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

Oak Meadow

Oak Meadow dog golf 1

Westward ho! First the east coast of England, and now road trip to the west. With the help of the handy Dog Golf Course Map, we plotted a golfing holiday in Cornwall (which with the Home Counties and Scotland is one of the areas with the most dog-friendly courses). But the west country is a bit further from us so we decided to break up the journey with a stop en route at Oak Meadow golf course (formerly “Starcross” under which name the website still exists). It was a perfect pit stop about 2.5 hours into a 4 hour drive. A little break from driving and good warm-up for weekend of dog golfing.

Travel Tip – If you are renting a car for your dog golf holiday, most rental agencies prohibit you carrying pets in them (Rusty and Grace had to travel in an accompanying friend’s car) so you might need to search for a special pet friendly car rental.

Welcome – First the course was a little tricky to locate. The postcode (EX6 8QG) and street address (“9 New Road”) don’t get you there using the sat nav. Go to New Road and then carry on about a half mile and it is on your right. Google Maps calls it an “Unnamed Road”, but for all intents and purposes it is the extension of “New Road”.

When we did arrive, we were enthusiastically welcomed by a dog named “Bobby” who is the unofficial mascot underscoring its dog friendly (or “friendly dog”) credentials.

Walk – One of the shortest courses with holes crossing over each other to squeeze 9 holes into a quite contained plot of land right next to the estuary.

Wildlife – Mostly seagulls squawking around.

Water – Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Being by the estuary, it’s all mostly brackish. So off we go to the “water hole”…

Wind Down – According to Doggie Pubs, there was no real “local”, so we ventured into nearby Exeter center to the 5 star reviewed The Fat Pig. It was 7 miles away but it is close to the motorways you will be re-joining whether you are going further south on the M5 or west on the A30. We had a superb meal (Lori had the pulled pork, I had the chunkiest tomato soup ever, and Rusty and Grace had their Nature’s Menu evening meal). Plenty of fussing over them by the patron and hosts (who brought out a biscuit for each).

Oak Meadow dog golf 2

Oak Meadow dog golf 3

Banbury / Adderbury

Banbury 1

Dog Golf season is back! After a warm-up round at our home course Harleyford, Lori, the girls and I decided to venture up country a bit to try a new course. Well, so new that it isn’t even open yet – Banbury, aka Adderbury Course. The whole operation is in transition until is formally re-opens on 1st June with new furniture and other enhancements. It’s not confirmed what the new dog policy will be when it re-opens, but let’s hope they keep it dog friendly as it is a lovely expanse of open parkland.

Welcome: We had been unable to reach anybody on the listed phone number all week (no voice mail, it just rang and rang), and it had a website up though that was spartan. The Google listing said it was “open” so we set off. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, no one was around. There were no signs on the site indicating whether it was closed, or open. We set off to try a few holes and get a feel for the course and finally stumbled upon the greenskeeper who gave us the update about the change in management and refurbishment. On the clubhouse was a sign with an email for enquiries which we contacted when we returned, but that email just bounced. Oh well, Banbury could be a good dog golf option, but make sure you make contact before you head that direction even after 1st June.

Walk: We did get a look around the place (there are public footpaths across the facility) and so got a bit of a feel for it. Great practice for “In the Ruff” training. Plenty of wide fairways, but stray just a bit and your ball will be devoured in long grass. In fact, on hole 6, the fairway is over 100 yards from the tee so any duff tee shots will be penalized severely.

Wildlife: Rife with deer and monkjack. We saw 3, but the groundskeeper said that he had seen 18 that day. So unless you want a “Fenton…Fenton…FENTON!!” moment, best bring a lead for safety.

Water: No shortage of watering holes on this course. It is flanked on two sides by the River Swere and the Oxford Canal and the River Cherwell runs right through the middle. In addition, there are a number of small streams and ponds dotted around especially holes 2 and 3.

Wind Down: We popped just around the corner to the The Red Lion which was rated in Doggiepubs with a solid 4 stars. Several other dogs were already there and the barmaid said they were welcome anywhere in the pub, but another waitress steered them out of one of the dining areas. They have a dog bowl by the fireplace and dog treats at the bar. They also have outdoor seating in the front and the rear The front is a bit smaller and close to the road (though a side road with little traffic), so we opted for the back which was a less scenic (basically a section of the car park), but had a nice enclosed area which kept the dogs easily contained. Very tasty pub grub just short of gastro standards. I had the Wagyu beef burger and Lori had the slow roast chicken and we topped if off with the banoffee pie.

 

Banbury 2

Guest Posts by Dog Golfers Wanted

Dog typing

Send us your overviews of your favourite UK dog golfing course!

Over the past few months since we started DogGolf.info, we have gotten around to a good number of dog-friendly courses in the west-of-London outskirts with a few forays into Surrey and Norfolk. We probably can comfortably make the claim that we have golfed more courses in the UK with dogs than anyone else in the world (if anyone knows of anyone who has done more, please let us know!).

Rusty and Grace have now visited most of the “under control” dog-friendly courses within a 1 hour driving radius of our home in Marlow. That covers most of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and some of Oxfordshire, Surrey and Hertfordshire. We are also plotting dog golfing holidays in dog-golfing hot beds of the south coast and the north coast (ie. Scotland).

But those outings will skim the surface of the 400+ dog welcoming courses in the UK. In order to fill the gap, I am hoping that you can help me with your own perspectives on dog golfing where you go.

A submitted course review should look at the course from the dog’s perspective and your perspective being with the dog(s). You can include a sentence or two about the course play, look, service, amenities, etc., but otherwise keep the post focused on how aspects of the club and grounds affect the dog side.

As you will know from my posted pieces, the review has four basic components:

  • Welcome: What is the dog vibe? Do the people seem happy or a bit put off by the presence of your pooch? Do you encounter other dogs? Are there any special amenities laid on for the dogs?
  • Walk: How hard is the walk? Are there distractions or dangers to the dog?
  • Water: What is the access to water on the course (eg. lakes, ponds, streams, spigots)?
  • Wind Down – The ideal piece includes a post-round visit to a nearby dog-friendly pub with a few words so people will know where to go for refreshment after a day of dog golfing.

We will also need two pictures with of your dog(s) on the course and an introduction to them (names, breed, ages, how often do they go golfing with you, what do they enjoy the most about it, what is the biggest challenge).

I reserve full editorial rights and all copyright is fully licensed to doggolf.info.

Thanks to any and all contributors.

Harpenden Common

Harpenden Common - dog golf 1

Welcome: Another “Common” course on the same weekend this time travelling north a bit to Harpenden Common. We had to wait a few minutes for a scheduled event to finish up before we started our round. So we sat outside the clubhouse to have drink Dogs are welcome on the course , but not in the clubhouse…in fact, no golf shoes of any type are allowed in the clubhouse either. Not a problem since one of the bar staff came down to greet us and offered to bring us drinks. Without even asking, our beer and prosecco was accompanied by a big dog dish of fresh water. A number of members greeted us through the day and complimented Rusty and Grace’s fine behavior and chatted a bit making us all feel very welcome.

Half of the course is on common land which gets lots of dog walkers anyway and there were plenty about during our round. There is handy poo-bag bin on the 3rd hole (by the walking path).

Walk: At £30 (twilight fee, peak fee is £40), Harpenden Common is one of the more expensive common land courses we have come across. What you get for that are well-tended, lovely grounds (grounds maintenance is one of the biggest expenses for a course) rambling over a relative flat stretch.

What you do have to navigate are some roads. They are small byways, but cars do go down them periodically. They don’t just run along the course, but they run through it. In fact two holes, 2 and 8, cross the road. Signs warn you to be on the look out for cars before playing, but dog golfers will also need to take special care with that their canine companions don’t wander across.

Water: The is one water hazard by the 7th green and the 16th tee, but it is artificial and relatively stagnant. I don’t think even Rusty or Grace fancied a drink from it. So bring your own water and the 9th does finish by the clubhouse where a fresh dish of water is always waiting.

Wind Down: We made our way over to the Elephant and Castle pub on the other side of the Harpenden Common. Another DoggiePubs 5-star pub with the clientele to match (5 dogs when we arrived). Tasty, hearty food at a reasonable price in a warm, friendly ambience.

Harpenden Common - dog golf 2

Kirtlington

Kirtlington - dog golf

The biggest divide between dog-friendly golf courses is whether leads are required or not. About 2/3rd of the courses that allow dogs do require a lead. The others simply require that they be “under control”. Kirtlington Golf Club’s policy occupies a curious middle ground where leads are “preferable”.

Even though Rusty and Grace are extremely well behaved and very biddable (voice, whistle and hand commands), we still tend to start all our outings on leads (even where they are not required). One good reason for Kirtington’s recommendation is the fact that between Holes 1 and 2 lies a field with sheep and goats protected by an electric fence. We know from past experience that Rusty’ inquisitive nature would certainly have earned her a zap on the nose if we hadn’t had her on the lead there.

Later on in the round, since there weren’t many players on the course, we let them off to stretch their legs a bit in the wide open fairways of Kirtlington. Hole 7 comes back to the sheep pen so back Rusty went on the lead.

Welcome:  The course has a very dog friendly demeanor. A number of folks commented that one of the course managers has her own dog who accompanies her to the clubhouse (but not on the course).

Walk: Kirtlington had probably the most best [sic] views we’ve ever enjoyed on a golf course. And we didn’t have to climb arduous hills to get them. Instead, the course sort of sits like a table top at the edge of the Cotswolds with nearly broad vistas overlooking the Oxford Plain on nearly every hole.

Water: A couple of water hazards on the 7th and 12th were maintaining their water levels even in the heat of August (most appear to be lined to keep the water in place).

Wind Down: The doggie pub for the day was The Boat Inn in Thrupp (5 stars on DoggiePubs). They have a spacious enclosed garden as well as good sized bar area where dogs are very welcome. Our dogs got offered a biscuit by the barman before we had even ordered our drinks. A few other dogs joined us during our meal. And a hearty meal it was just perfect for an appetite worked up by 7+ kilometers of walking. The extensive menu filled two sides of an A4 sheet. The nachos with beef chili was superb (though a bit on the hot spicy side, be warned). Most of us had the “Hock and Cock” (ham hock and chicken) pies with chips and gravy, with our friend Ian (in photo below with wife Jenny) opting for the steak (perfectly cooked). And it turned out that Rusty and Grace’s food hadn’t thawed out thoroughly, but one of the other patrons was a canal boater moored up outside and they took the packets to their boat to zap them in the microwave for us.

Kirtlington - dog golf 2

Basildon

Basildon 1

Basildon isn’t polished around the edges (for examples, the sand hazards didn’t have rakes in them and their edges weren’t cleanly groomed), but its fundamentals (eg. green surfaces, fairways, layouts) are superb. Its more relaxed ambience combined with a very dog-friendly demeanor takes any stress out of the apprehension of dog walking even, off-lead.

Welcome:  While there were no fellow dog golfers, we did come upon dog walkers on the fairways a couple of times. When we stopped for a 9th hole drink, the shop/café/bar manager came out with a dog bowl of water for Rusty and Grace without being asked. In fact, dogs are allowed in the small clubhouse and its bar. When we stopped at the end of our round, several best friends were sitting there with their owners.

Water: No spigots on the course and the only water hazard is right next to the pro shop where a few feet away you can get fresh tap water.

Walk: The course topology is sort of giant parabolic humps. It was the total inversion of Manor of Groves. Sort of like its yoga counter pose (instead of down-and-up from one elevated ridge to another, it is up-and-down over a single ridge). If you can get your drive over the top of the looming hill, then you will get a decent bonus distance as it rolls down the other side. It gave Grace an opportunity for some ball-sniffing outside the rough even if they did go straight down the fairway. You are driving over the top of a ridge that once you clear, you have no idea where you have landed.  Lori’s most frequent questions of the day was “I wonder where the pin is” (often followed by “Grace, find the ball!”). At least a third of the holes are “blind” in this way.

Basildon 2

Manor of Groves

Manor of Groves 1

Go east young man’s best friend. Having done the vast majority of our golfing in the provinces just west of London, an annual social gathering got us to pack up our bags and head to Essex for the weekend. The event invites the whole family including the dogs so we figured we would take in a couple of rounds of dog golf – one en route there and one en route home.

Manor of Grove is a chance for those puppies to stretch their legs and the golfers to stretch their swings. The fairways are some of the widest I have seen. So unless your slice wouldn’t pass a European Union regulation for banana straightness, you have a chance to let loose with some real welly and the approach will be very forgiving to a moderate amount of veering. And just to boost your ego a bit more, the majority of holes run perpendicular to two long ridges. So you are going downhill on your drive. But be warned you will need to go *up* the other side. And naturally, water collects at the bottom of most valleys so most of these holes will have horizontal hazards running in front of you. Some of that water is feeding some very ‘healthy’ (ie. tall) growth that I swear has mutated tendril hands to grab your ball out of the air. If you will be tempted to go for the monster drive, but if you don’t think you can make it across, you could get sucked into the nadir of the abyss where the gravitational pull is strongest.

Welcome:  Everyone was very welcoming of Rusty and Grace though they did seem to be a bit of a novelty on the course to most.  As it turns out, they were a complete novelty because dogs are not actually allowed on the course.  We had previously received an email from the course confirming that they were allowed, but then after our visit, someone was so surprised to see them, that they checked the rules and told us that actually the rules prohibited dogs.  Oh well…an exclusive round of dog golf for Rusty and Grace.

Walk: As described above, the landscape is a bit of a Newton’s Cradle. Up and down, up and down. Nothing particularly steep. Just relentless. A variation of the Chumbawamba song (“I get to drive downhill, but then it goes up again…”).

Water: Quite a number of streams and water hazards, but in the mid-summer, they were all dried up. The 9th hole finishes across the big parking lot from the pro shop and bar, but it was worth the walk for us to load up on liquids.

Manor of Groves 2