Hampton Court

Hampton Court Palace 2

WelcomeHampton Court Golf Club gave us perhaps the warmest dog golfing welcome we’ve ever had. We were greeted at the clubhouse by members with their own dogs (including an adorable and dachshund/corgi mix who was especially friendly when my sausage bap came out). We found ourselves surrounded on the course by a considerable number of dog walkers who have access to the grounds. But the best welcome of all was by a resident veteran golf Beagle, Poppy (see photo top). We had taken a bacon buttie break after the ninth, but being a weekend morning the course was quite packed and slotting into the back nine was going to be a bit of a challenge. Until Poppy (and her master Khalil) came by in her own two ball and invited us to join them. We formed a very affable foursome where Khalil was able to share lots of insights and background about the course (eg. the course was previously known as “Home Park” until some Americans with more marketing hype took it over). It was the first golfing dog friends we have made since friends of ours first introduced us to dog golfing.

Wildlife – Deery me! What wildlife! The round was also distinguished by having by far the most chock-full collection of fauna. The usual little critters like squirrels and geese, but the main event was the roving herds of deer. A pack of a dozen or so resting in the rough on nearly every other hole (see photos below). Apologies (or “you’re welcome”) for the record number of pictures, but it really did feel like “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”…or perhaps more currently “Walking With Dino-Deers” because these stags were gigantic. The size of horses. But they seemed utterly content to just lie there with golf balls whizzing past them. And even dogs walking by. They didn’t seem to mind when Rusty and Grace passed within feet of them (see photos below). If you ventured closer than 20 feet, they did start to get alert and one would stand up so we tried to keep our distance beyond that. The course attendant passed by and was happy to see the dogs but did reiterate the importance of keeping them on a lead. He said if a dog does decide to approach them, then they get up and start stampeding and there is no stopping them (“Fenton!…Fenton!!…Jesus Christ…Fenton!”). And despite how biddable Rusty and Grace are, we were happy to have them on lead because I’m not sure that Rusty would be able to resist an unwelcome friendly greeting to these curious creatures.

Walk – After what seems like an eternity of hiking rolling hills, Hampton Court was a treat in its table-like flat terrain throughout.

Water – The course is flanked by a couple of bodies of water, but neither are easily accessible. The “Rick Pond” across the boulevard leading to the palace as well as a good size pond flanking the 5th hole. There is a water fountain by the 2nd hole which you can also hit when you return to the 9th tee.

Wind Down – Turning once again to the handy DoggiePubs.org which provides reviewed dog-friendly pubs in order of proximity to target location. So we plugged in the “KT1 4AD” postcode for the Hampton Court Golf Club and up popped The Albany a mere “0.6 miles” away. A literally, even at my age a stone throw (or at least a pitching iron strike) from the 5th hole itself. Well, it is true that the Albany is virtually next door to the golf club…but only if you scale a brick wall and swim across the Thames (see map below). The driving distance is 3.5 miles. Still, you need to drive most of that just to get out of the expansive Hampton Court grounds. The establishment is a stunning riverside eatery virtually on top of the Thames. The food was tasty, but unfortunately the service woefully understaffed (two people managing both the drinks and the food orders at the bar meant an incessant scrum like last orders at a Balham bar). Still, sitting Thames-side on such a lovely day with plenty of room (the lower seating area even has some grassy areas which are a bit of a softer place to settle for the dogs) made the waiting more tolerable.

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Wokefield Estate

Wokefield Estate 1

Wokefield Estate is a palatial complex with hazards of a size that rivals its sprawling country house namesake. A new benchmark for largest lake was the body of water on the 12 hole completely as long as the hole itself. For birdie position on this par 3, you have to traverse every inch of it. It reminded me of the dreaded 5th hole on the Shangri-La Villingili course in the Maldives. And the water extends further from there with rivulets extending from each end linking it to yet another sizeable body.

The sand traps are just as a leviathan sometimes larger than the greens themselves. In fact, Lori referred to them as “sand lakes”. Sort of the Morecombe Bay of golf courses (and just as dangerous). The trap at Hole 2 is like some runaway deformity with random appendages protruding in various directions like some giant, ball-eating, flat-world octopus. And the size of so many traps doesn’t mean the sand has been sucked up into a few big pits. There’s plenty of sand left for a huge number of smaller traps as well (71 in total to be precise).

Welcome – When I originally contacted Wokefield, they said that dogs were “welcome on a lead or under control”, but when a booked the tee time, the pro shop mentioned the lead again. As a result, while I have included the comment “on a lead or under control” in the Notes section of their profile, I have ticked them as a “Lead Required” course. Given all the wildlife around, it’s probably not a bad thing to have a bit of extra constraint to guard against temptation.

Walk – After so many hilly courses, Wokefield was a welcome relief as a nearly flat landscape.

Water – Eight water hazards in total, many of which are quite sizeable (see above) means that you are never very far from a sip of water for the dogs (and most quite accessible with gentle embankments in places to set down to them).

Wildlife – A virtual menagerie. Pheasants in all the rough. Rabbits too.. Water fowl galore. And even llamas by the exit!

Wind Down – For the first time since starting this site, we took our wind down at the halfway point with a tasty lunch and refreshing drink at clubhouse itself near the 9th Hole. Being a hotel operation, they had an extensive menu that was available all day long. The burger on brioche and very crunchy chips quite exceeded our expectations (though admittedly a bit pricier than your typical pub fare).

Expand your mind as big as the traps that surround you and get Woke to dog golfing.

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Sedgley

Sedgley 1

Welcome – Off to the dog golfing desert of the UK – the Midlands. My wife and I have long wanted to visit the Lake District and Blackpool to dance in the Tower Ballroom. Our previous dog golfing expeditions this year have taken us to coastal extremes – Norfolk to the east and Cornwall to the west. Now it is time to try the northwest coast. The outset of the trip underscored the challenges keeping information up to date. We originally planned to stop off at Brookfield GC about two-thirds (bit over 2 hours) of the way up to Blackpool, but when we set off and called for a tee-time, it turns out that they had shut down operations since I spoke to them last year. We then tried Enville and Burslem and both no longer allow dogs (the website database has been updated). We finally found Sedgley (aka Mark Butler Golf Academy) just past Birmingham. They are happy to have dogs, but are concerned that they be properly controlled with a lead and looked after (eg. cleaned up after) which they make clear when you arrive. That said, everyone there seemed very happy to welcome Rusty and Grace.

Walk – It’s mostly all downhill from the expansive vista at the clubhouse (see photo above). Unfortunately, you do have a Matterhorn like climb back up to the 8th and 9th at the end of your round (but being a short course it was all quite manageable).

Water – No water on the course, but again, being a short course you don’t have too long to go before you are back at the clubhouse for some water.

Wildlife – And not a lot of wildlife to speak of.

Wind Down – The doggie pubs situation in the area is nearly as limited as the dog golfing. We turned to our trusty site, DoggyPubs.org.uk, and went through about the first dozen without any luck to find one open and serving. So we had to make do with proceeding on our way for our northwest passage and simply stopping at a motorway services for some refreshment.

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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.

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Rusty and Grace hanging their heads in despair at the sand pit chasms.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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Rickmansworth

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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.

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