give Grace some mid-round refreshment.

Wildlife – A seagull or two passing by.

Wind Down – Instead of Doggie Pubs, we just asked the Wessex GC attendant for a pub recommendation and he proposed Marquis Of Granby just down the street. It appeared to be set in an industrial estate that you pass through, but it turns out to be just on the outside. The “pub” has more of a working man’s club feel, but the expanse of tables made it easier to accommodate many people in a social distant way. It did have some outdoor seating at the front and back, but we opted to stay in with the changeable weather. We only had a drink, but the menu was extensive. And one thing that did stand out was the speedy service. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten served my drink so quickly (and at a table no less) which was most welcome.

Wessex 2

Wesex 3

Dog Day

There are the dog days of summer, but today is THE Dog Day in summer. International Dog Day 2020 established to encourage adoption of dogs. One of our obviously favourite reason to adopt a dog is to join in your favourite activities. Our favourite is golf, but we’ve found a few others to share to mark this special day below. No dogs pushing soccer balls around the yard or dropping balls onto bowling pins, but actually joining their human in the sport. And we also found the lovely video piece above by Leon and his human Jay Revell (I have noted in his comments section that ideal dog protocol is to steer clear of the teeing and putting greens).

SURFING with your dog

VOLLEYBALL with your dog

RUNNING with your dog

500 Courses

500 courses

500! Five hundred dog-friendly golf courses identified and added to the Dog Golf UK database (plus Manor of Groves which is no longer dog golfing). Coincidentally, the Roman numeral for 500 is “D” (for dogs).

I’ve recently noted that most golf courses now have Facebook pages and those pages include “Contact” buttons. I thought I would try reaching a few clubs that never responded to my emails through this route (maybe courses are more attentive to their Facebook messages than their emails). I have proceeded to message about 16 per day (that’s the limit of the number of messages that Facebook allows one to send at a go) and have been getting several replies back. Some are confirming that dogs are prohibited, but a good number of new dog-friendly courses have been identified and promptly added to the database.

The whole Facebook exercise has uncovered a number of added curious statistics which I will share when I am finished with the research (I have about 150 courses left to contact), but I thought I would call out the milestone that Dog Golf UK has hit the 500 mark in the number of dog-friendly courses listed.

We’ve only played 69 of those so lots left to discover. We have played pretty much all of the dog friendly courses within an hour’s driving radius of our home in Wycombe except for:

  • M25 Northeast courses (3) – Close to our daughter’s house so we will hit them in conjunction with visits to see her.
  • West/South London courses (3) – Close to our son’s house so we will hit them in conjunction with visits to see him.
  • Expensive courses (ie. Stoke Poges, Denham, Sunningdale, Swinley Forest) – Just a bit too rich for our already stretched budget on this project.

Furthermore, we’ve hit a few more far-flung locations in Cornwall, Norwich, Dorset and Hampshire in conjunction with some visits to friends.

And I would walk 500 courses…of course with canine companion caddie.

Brickendon Grange

Brickendon Grange 2

Welcome – Admittedly, we were rolling the dice to play this day. The forecasts had called for “thundershowers” all week, but on the day of, it said showers in the morning and mostly sunny all day. We booked a late afternoon round. Curiously and considerately, the course called us shortly after to say that their forecasts had called for showers later in the day and so they wanted to confirm that we wanted to play and if we did they would provide a discount to our round. I thought that was all very kind and welcome, but the clouds were parting and we thought we were going to be on the winning side of this bet. On the second hole, we did get a passing “little black rain cloud” that sprinkled on us (you know, a rain cloud directly above and blue sky every where else). But other than that, the day just got better. When we stopped for some refreshment at the 9th hole, the skies above were 100% clear. We were musing about how we might do some stargazing that evening, but

Water – In the end, maybe a bit too much water this round. As we proceeded on the back nine, the skies did get cloudier and cloudier until the heavens opened completely on the 17th. With a fair hike to the car park, we were completely soaked by the time we arrived. At least we earned our discount.

Not just water falling from the clouds, but also considerable amounts from water fountains. The path to the 1st tee featured a drinking fountain (obviously disabled for COVID19 protocol) and more than one of the several water features included a spouting fountain in the center.

Ponds at the 5th, 8th, 17th and 18th all brimming from recent showers made for very accessible drinks and dips for Grace. Unfortunately, I had my own Jean van de Velde Carnoustie moment on the 5th when I insisted on using a pitching wedge to get over the pond with a lie on a downward slope when I should have (and eventually did) used a loft wedge.

Walk – Aside from the top and tail (1st and 2nd, and then the 17th and 18th) of a big drop hole followed by a big climb hole), the course was a pretty level. We often ask when we check in whether the course returns to the clubhouse at the 9th which allows us to restock on water (or use the facilities to dispose of some water ingested). Some courses set off and never return until the final hole, but Brickendon circles back at the 6th, 9th, 12th and of course the 18th. Not only does this layout make facilities accessible, but it also make the course one of the most scalable that we have come across. That is to say that if you don’t feel up to a full 18, you can play 6, 9, 12 or even 14 holes (as it is easy to clip the 15th and 16th by going from the 14th green to the 17th tee).

Wildlife – Squirrel! Saw quite a few scampering squirrels including one who boldly crept up to the terrace where we were enjoying a mid-round drink. Obviously, conditioned that dining patrons might drop or share some of their nibbles, but instead of crumbs from the table, Mr. Furry Rodent discovered Grace sitting there staking her claim to anything falling from the table. After a moment’s surprised hesitation, the squirrel decide to volte face to more inviting areas.

Wind Down – Apres la deluge…Just down the road from Essendon I had found Bakers Arms at the top of the Doggie Pubs in the area, but its website’s booking didn’t work properly so I skipped it and moved on to the next one (customer service rookie error). Back in the neighbourhood and the establishment even closer to Brickendon Grange, I decided to pick up the telephone and call for a booking which worked fine. Their service was impeccable as they brought towels out for us to remove water and brought out a drinking bowl for Grace for her to fill up on water. The food was tasty and the warm, homey atmosphere lifted our drenched spirits.

Brickendon Grange 1