I’m Only Thinking of Fido

One dividend of the lock-down has been a chance to invest a bit more time into finding dog-friendly courses in the UK. A big help has been the rise of social media. Now most courses have Facebook pages and they appear to be more responsive to Facebook messages than they were to emails when I conducted my initial research a few years ago (stay tuned for updates).

In the process of enquiring about course policies, I got the following answer:

  • As much as we love dogs unfortunately we cannot permit them at the course for their safety. It’s our club’s policy for the safety of players and their treasured pets. We wouldn’t wish to risk a dog to come loose and get hit by a golf cart or a car, or get lost on the course.”

If a golf club does not want to have dogs on their course, then that is their prerogative. But I do object to this faux-righteous justification that it is for the sake of the dogs.

There is zero evidence that dogs on golf courses represent any substantive dangers above and beyond just being dog. And the standard policies of having a dog “under control” or “on a lead” dramatically reduces the risk any dog faces to any hazard (golf related or not).

Dogs have been an integral part of the golfing since its beginning. The oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the world are also the most dog-friendly – eg. St. Andrews, Sunningdale, Wentworth, Muirfield, Turnberry. In the UK, over 500 courses welcome dogs and yet there are virtually no cases of dogs being seriously hurt by their presence.

If you Google “dog hit by golf ball”, you come up with 2 instances – one in Winnipeg, Canada in 1926, and one questionable account (very few details and unsubstantiated in any other reports) in Rossendale in 2010. In both cases, the dogs were running freely and out of control so the obvious safety measure would be to insist on control or a lead which all courses who allow dogs do.

The bizarre extremity of the course’s excuse reminded me of the song from the musical “Man of La Mancha” called “I’m Only Thinking of Him”. Two relatives embarrassed by Don Quixote’s behavior seek to get him committed to an insane asylum to alleviate their discomfort:

But or what he’s done to me
I would like to take and lock him up
And throw away the key!
But if I do… but if I do
There is one thing
That I swear will still be true
I’m only thinking of him.

Feel free to abandon the tradition of golfing with dogs  (as old as the sport itself), but don’t blame it on the dogs or credit yourself as caring for the dogs’ welfare.

 

Chobham

Chobham dog golf 1

WelcomeChobham gave us a delightfully warm welcome and noted that quite a number of members bring their dogs around for rounds. That is more than we can say for the first course we tried to golf at that day – Pine Ridge. We arrived and double checked on the dog protocol and they responded, “No, we don’t allow dogs”. Now actually, I had Pine Ridge’s dog (friendly) protocol down verbatim in more detail than just about any other club from when I called them some months ago – “We do allow dogs to walk around the course with the players however your dog would need to be on a lead. If your dog barks excessively we would ask you to take your dog off the course. No water on course.” That’s not something you make up or accidentally jot down. Fortunately, we were able to pull up DogGolf.info on the phone and find Chobham just down the road. But the incident did raise a few caveats.

  1. 1. DogGolf.info isn’t perfect – I try to research and update all the information, but mistakes can get made (not least of which by the club itself, in fact the golf pro implied that a previous employee might have been misinformed).
  2. 2. Always double check – Protocols and be fluid and change over time. Or the club might have special rules on the for the day due to and event or some other reason (we had tried to call Pine Ridge several times, but their phone system was on the fritz so part of our problem was getting hit by the double whammy of faulty info combined with inability to double check as we usually do).

Walk – Chobham GC is a remarkably picturesque course with dimension and variety in the landscape without alpine peaks to climb, and enough trees for shade without threading the needle through leafy couloirs.

Water – Water, water everywhere…and plenty of drops to drink. In fact, perhaps the most watery hole in the entire UK (at least the most of the many dog-friendly courses we have played) is at the 6th hole. There you will find an accessible lake (a nice graduated bank the dogs and walk down to get a drink), a toilet building (with a sink for refilling water bottles) AND a water fountain outside. A regular Minnesota of golf courses with its land ‘o lakes – 5 to be exact. Not pokey little water hazards, but proper, expansive ponds. Despite the scorching UK heat wave, these bodies of water were still ample and the dogs had a great opportunity to refresh along the course.

Wildlife – Like the oases in the desert and the water holes on the savannah, where there’s water, there’s wildlife. And Chobham was more a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom than just about any course we have seen. The standard line-up of woodland creatures, ie. squirrels, rabbits, but also a teeming range of water fowl, ie. big gaggle of geese marching across the 4th fairway, moor hens, blue heron. It was a good thing that the course had a lead required policy because I think even Rusty and Grace’s biddability would have been challenged.

Wind Down – Too late for dinner service, but too parched to carry on home without a stop at our own water hole so down the road to a Doggie Pub recommendation, The Crown. A fenced in area at the front, a beer garden out back, and a welcome to dogs in the pub. A malamute puppy (and a big as Grace and Rusty combined) who is a regular greeted the girls with enthusiasm, but the girls were a bit less impressed.

Chobham dog golf 2

Postcards From the Edge of the Green

Dog golf postcard 3

(especially as dogs should be kept off the green)

A bit of a hiatus for some overseas holidays (where the dogs can’t join us and there is actually not hardly any golf). But I thought I would send a postcard (or postcards) nonetheless to our readers. Some vintage cards depicting dog golf in various guises.

Dog golfing originates from the earliest days of the sport when it was a gentlemen’s pursuit. Well-heeled gentry would hunt in the winter and golf in the summer. Or in other words, shoot birds in the winter and shoot birdies in the summer. So it was quite common for a golfer to take his trusty hounds, who had served him so well in shooting season, when he had a sunny outing on the course. I recently saw some fun vintage golfing postcards displayed at St. Enodoc and wondered if any such prints had been done which included dogs. The ones I uncovered are shared here.

Dog golf postcard 1

Dog golf postcard 4

Dog golf postcard 2

West Park

West Park 2

Welcome – You arrive at a little non-descript shack on the outskirts (the western outskirts I suspect) of town for the West Park Golf Centre. The attendant was very happy to have Rusty and Grace along with us. West Park is not your typical golf course or club (they do call it a “centre”). It is a classic “pitch and putt”. Almost a bit like crazy golf (“mini-golf” for you northern Americans or “putt-putt” for you southern Americans) with a pitching iron added. Many might dismiss such a small scale operation, but there are many reasons to include West Park on your dog golfing circuit:

1. Relaxed – While the course is a bit untidy in places and is coupled with “foot golf” (which a few folks were playing while we were there), it does mean that there is an extremely relaxed vibe about the facility. This atmosphere can be very welcome especially to newer dog golfers or dog golfers who are particularly sensitive to the possibility of other golfers being put off by have the dogs on the course.

2. Shaded – On particularly bright days, you (and your canine caddy) might prefer a bit of shade in which case West Park has more of it than any course I have played. It is virtually blanketed with a dense canopy of foliage.

3. Challenging – All of the “fairways” are claustrophobically hemmed in on either side by thick rows of full foliage trees. A bonus “dividend” (glass half full) is that it makes these simple, little holes extremely challenging in their own right especially when it comes to any slice or draw (check out Hole 14 in the photo below which is a real needle-threading exercise).

4. Pitch/Chip Practice – When you watch a top pro golf tournament, you quickly realise that there are two ways to get a birdie – a heroic put over 5 feet from the hole, or a pitch/chip that lands within 5 feet of the hole. When the pros drive, they pretty much all drive the same distance and mostly land in the center of the fairway. In recent years, the big swinging tee shots have gone out of favour for many as the risk of inaccuracy (setting up the critical approach shot) isn’t worth the extra few yards closer to the hole. There are plenty of places to (a) practice your driving at ranges, and (b) practice your putting on putting greens. But it is harder to find places to focus on your pitch and chip game.

5. Short – Sometimes a short walk is all you or your dog have the time or energy for. That was the case with us as we had played Southwold earlier in the afternoon and had to think about heading home.

6. Value – At £7.50, it is the cheapest “18” hole dog golfing course in the database.

Wildlife – Maybe because the course is pretty close to the centre of a good sized town (Chelmsford), we didn’t see that much distracting wildlife scurrying about.

Walk – At a mere snip of 1403 yards in total for 18 holes (average of 78 yards with a longest hole of 102 yards and a shortest of 55 yards), it is a fraction of the length of conventional courses. If your dog (or you) has only the stamina or time for a short outing, this course is a great option.

Water – No water on the course, but given its small size and its windy layout, you are never more than a few minutes walk from the clubhouse if you needed a drink.

Wind Down – We concluded our dog golf weekend tour with a dinner at the White Hart just a mile down the road. The food was great (especially the Sunday roast with tons of gravy and huge Yorkshire puddings). Curiously, they had a rather strange live music act singing “get this party started” style pop songs more suited to a Friday night with your mates than a Sunday roast with your nan (especially as they had the volume cranked up pretty high). Grace and Rusty didn’t seem to mind and settled in comfortably on their blanket beside our table.

West Park 1

Southwold

Southwold 4

Our road trip to the east coast of England took us to unsung seaside gem of Soutwold. We’d heard all about iconic spots like Brighton and Blackpool, but have never heard of Southwold. It is sort of a caricature of every quaint aspect of British beachfront charm – lighthouse, pier (complete with hyperbolic barker taglines like “the best collection of homemade picture shows in the known universe“), top brewery (Adnams), and a gorgeous necklace of colourful beach huts. A just behind the main seafront is a bonus waterfront of the inlet to the River Blyth where the Southwold Golf Club is nestled.

Walk – The Southwold GC is so picturesque that I found myself taking a snap shot around every other hole (so several to share in this post). It’s a scrub marshland so very few trees providing any shade. So on the sunny days bring…

Water – There are no water hazards and if there were any, they would be brackish being in the middle of coastal marshland.

Wildlife – The wildlife naturally includes a few squawky sea gulls, but that’s about it.

Welcome – The course is very dog friendly including, our favourite, an off-lead (under control) policy.  The course sits on common land so the public do walk the course with their dogs and we came across several during our round.  There is even a bin for poo-bags by Hole 2.

Wind Down – We ventured to a Doggie Café – Habour Inn – instead of a “Doggie Pub” this outing on the recommendation of our Doggie AirBNB (If you are staying anywhere in the area, I can highly recommend Alice’s Reydon room just a couple miles down the road. She not only welcomed the dogs, but offered to look after them when we went out for the evening!). Don’t be put off by the countless signs on the approach road and the drive in the harbor itself which say “No parking beyond this point”. The Harbour Inn has customer parking right in front of it. As you drive down the gravel lane along the docks you do wonder if you are heading into oblivion, but the Harbour Inn is right the way down almost to the end. You will be rewarded with a delightful meal with even more picturesque views looking out over the boat yard and inlet.

Southwold 2

Southwold 3

Southwold 1

Diss

Diss 2

Road trip time! Some friends invited us to a dance event on the Suffolk coast so we thought that we would load up the car with club and pups, and try a few dog golf courses on the east side of the country. First stop, Diss Golf Club.

Walk – Unfortunately the road trip didn’t quite stop when we started golfing. The course is surrounded by a number of roads. And they are quite busy so you hear the buzz and rumble of traffic through most of your round. While the course has an off-lead under-control policy, we found ourselves keeping the dogs on a lead for most of the course for fear of them wandering into one of the roads flanking the course. In the front 9, only holes 3 and 6 were significantly far from roads that we felt they could stretch their legs a bit off lead.

Water – No real water on the course. No water hazards or spigots. The 8th hole is relatively close to the clubhouse so you could duck in there for some water in a pinch. The entire course is very open with little shade cover. So be sure to pack plenty of water for the dogs on sunny days (and some sun cream for yourself wouldn’t go amiss)

Wildlife – Lots of rabbits all safely sequestered in the thickets. Most of Rusty and Grace’s off lead time was spent intently sniffing these thorny hedges.

Welcome – A number of other dog walkers did pass by on the course and every golf we encountered seemed delighted to meet Rusty and Grace.

Wind Down – Having to rush off to our dance event, we didn’t get a chance to stop by a local watering hole or “doggie pub” so you will just have to check out DoggiePubs.org.uk to find a post play pit-stop.

Diss 1

The Hole 9 green is like a giant, earthen, carnival ping-pong toss. The green is in the distance with the flag just poking out from its crater. Even Rust ad Grace seem bemused by this topological curiosity.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park 1

Fenton! Fenton! Fenton!! Fenton! Fenton! Fenton! Jesus Christ. Fenton!”

Some friends in London invited us to join them for a meal on a lovely summer’s evening and so we thought we would combine the trek into town with a stop at one of the city’s own dog-friendly courses, Richmond Park.

Wildlife: The first concern was the wildlife given Richmond Park’s YouTube infamy for an uncontrolled dog – Fenton – chasing a herd of deer that live there. We tend to favour off-lead courses as our dogs are very biddable and prefer and bit of wandering freedom, but given the Fenton fame, we thought that the on-lead protocol was probably a good thing. That said, we didn’t see any deer on our round. We did see plenty of geese. From the ornamental pond by the clubhouse to the little water hazard on the 10th hole. You also pass through an extended (100+ metres) wooded section to get to the 2nd hole of the Princes Course which has plenty of distracting squirrels, but most of the course is wide open and not much other wildlife to contend with.

Welcome: We asked about the popularity of golfing with dogs there and the attendant said that “quite a few” golfers did bring their pooches, but we didn’t encounter any on our round. We did encounter lots of fellow golfers who we very enchanted by Rusty and Grace. Being a sunny Saturday, the course was quite packed with lots of bunching up and a bit of waiting at the tees. Eventually, we paired up with another two-some, a couple of very fine young gentlemen, to move more smoothly. They hit the rough a few times and we set Grace off to find his ball. They were quite impressed when Grace successfully found it buried in some deep grass.

Walk: The course is one of the flattest that we have played and a little on the short side just over 5k. There are enough trees on the course to enhance the vista aesthetically, but not really that many. As much as we appreciated the open fairways with fewer arboreal obstacles, it did mean that only about every other hole had a shaded place for the dogs to sit while we putted.

Water: Richmond Park is a bit of a parched desert when it comes to water so bring a healthy stock of water especially on the hot days. Hole 9 finishes at about the furthest point from the club house, there are no water spigots and pretty limited water features. There is the one, small stagnant pond mentioned above and a few streamlets, but they are all quite brackish and even panting Grace wasn’t interested in a sip from them.

Wind Down: We finished a bit too late to go to one of our favourite dog-friendly eatieries in town, the Petersham Nurseries in Richmond Park. And, our friends who had precipitated our urban venture were staying a bit more centrally. So we reverted to our old stand-by resource of DoggiePubs.Org.uk looking for a 5-star rated dog-friendly pub near them by Regents Park. The best option was a place called The Albany. Unfortunately, a bit of a hazard with dog-friendly city pubs is busy buzz. The most dog-friendly establishments are the most relaxed ones who seem to attract and inspire a more boisterous crowd. Also, most inner city places don’t have the real estate for a beer garden and all the al fresco tables are on the sidewalk next to the (often busy) street). It was a bit too much for us to hear ourselves talk much less let the pups settle. The proprietors were helpful to provide some alternative suggestions just around the corner on Warren Street. After checking out a few that didn’t offer food, we stumbled upon Little Nan’s Bar. The menu looked fine enough and the outdoor seating had some space between the tables and the front of the building so the puppies could be away from the street. But actually, the best part about it was that hardly any cars passed by Warren Street that time of day so we could eat al fresco quite comfortably without the rush and road of vehicles. Little Nan’s offers pretty basic fare, but itself is a particularly quirky and colourful place.

 

Richmond Park 2

Tees the Season

Tees the Season 1

We always craft our own family holiday greetings and this year it seemed appropriate to highlight Dog Golf which has been one of the big, new aspects of our lives. To illustrate it, we were fortunate enough to capture these photos of a long suspected culprit keeping our shots out of the hole. Happy Holidays dog golfers!

Tees the Season 2

Canine Christmas Cadeaux Caddie

Dog golf bag

    Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Advent have all arrived kicking off the holiday shopping season. To help out its fellow dog golfing caddies, Dog Golf UK presents its gift list for all those dog golfing loved ones out there. Happy Holidays!
  1. Golf Bag Cover [ABOVE]
  2. Head Covers
    Dog golf head cover
       
  3. Markers
    Dog golf markers
       
  4. T- Shirts
    Dog golf tshirt
      
  5. Dog Golf Shirts
    Dog golf shirt
       
  6. Dog-Friendly Golf Cart – It does seem to defeat the entire benefit of walking the dog, but there are lots of scenarios. For example, puppies who shouldn’t walk long distances yet, injured dogs gutted to miss out on being taken along, older dogs who have been dog-golfing for years but are less able to make the full 18 over time…
    Dog golf dog-friendly cart