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

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.

Richings Park 3

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).

Rickmansworth 2

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

Players Club

Players Club 1

Welcome – We were greeted by a fellow player’s pooch in the pro shop which set the dog-friendly tone right away.

Walk – The Players Club has full courses – Codrington and Stranahan – and a par 3 course. The former is the longer championship course, while the latter full course is the shorter course and more relaxed so we opted for that one (at 5457 yards).

Wildlife – A few spaniel-sized hares were darting about (we encountered three during our round). The club’s policy is lead preferred or well under control. We normally have ours on leads at the outset of new courses any way until we (and they) get the lay of the land. We eventually let Grace off to walk beside us (our dog golfing star), but unfortunately we had to put Rusty right back on as the hares proved just to intriguing for her to maintain her control.

Water – On the first six holes, 3 have scenic water hazards next to them. If you are a dog, then enjoy the water while you can, because once you finish with the sixth hole, you enter a parched savannah without many trees or much shade. The course is also set quite far away from the clubhouse so you can’t easily pop off the course for a refreshment at the bar or clubhouse spigot.

Wind Down – Our wind down started at the clubhouse after record temperatures during the day in the very open fairways parched all of us. The clubhouse is a spacious affair where dogs were also welcomed (at many dog friendly courses, dogs are not however allowed in the clubhouse). Grace and Rusty enjoyed a bowl of water while Lori and I downed a bitter shandy and a pear cider. It was extremely cosy as we settled into some very comfy armchairs to watch Iran’s “upset” tie with Portugal while the girlies collapsed on the carpet beside us.

For a more nourishing wind down, we turned to the old stand-by, DoggiePubs.org.uk, and found the nearest 5-star option – The Bull in Cippenham, 1.8 miles away. A great recommendation as the girls were welcomed by patrons and hosts alike. The pub is nestled in some wooded area with both a large outdoor patio and an extensive garden off to the side (the dogs are allowed inside as well). The food was delicious. We both had the gourmet burger that the server had recommended and were very impressed. Everyone thinks they can make a gourmet burger these days by simply piling a bunch of esoteric ingredients on top, but this one had a really good flavor. The girls appreciated the dog biscuits kept in a big jar at the bar, but enjoyed a few nibbles of my Pork Belly Bites even more, methinks.

Players Club 2

Players Club 3

St Enodoc

St Enodoc dog golf 3

Welcome – The “welcome” at St. Enodoc is a bit mixed. First of all, the dogs are welcome, but only if hosted by a member. St. Enodoc does have a long tradition of dogs and as such has a generally dog-friendly environment (the older and more genteel a club is the more likely it is that they are dog-friendly hailing back to the days when gentlemen tried to shoot birds in the winter and tried to shoot birdies in the summer). Now they have a “lead required” policy which was instilled after they encountered just too much dog fouling. Admittedly, a number of public access paths crisscross the courses and many ramblers do have dogs (which was more the cause of the fouling). When we played, we came across dogs at the outdoor café (dogs are not allowed indoors) where dog bowls of water had been placed. We also came upon another couple on our course playing as well as another couple waiting patiently for their master to finish his session at the driving range. So the course is dog-friendly, but with a number of important caveats.

Wildlife – Plenty of bold seagulls who didn’t seem too phased by the dogs even when we wandered a bit close to them.

Walk – We played the shorter Holywell course which is only 4082 yards. Still, the longest “short” course we have seen. Sort of St. Andrews By The (Irish) Sea with lots of links-like roly-poly moguls . Sort of pinball hazards (“There has got to be a twist”…to the ball’s direction that is.)

Water – There is no water on the course and limited shade so bring plenty along. As mentioned above, the terrace does feature a dog bowl with fresh water.

Wind Down – Our wind down was at the club café itself. We had a bacon butties before setting off and some lovely crab sandwiches for a break halfway through the round.

St Enodoc dog golf 2

St Enodoc dog golf 1

The Point at Polzeath

Point at Polzeath dog golf 1

Welcome – Dogs are “most welcome” at The Point at Polzeath, as the pro shop attendant declared. As it turns out, the owner has two spaniels who “chase him around the course”. We came upon a number of dog walkers on the course during our round. Even the affiliated hotel is dog friendly. And in fact, this is the first golf club website I’ve come across that features a picture of a dog in its main gallery.

Walk – The walk is a gorgeous seaside ramble. The course has wide, forgiving fairways and unforgiving greens set up on table tops (so the slightest inaccuracy leads the ball rolling precipitously off the side). You do have a bit of meandering to avoid the tsunami like bunkers of sand popping up everywhere.

Water – A number of streams run through the course with fresh water….

Wildlife – …However, one of the streams were home to a family of ducks that did not seem pleased by Rusty’s attention (so onto the lead the she went).

Wind Down – Our Polzeath outing provided the opportunity for a different sort of dog-friendly wind-down. We were just a few miles away from the foodie Mecca of Padstow. We had been to Rick Stein’s famous fish restaurant there years ago (and now Padstow is covered in Stein eateries and emporiums), but what we really coveted was a meal at Paul Ainsworth’s #6. Paul Ainsworth is my favourite celebrity chef. I was captivated by with warm and insightful coaching style on Master Chef a while back. Then, he graced Kerridge’s “Pub in the Park” in our home town last year. I thought he would send a few sous chefs to pump out a few token delicacies for the event, but instead he was right there on the front line working on every one of the hundreds of dishes they served that day.

So hitting #6 had been on my culinary bucket list for some time. The problem was what to do with the dogs? Ainsworth at #6 is a lot of things, but it isn’t dog friendly. It turns out that the cottage we were staying at did not allow pets to be left alone. So we went on the hunt for dog sitter at very short notice with a quite unconventional brief (“could you look after our two dogs for a couple of hours?”). Fortunately, we discovered just the most professional, warm, and accommodating dog carer – Susan Sharp (and also poised and understanding in coping with an unprecedented bolt by Miss Rusty).  She is in Wadebridge, right on the way to Padstow . So if you want the ultimate post-round refreshment (or any other dog caring while vacationing in the area), I highly recommend you look up Susan’s service.

Point at Polzeath dog golf 3

Point at Polzeath dog golf 2