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.

Course Map

Map of dog courses - wide

One of most powerful features of DogGolf.info is the Google Map of dog friendly golf courses. This capability allows you to find the closest clubs to where you are (home) or where you might be (holiday). It has been vital for us planning some upcoming golf vacations to Cornwall and Scotland (both very dog friendly part of the world where golfing is concerned. But it is also helpful for short trips. We are visiting friends for a weekend in Suffolk and used the map to plot a course where we could play a doggie round en route on the Saturday and another coming back on Sunday.

The map also makes two colour-coded distinctions:

  • Blue = lead required
  • Green = off lead under control allowed

In the future, I might add “layers” for price ranges or other variables if I see there is and interest.

Map of dog courses - zoom

Rusty and Grace

Rusty and Grace

Allow me to introduce Rusty and Grace.  Our canine partners in doggolf.info and pretty much its inspiration. 

Rusty and Grace are Hungarian Vizslas. The breed is known for being very affectionate which is how they first stole our hearts.  Our Vizslas will turn away from food to get affection.  They are also known for enjoying and needing LOTS of exercise.  Even more than their fellow Hunt-Point-Retrieve (HPR) breeds.  If you ever watch Cesar Milan’s “Dog Whisperer” TV show and there is a Vizsla involved, before he has walked through the door, he anticipates the root problem will be lack of sufficient exercise.  The owners often think they are doing fine with an amble around the block on lead, but the Vizslas really need to cut loose off lead and fully stretch their legs for at least an hour every day.  Cesar has prescribed skateboarding, obstacle courses, biking (we have taken them on 20 mile bike rides and they came back with more energy than we had), and weights in an effort to discharge a bit of their boundless energy.  You can see how we thought of them when we were enjoying our 3 hour walks on the golf course.  Mind you, we still have to take them for a mini-walk before hitting the links just to take the edge off their energy.

Many people ask if Rusty and Grace are sisters.  Actually, they’re not even the same breed, officially.  Rusty is a straight haired while Grace was born to wire-haired parents (but her hair came out straight).  We had Rusty first, but a breeder (knowing we had been looking for a Vizsla puppy) called us the day after we got Rusty and told us about a rescue situation with this other puppy (born four days before Rusty) called Grace.  I still remember the portent of destiny in the form of a text message from my wife about Grace, saying, “I’m just going to go look at the puppy…”

Grace is definitely the dominant one.  Bigger and more assertive.  Always rounding up “the pack” and making sure she moves along (one of the things we have to be attentive to is if we stop to talk to other people or dogs, she gets quite vocal with the whining that we should be moving on now…in general it’s fine, but on the golf course, we don’t want her laments to distract other golfers).  Rusty is less biddable, but despite running faster and farther than Grace, she is also content with being on lead.  Grace loves to chase sticks and balls, but Rusty is happy to chase Grace.

With Grace’s leadership, biddability and ball skills, it made sense to make her the front-dog for Dog Golf.  If we ever succeed in devising a golf-ball-finding competition, she is our best hope for a competitive entry (we are now working on converting her highly honed stick and tennis ball skills into Top Flight ones).

DogGolf Database

Doggolf database

The database of dog-friendly golf courses is really the heart of DogGolf.info. Everything else is just gravy on the bone. The database is about having a complete list of possible courses, but also an interactive one that you can interrogate to find the one just right for your pack whether for a weekend outing, an extended holiday or even a long term membership.

At the outset, the information will be more thorough within a 25 miles radius of our home in Marlow because (a) our network is deepest there, and (b) I am doing more in depth research in that area (out of self-interest obviously). That means Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire will have more comprehensive information with a bit of Surrey, Hertfordshire, and Greater London as well.

The index of the whole dataset is the Course Name. We use the short name, not the full on “East Wimblebottom Golf & Spa Resort” (so don’t set your brand police in your marcom department on me to ‘correct’ it).

Several fields in the database you can filter on…

  • County – So you can get a short list of places close to you.
  • Postcode – For alternative geo-search
  • Green Fees – Highest listed for peak times. Vary by times and promotions so just approximate. $0 means no visitors, members only.
  • Lead required? – Well-trained and biddable dogs might find such courses a bit confining.
  • Handicap Certificate required? – Many of the finer courses allow dogs, but they do insist on handicap level playing standard.

When you get a listing of courses, you can click on the club name to take you to a Profile snapshot of basic course information. The profile is limited to details that would be of greatest interest to dog-owners. It is expected that if you needed further details, you would click on the link to their website (included in the profile) to find those things out.

  • Picture – I include one picture of the course just to provide a small sense of the nature of the property (a picture worth a thousand words), but I suspect most people looking to get a feel for the grounds will go through to the course website itself.
  • Notes – The “dog policy” of the course in their own words (usually from their website, an enquiry response or some other reference)
  • Members Constraints – Sometimes dogs are only allowed for members or when playing with members. I kept in the “Members Only” clubs because (a) people might be searching for a club to join.
  • Time Constraints – A some courses dogs are not allowed during specific times, most commonly (a) competitions, and (b) peak busy times.

If anyone has any suggestions of other details we should research and track, please forward them to grace@doggolf.info.

Why DogGolf.Info

Rusty golf cart

What golf courses in the United Kingdom allow dogs on the course? A simple enough question, but a fine example of how primitive search facilities remain on the Internet.

Google doesn’t work for a number of reasons…

  • Symantec Ambiguity – If you use Google search looking for “dog” and “golf courses”, then you just get countless listing of courses with “dog-legs”. If you are more specific with phrases like “dogs welcome” or “dogs allowed”, then you have to think of all the different ways that it could be expressed.
  • Proximity Ambiguity – Searching becomes extra complicated when the search engine gets confused by the many holiday breaks and vacation cottages that are dog-friendly and are also next to or part of a golf course. The hotel might allow them, but not the golf course.
  • Website Dependency – The basic challenge is that 90% of the clubs simply do not indicate their dog policy on their website. Nearly all of my listings came as the result of someone mentioning the club (in forum or blog post or other research) and me following up with a direct query to the course.

In conducting a bit of research for our own doggie golf interests, I decided to invest in a bit of curation to this question to help other canine caring fairway fans enjoy both their loves at the same time. Hopefully, DogGolf can help links-loving dog owners…

  • Nearby – The number one question, as stated at top, is “where can we all go play a round with our best friends?”
  • Doggie Holiday – It’s not just the weekend outings, but also potential vacation breaks where we might want to plot our destination based on somewhere we can hit the greens all together.
  • Tips – I have been surprised how little information there is about Dog Golf on the web, despite the fact that it is the intersection of two great loves for many people. I will provide a range of tips and reviews in the blog to help make dog golfing that much more easy and enjoyable.

DogGolf.info has a number of features…

  • Course FinderThe heart of the site is the comprehensive, interactive database of dog-friendly courses in the UK, which you can filter by characteristics like green fees, lead requirements, handicap certificate requirements, advance notification requirements, etc.
  • Course Profiles – Each dog-friendly course has its own snapshot profile with the key details about its dog policy. The profiles don’t go into great depth about the courses, because the course websites (the profiles include a link to them) are the best places for the more up-to-date and comprehensive details about them.
  • Course MapJust to make the proximity planning a bit easier and visual, I have loaded the courses into a shared Google custom map so you can peruse nearby possibilities geographically.
  • BlogThe blog will feature three primary topics: (a) information about the website, (b) reviews of dog friendly courses, and (c) various titbits, tips and treats for dog-walking golfers.
  • Ask GraceGrace is our very own 9-year old Hungarian Vizsla. She is very eager to please and so will be happy to answer all your dog questions from her canine perspective.

Feel free to contact us with any ideas, suggestions, questions, updates or corrections.
Less rough, more ruff!

Dog Legging It: Dog Friendly Golf Courses in the UK

Rusty and Grace on the fairway

Golf is a good walk spoiled” – H S Scrivener

If aliens saw us walking our dogs and picking up their poop, who would they think is in charge? ” – Anonymous

Why would one want to spoil a walk further by having to cater to a barking, fouling, rampaging mutt? along for the round?

  • TIME – One of the biggest obstacles to golf is time commitment. Absconding from home for 4 hours often doesn’t ingratiate you to the rest of the family. If it means that you can’t help with the dog walking that day, then you are being even more delinquent. A decent dog walk takes an hour for most medium to large breeds. Instead of shirking this chore on golf days, you can actually give Fido a bonus walk. If the family pressures you about another morning on the greens, you have a family ally where you can plead “But Fido loves it so much!”
  • COMPANIONSHIP – We love our dogs. Especially when we are away at work and other commitments, spending time with them outdoors and in the sunshine is one of the very reasons we have them in the first place.
  • DOG CARE – It’s not nice leaving dogs alone in the house for extended periods of time. They have to cross their legs increasingly tighter, get hungrier past dinnertime and tempted into mischief. When we bring our dogs, we can travel further and stay longer (eg. for a drink, dinner, overnight) if we don’t have to worry about the dogs cooped up all day.
  • RETRIEVAL – Many dogs can and have been trained to locate balls in the rough. This saves the golfer time and lost balls. It also speeds the play to everyone’s benefit (searching for lost balls is one of the biggest causes of slow play).

There are about 2,630 golf courses in the UK (according to Wikipedia), but so far I’ve only uncovered just under a hundred that welcome dogs. I suspect there a quite a number that I haven’t ferreted out, but judging on my initial investigation it looks like the total proportion is about a few percent of the total. It does vary by region. Scotland, Cornwall and the Home Counties seem to have a higher proportion (one golf pro friend reckoned as many as 70% of Scottish courses are dog-friendly), but there are virtually none in Ireland.

Not everyone will be thrilled by the inclusion of your pooch in your group. It’s not just fussy conventionalists who don’t like any innovation or change, but many people with very legitimate concerns…

  • FEAR – More people than you would think have a downright phobia of dogs. Even the smaller “cute” ones.
  • ALLERGY – Many people are allergic to dogs and a links encounter could stir a sneezing attack or rash that they would certainly not appreciate during their round.
  • RELIGION – For Muslims, dogs are “unclean” which means if they come into contact with them, they have to go through a rather tedious and inconvenient cleansing.

Nonetheless, a wide range of golf clubs from public courses to the finest in the world embrace dogs with open arms. Sunningdale claims to be the “most dog friendly golf club in the UK” (see video link below). One course, Goodwood, has gone so far as to create a special membership, the “Kennels Dog Membership” just for dogs, with the proceeds going Battersea Dog Home. And the New Zealand Golf Club (in Surrey, not the South Pacific) tells me that “dogs are ‘mandatory’” with only a touch of kidding around (they go on to add “if you don’t have a dog, there are members who will be happy to rent you theirs for the day.”)

Some of the big golf magazines and websites have done articles on the topic of dogs on the course. Here are a few of the better ones I came across which highlight the UK as being a bit more dog-friendly in the golfing world:

  • GOLF DIGEST– “We Double Dog Dare You – Bringing your best friend to the course is the most fun you’ll ever have”: “In the United Kingdom, dogs are more likely to be allowed at old links courses with lots of common walking ground than at newer, inland operations. And not to delve into a subject as thorny as the British class system, but golf dogs tend to have a stronger tradition at clubs established by land-owning families for whom fox hunting was an important pastime. Golf was just something else to do in clever tweed when not busy training champions bred from royal bloodlines.”
  • GOLF ADVISOR– “Let the dogs out, already!”: “Very few public courses in the U.S. allow golfers to bring their dogs along, most likely a result of liability fears and the fact many courses aren’t all that walkable. Golf course superintendents, of course, have energetic sidekicks who chase geese and perform other duties. Courses in the U.K. are generally more welcoming to dogs, especially those historic links courses that double as public park space.”
  • ESPN – “Dogs welcome at Sunningdale

    The dogs get so much pleasure from an 18 hole walkIt’s so much fun playing golf with the dogs.” (thanks Nick Saunders).

Here are a few tips for being a responsible and considerate dog companion player.

  • UNDER CONTROL – Rule #1 is that the dog must be under control at all times. No yelling “Fenton, Fenton…<jc>, Fenton…” is a water fowl, rabbit or squirrel appears. If you are not completely sure about your dog’s biddability in the most tempting situations, then definitely keep them on leads. That said, half the courses require them on leads at all time anyway.
  • GREENS – Dogs are like trolleys…no dogs on the greens.
  • BUNKERS – No dogs in bunkers either.  If they do wander in, be sure to rake out their prints.
  • CLEAN UP – Sort of goes without saying, though some might be tempted by the outdoors context to let some “business” off to the side or out of bounds just remain there. But all it takes is someone seeing you not picking up after your dog from a distance to create the appearance of impropriety for the complaints to come in. Or worse, someone traipsing about looking for their ball to step in a mess to get the complaints to really flooding in.

This post is only talking about the courses. There are also specific rules for dogs in the club houses as well as in the lodging which is sometimes affiliated with the course. The club house restrictions are more manageable (if dogs can’t go in, you can eat at pub down the road), and frankly the lodging tends to be dog friendly anyway.

In the coming weeks, Dog Golf will explore the world of canine clubbing with tips direct from our own two links lassies (Rusty and Grace – see photo at top) as well as helpful interactive information to assist your next outing.

Rory McIlroy with dogs

A few Rory McIlroy fans on the fairway.