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

Dog Gone Rules

No Dogs Allowed

As the stats show, the strong majority of golf courses don’t allow dogs. Some have specific rules against them. Others have never really considered the issues, but when asked responded ‘no’.

The objections to dogs tend to fall into one of four main areas…

  • Wildlife Safety – especially areas where livestock or other populations of animals are very nearby
  • Sanitation – people not cleaning up messes
  • Dog Safety – dogs getting hit by balls
  • Disturbing Players – a few mistimed barks

I did occasionally hear the “slippery slope” fallacy (which is a variation of the “strawman fallacy”), ie. if ‘we had dogs all over the place it would be mayhem…’ Well, even if you become dog-friendly, it is doubtful that you will have ‘dogs all over the place’. Hundreds of courses in the UK allow dogs, but none of them have ‘dogs all over the place’.

For the sake of equal time and balanced perspective, here is a pretty comprehensive catalogue of all of the reasons provided to DogGolf.info’s survery as to why certain clubs have opted to excluded canine caddies from their courses…

General

  • You could end up with quite a few dogs on the course, barking as playing golf shot, distracting people you’re playing with, possibly going to the toilet, it would have to be on a lead and you need something to attach the lead to whilst playing a shot. H&S, stray golf balls – protect yourself and dog…? I have occasionally thought it would be useful to be able to walk the dog at the same time but players want to concentrate on their golf, not be distracted by a dog.” – Rawdon Golf and Lawn Tennis Club
  • There are various reasons such as: Dogs biting/barking at golfers. Dogs urinating/scraping on greens/course. Golfers having allergic reactions. Dog injuring itself or others on the golf course. Kids/Adults afraid of dogs. Dog lifting another players’ ball. Interfering with course maintenance schedule.” – Down Royal Park Golf Course.
  • We are constantly in a running battle with dog walkers who seem to think the course is a public space rather than private property so we could not condone players bringing dogs.” – Brookdale Golf Club

Dog Safety

  • We have a huge problem with dog walkers on the course as we have a public footpath running through the course. Trying to get non-golfing dog walkers to stick to the public path and not wander across the course endangering themselves and their dogs is a really big struggle for us. Whilst we are dog lovers and look after dogs for friends, we feel that it sends the wrong message to therefore allow golfers to bring dogs onto the course.” – Barlborough Links Golf Cub
  • We don’t allow dogs for health and safety reasons.” – Three Locks Golf Club
  • For health and safety reasons we advise dogs not to be on the course when playing.” – Abbey View Golf Facility
  • Not safe for the dog with golf balls flying about.” – Hirst Priory Golf Club
  • Health and safety issues includes the safety of your dog, for example, being hit by other people’s golf balls, and our insurance doesn’t cover any potential issues caused by dogs on the course.” – Gloucester Golf Club
  • We try not to encourage golfers taking their dogs onto the course just as this may put other golfers off their game.” – Nairn Dunbar Golf Club
  • We do not encourage it as we have a lot of rounds played and if everyone came with a dog there would be mayhem. We have a number of footpaths which cross our golf course and not all owners decide to behave in a sensible way.” – Gaudet Luce Golf Club
  • We do not allow dogs on the course, for the safety of the dog and also for the players.” – Nelson Golf Club

Sanitation

  • Unfortunately we do not allow dogs on the Golf Course due to the health impacts it could have if they foul or urinate on the playing areas.” – Westonbirt Golf Club, Gloucestershire
  • Unfortunately due to past incidents we no longer allow dogs to accompany golfers. Poorly behaved dogs and excrement. It only takes one to spoil it for everybody.” – Folke Golf Centre
  • One or two people have unfortunately have let their dogs foul on the course spoiling it for everyone leading to a ban.” – Barnsley Golf Club
  • Certain people in the past had let their dogs foul the course and run about off their leads” – Kilmacolm Golf Club
  • Unfortunately due to problems in the past with dogs fouling we no longer allow dogs on the course.” – Whiting Bay Golf Club.

Wildlife

  • Blackwood is a wild life sanctuary and therefore dogs are not allowed on the course.” – Blackwood Golf Club
  • I am afraid that we do not allow dogs on the course as we have a lot of wildlife which would be disturbed.” – La Grand Mare
  • Dogs are not allowed on the course due the resident families of deer that live on our course.” – Bishopbriggs Golf Club
  • We do not permit dogs on the course. We are on a deer park, so it could present problems.” – Belton Park Golf Club
  • The course is situated on a private estate where there is a lot of wildlife roaming about, so not conducive to dogs.” – Dundas Park
  • Dogs are not allowed on the course; the course is privately-owned and the owners do not want dogs on the land, due to the immediately-neighbouring farms and animals.” – Faversham Golf Club

Disturbing Players

  • There had been a few complaints on and off about behavior on the course over a short period. There was then a quite a bad one when a dog got free and went off barking and scaring players.” – Clacton Golf Club
  • Barking, digging, fouling, chasing squirrels, picking up golf balls, general distraction…And that’s just what my border terrier would do if I took her out golfing.” – Shandon Park golf Club.
  • As Ravelston is a tight, compact course we do not allow dogs to accompany players.” – Ravelston Golf Club

The Most Dog-Friendly Golfing in the UK

Dog-friendly golfing in the UK

Dog-friendliness lies at the extremes of the UK’s geography and socio-economic landscape. The most dog friendly clubs in the land are found in the extreme north of Scotland or the extreme south of the south coast. Similarly, they are found in the most posh, most elite clubs or conversely the least expensive, casual rock-up 9-hole courses on common land. The more to the middle of the price range or the land mass, the less dog-friendly the courses become.

I asked all 2633 courses in the UK “Are dogs allowed to accompany players on the course?”

384 of UK’s 2633 (15%) golf courses allow dogs in some capacity.

Here are the headliner stats on dog-friendliness in the United Kingdom…

  • Most Dog-Friendly Areas – Scotland, South Coast and Greater London all have a dog-friendly rate of around 22%
  • Most Dog-Friendly Counties – Suffolk (36%), Highlands (32%), Cornwall (32%)
  • Most Dog-Friendly Cities – Edinburgh (6 courses), Woking (4 courses) followed by Cambridge, Saint Andrews, Brighton, Bournemouth, Ashford, Alton, Guildford all with 3.
  • Least Dog-Friendly Areas – North Ireland (4%), North England (7%), Wales (10%)
  • Least Dog-Friendly Counties – A number of counties don’t have any (identified as yet). Counties Leicestershire, Cheshire and Warwickshire all have a single dog-friendly course putting them in the low single digits.
  • Most Lead-Optional (Under Control) Counties – Kent (12 courses), Surrey (10), Suffolk (8)

Dog Friendly Golf Courses UK heat map

Golfing with dogs not just more prevalent at the geographical extremes, but also the economic extremes. The most prestigious and expensive clubs welcome dogs and so do the most basic inexpensive parkland 9-hole par-3 courses. The exclusive clubs that welcome dogs include Wentworth, Sunningdale, The Berkshire, St. Andrews, Muirfield, Turnberry, Swinley Forest and Loch Lomond. Their legacy stems from decades ago when gentlemen members would often go hunting in winter months, but want to do something with the dogs in the summertime. And the lower end courses tend to be more relaxed about all policies and often have open-access covenants so dog-walkers are on the courses regularly any way.

A couple of the most dog friendly courses include the following…

  • Sunningdale Golf Club – The clubhouse restaurant has a special menu for the dogs dining there.
  • Goodwood Golf Club – The club has a special “Kennels Dog Membership” for dogs (the proceeds of which go to benefit the charity “Hounds for Heroes”) with special benefits of special treats, ‘clean up’ bags, walk maps and a personalised dog bowl kept at the club.

In the process of doing the research, I also uncovered some other curiosities about UK golf in general…

  • Response Rate – Despite making direct and personal contact through whatever means directed by their website (contact form, email, telephone), the response rate to my simple question was 45%. If this was a general survey, that would be a great response rate. But as a potential visitor/member asking a specific question, more than half of the UK golf courses can be bothered to respond.
  • Percent No Contact – I’m not sure what is worse…not responding or not providing any way for a member/visitor to contact you. 51 courses (2%) provided no contact details whatsoever (or the advertised website was down, email bounced or telephone disconnected).
  • Percent Closed – The list of courses pulled from Wikipedia is not a definitive list and not sure how well it is maintained, but I was still surprised to find 116 courses (5%) permanently closed.

The wording of the dog policies varies tremendously. Some are quite simple (“Dogs are allowed under control”), but some are a bit more fun…

  • Dogs are welcome! As long as they wear proper golf shoes.” – Langlands Golf Club
  • 2 rules – Clear up after them and they are not allowed to steal other players balls!!” – Machrie Bay
  • Dogs are mandatory. If you don’t have one, you can probably hire one from one of the other members” – New Zealand Golf Club

Waterstock

Waterstock 1

Waterstock Golf Club might not put the stock in the water, but it certainly does put the legs in the dog legs. Five of the holes have some sort of dog-leg and holes 4 and 10 are virtually perpendicular.

The course is a power-hitters paradise. Five 500 yard par 5s, but at least the fairways are broad and open providing a bit of leeway so you can let rip a bit. Ladies tees are a quite generous amount forward (often over 50 yards and whopping 93 yards on hole 12)

Welcome: The pro shop manager was very amiable when we mentioned our dogs. He said that 8-20 members bring their dogs. He said that one member comes every Thursday with his dog, the dog picks a ball out of the lake-balls basket in the shop at the start of the round, carries it around with him during the entire round and then deposits it back in the basket at the end of the round. He also told an amusing tale of playing a links course (Scotland is notoriously dog-friendly in golf) when he saw out of the corner of his eye a trolley scudding along the fairway being pulled by a dog attached to it like some sort of Alaskan sled dog who had obviously gotten inspired for a bit of a run despite his owner’s attempt at anchoring his lead.

Walk: Like most of the courses on the Oxford Plain, hills are the least of your worries with hardly an incline to tackle. It was a fairly conventional 6500 yards, but its openness makes it seem bigger.

Water: Its name notwithstanding, there is not actually any water on the course. No spigots and no water hazards (though there is a little lake between the driving range and Hole10, you never come close to it). Fortunately, the bar manager was very gracious and brought out fresh cold water from the bar when we made our pit stop there after the 9th hole.

Wind Down: With the days getting shorter, we were fighting daylight a bit. But at least we were blessed with a lovely moon rise over our last few holes. Instead of the caricature of howling, Rusty and Grace decided that was their cue for a bit of a lie down on the penultimate hole (see photo below). We packed up and went over to The James Figg in Thame (about 4 miles from the course). Some of the tastier food we have had at a dog-friendly pub (I had the pulled pork sandwich and Lori the chicken Caesar salad). But they do put the “friendly” into dog-friendly. We arrived a smidgeon past the 8:30 pm kitchen closing, but the manager went back to re-open it for us. Dogs are welcome in the entire pub (dining tables and bar area including an outdoor seating area out back) and just about all the patrons made a fuss over Rusty and Grace to their delight.

  

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Chorleywood

Chorleywood 1

Welcome: Chorleywood is one of the doggiest golf courses we have been to. There was almost a 1:2 ratio of dogs to people. Actually, we were the only dog golfers, but the course is on public land at Chorleywood Common which is a hugely popular dog walking area. The dogs were off lead all over the place. But it wasn’t mayhem. The golfers looked out for the dogs and their walkers, and the walkers looked out for the golfers. And everyone must be very responsible as I didn’t spot a single dropping anywhere (also the park has two dog poo-bag bins at the entrance car park). Rusty and Grace even made a new friend, Tia (see photo at bottom).

Walk: A very flat course making for a leisurely walk. Due to being on public land, the course is not allowed to put up a bunch of directional signs, but the scorecards include a course map with red arrows pointing to the exit for each hole.

Water: No real water hazards on the course aside from a dried up pond on the 1st hole (and the dogs weren’t thirsty at that point).

Chorleywood is a truly relaxed course. People are chill about the dogs. The walk is easy. There are no sand bunkers and only the one small “water” hazard. The putting greens are flat with low fringe. The par is a modest 68.

Wind Down: For post-puppy round dinner, we went to a very nearby doggie pub nearly as “doggy” as the course was – The Black Horse. Appropriately situated on “Dog Kennel Lane”. There were a similar ratio of dogs to patrons there and the dogs were welcome throughout the establishment (at the bar or at the table seating toward the back). A basket of dog treats is prominently displayed on a shelf by the bar. They do ask that the dogs be kept on a lead (which is not much of a problem since they were just curled up by our table on the floor). The food is hearty and tasty with a pretty extensive menu. I struggled to finish my Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff (because the serving was so big), but that didn’t stop us from going for the Treacle Sponge with extra Custard (yum).

Chorleywood 2

Chorleywood 3