Army

Army 4

I don’t know what you’ve been told / But on dog golf we’ve been sold.
I don’t know what’s been said / But at Army Golf dogs love to tread.

Welcome – We didn’t see any of the dogs on the course, but none of the fellow golfers out that day seemed nonplussed by Grace’s presence. One of the biggest fears many have about dogs on the course is dreaded distraction (especially from an ill-timed bark). But Army is one of the noisiest courses we have played so I don’t think many people these are as concerned with noise. The 15th hole sits right next to the Farnborough Airport (see photo below) with a private jet surreally close giving it a bit of a crazy golf vibe. But in addition to regular jets flying past, there were a battery of helicopters hovering around and even a few drill sergeants barking their own commands nearby.

Walk – A very level battlefield which make the fairly long course (6550 yards) a manageable stroll.

Water – Halfway house at the 9th actually operating (we bought a Bakewell cake a cuppa while Grace enjoyed some water from the dog bowl left out). And the 16th finishes right by the clubhouse if you can’t quite squeeze in 18 holes with the dwindling daylight on a twilight round (those that offer is temporarily suspended at the moment). A water gully winds its way through the course flanking or crossing all but 4 holes. It was running and Grace was keen to get in it every time we arrived at it.

Wildlife – The usual commonplace woodland critters – squirrels, rabbits, crows, pigeons – plus a most unexpected memorial to another four-legged friend – equine veterans of the Boer War.

Wind Down – We ventured down the road to the nearby The Swan (found in Doggie Pubs). The evening was pleasant, but less so the outdoor seating which was all paved and nothing but less comfortable picnic tables. So we opted to sit at one of the many tables near the bar. One positive to the coronavirus precautions are that the tables in pubs are now set further apart from each other which provides more floor space for us to set Grace’s bed. The Swan included free dog biscuits in a jar on the bar and the server happily provided a bowl of fresh water for Grace. The food focuses on fancy burgers and recently added some Greek dishes as a special (I tried the pork which was different and tasty but not particularly distinctive, just pork belly and potatoes nicely spiced and cooked together in parchment). The highlight was the onion rings that had good sized onion and not too bready batter.

Army 3

Army 2

Aberdovey

Aberdovery 1

Dog Golf UK’s first guest post and a particularly notable one at that. A new friend of dog golfing, Adam Ruck (photo t bottom), who we met at Shrivenham Park by serendipity, Adam is one of the seminal chroniclers of dog golfing with a high profile piece he wrote for the Telegraph titled “Courses that Welcome Dogs”. We’ve shared a number of notes and he has very generously volunteered to provide a particularly delightful post of our first Welsh course covered:

When I learnt from this excellent site that Wales is among the least dog-friendly golfing corners of what for the moment, however inappropriately, we still call the United Kingdom, I felt an extra surge of pride in the lovely course – and excellent club – that have grown from a string of holes my great grandfather implanted at Aberdovey in the mid-1880s, using a set of nine flower pots acquired from Mrs Timber Jones. 

Aberdovey is a colourful little resort that sits with its toes in the sand on the sunny side of the Dovey estuary, half way up the coast of Cardigan Bay. A friendly green wall of hills shelters the village from cold winds. It was this mild climate and the poor health of a family member that brought my great great grandparents from their home near Machynlleth, all of 9 miles upstream, to winter quarters on the coast. Great grandfather brought his young family to reside with them for the 3 month duration of his winter leave from an army posting at Formby, where he had taken up golf.

He brought his clubs with him and, when the mood took him to spend less time with his family, carried them through the village to the open ground beyond the station, a strip of marshy ground between the railway line and a chain of mountainous dunes thrown up by the west wind and the Irish Sea.

Now drained, this gorgeous links boasts the finest greens in the Principality and bunker sand so soft you could fill an egg timer with it. As a playground it has given as much pleasure to our dogs as to me, and considerably less anguish. Admittedly, the round is beset with temptation in the form of the ever-present smell and sound of the sea, so close and yet out of bounds; not to mention the tantalising stream of dogs that cross our path on their way to the beach, pulling bearers of cricket bats, kites and surfboards in their wake.

My dogs are not alone in sensing and on occasion succumbing to the call of the sea. Only last month, on a warm Sunday evening when the course was empty but for an agonisingly slow four-ball in front of us, a friend and I stripped off beside the 12th green, ran down to the beach and into the waves. We soon caught up with the four-ball again, my friend in bare feet and I missing one sock, a seagull having made off with it. Aberdovey is a holiday course and looks kindly on such irregularities of turn-out; at least, in August it does.

Among the local friends and visiting relations with whom Arthur Ruck shared his sport on the common was his brother Richard, who became a much better golfer and took over as the prime mover of Aberdovey golf, designing the first 18 hole course and founding both the club and the Welsh Golfing Union. Another who caught the golf virus was Arthur’s close friend and brother in law Frank Darwin (son of Charles), who passed it on, along with a lifetime attachment to Aberdovey, to his son Bernard. This Darwin grew into a golfer of high quality and a writer of equal distinction, in fact the GOAT among golf writers and a rare sports journalist who took part in many of the events he was reporting on (several Amateur Championships and the 1922 Walker Cup in New York).

Bernard Darwin’s Aberdovey stories are many and colourful. Golfing antiquarians and the collectors who bring their hickories to Aberdovey for an annual match against the club all know the ‘mere schoolmaster’ who achieved the heroic feat of slicing his tee shot onto the railway at eight of the first nine holes (the layout of the course was a little different then). Then there’s Mrs Evans and her ‘biltong’ lunches …. and the caddie with Ovid in his pocket …. and the greenside bunker with its castellated rampart. My favourite is the nameless member who dug a trench across the fairway to commemorate his longest drive. I do hope he was an ancestor of mine.

But it is the story of Mrs Timber Jones that has brought immortality to my great grandfather. When I telephoned the secretary of nearby Royal St David’s to book a tee time recently, he asked if I would be bringing any flower pots with me.

At 6100 yards, Aberdovey is not a long course, and that is part of its charm. A proud moment in the club’s history is celebrated in an essay Darwin wrote for The Times in January 1933, entitled The Great Revulsion. After the great James Braid had been brought in to lengthen the course and sharpen its teeth in preparation for some important championship, the members rose up and voted to change it back again. A similar mistake was made a few years ago, when an ambitious incoming manager commissioned a new set of even-further-back tees. Monthly competitions were held, using the so-called ‘Darwin Tees’, but nobody entered. The tees are overgrown now, and not missed, unlike the cows that kept us company until the club reached deep into its pocket to pay off the local farmers. I miss them, anyway.

The layout might be described as an old-fashioned ‘out and back’, but it is not quite that simple: the course performs an 90 degree turn to the right through the opening holes as it swings around the point where estuary meets open sea, before following the beach north for a mile towards Towyn; and turns left on the way home. And there are zigs and zags where short holes cross the course. In his ‘A Round of Golf Courses’, Patric Dickinson likens it to ‘a badly tied bow tie, with the knot at the 3rd and 16th holes, like Scylla and Charybdis waiting to shipwreck golfers.’

The 3rd is the once-infamous Cader, a blind short hole with a sandhill to clear, named after southern Snowdonia’s presiding mountain. Seventy years ago, Dickinson could still call this hole a ‘hideous Caliban of a creature’ but since then Cader has seen its teeth blunted. The wind and the hacking of furious golfers have taken their toll on the mountainous dune. The cavernous waste bunker that devoured weak tee shots has become a grassy bank, and the green is now a generous crater.

The 16th, by contrast, hides nothing and has lost none of its charm. The railway’s curve, shaped like a perfect draw, intrudes on the direct line from tee to green. It makes a fascinating short par 4, tempting the tiger with the idea of an eagle, or better; while the voice of experience advises an iron shot to the fairway and a precise approach to the most complex of Aberdovey’s greens, ingeniously designed to repel.

Darwin selected the 16th as Aberdovey’s contribution to his cigarette-card ‘perfect round’ of favourite holes from around the country. Others might pick the short 12th with its raised green commanding an end to end view of Cardigan Bay, from Bardsey to St David’s. Now that Aberdovey has abandoned its high tees at 13 and 14 – more’s the pity – this is the only place on the course where the golfer can pause to look down on the sea, as described. If you find a stray white sock up there, it’s mine.

Enough of the course. Play it, enjoy, and marvel at the value of its modest green fee. Why not make a 27-hole day of it? Holes 1 to 5 and 15 to 18 make a terrific 9-hole loop; stronger, some would argue, than the full 18. Dogs are welcome except on competition days, and Aberdovey requests that they be kept on the lead. That might be advisable anyway, if yours is a water-loving dog or one that loves digging in the dunes and racing crazy circles on the beach (don’t they all?). Otherwise you may spend more time searching for a lost dog than trampling the rough for your ball.

19th hole. At the golf club, Gareth pulls an excellent pint of Gaslyn ale, brewed in Portmadoc by Purple Moose; dog bowl and water tap on the hard standing below. The kitchen does a nice line in toasties as well as more sophisticated fuel, and there are evocative old photos to admire, alongside cabinets full of silverware and my great grandfather’s clubs. Pole position in the village is the balcony of The Britannia’s Look-Out Bar. Look out for the brass of Birmingham, showing off its 4x4s and jetskis.

Dormy Houses. The golfer’s hotel and a time-honoured family favourite is The Trefeddian (www.trefwales.com), which looks down on the third and 16th greens and beyond them the shining ocean. Dogs are welcome here and at Yr Hen Stablau (www.selfcateringcottagewales.co.uk) a 3-bedroom cottage in the grounds at Pantlludw, the house near Machynlleth where Bernard Darwin spent summer holidays with his grandmother, practising his swing under the yew tree on rainy days.

Aberdovey 2

Aberdovey 3

Aberdovey 4

Dog Day

There are the dog days of summer, but today is THE Dog Day in summer. International Dog Day 2020 established to encourage adoption of dogs. One of our obviously favourite reason to adopt a dog is to join in your favourite activities. Our favourite is golf, but we’ve found a few others to share to mark this special day below. No dogs pushing soccer balls around the yard or dropping balls onto bowling pins, but actually joining their human in the sport. And we also found the lovely video piece above by Leon and his human Jay Revell (I have noted in his comments section that ideal dog protocol is to steer clear of the teeing and putting greens).

SURFING with your dog

VOLLEYBALL with your dog

RUNNING with your dog

Wimbledon Common

Wimbledon Common 1

Welcome – Another “commons” course, but this one nestled in a more urban setting – Wimbledon Common. The popularity of the area for city walkers means that there is nearly a 1:1 ratio between dogs and humans. So absolutely no self-consciousness about taking Grace on a round. And she made more friends than we did during the day.

Walk – A delightfully flat course making for lots of rolling bonus distance for well hit shots (especially in the dry conditions). The course doesn’t really have many bunkers, water hazards or dog legs. The obstacle of choice seems to be trees plopped right in between the tee and flag for you to skirt under, over or around.

Water – A few small streams and a modest water hazard on hole 9 but no real return to the clubhouse so set out with some full water bottles.

Wildlife – We’re back in the city now with distinctly urban winged creature pigeons and crows ruling the roost.

Wind Down – Instead of a doggie-friendly pub, a recommendation of a pub for dogs by a friend for our wind-down, but it was a ways away as we were visiting someone in the area while in town. But we did make note of the gastropub Fox and Grapes right around the corner from the clubhouse which is supposedly very dog friendly and you can take your dog to your table.

Wimbledon Common 2

Wimbledon Common 3

Bramley

Bramley 1

Welcome –Our welcome started with our “wind up” at the club house. Arriving considerably early for our appointed tee time in the toasty weather we decided to start our round with a refreshing drink at Bramley GC terrace with a lovely view of several fairways below. Several members took fond interest in Grace that she would have appreciated more had she not been so impatient to get walking.

Walk – I never quite appreciated that Surrey was particularly mountainous until our Bramley round. The entire course seems carved into the side of a cliff. A multidimensional maze that makes you feel like you were in the heart of St. Clements with all of the call-up bells being rung all around (by hitting with irons, of course, due to COVID19 protocol). But finding hole was nothing compared to finding some of the tees themselves. Yellow and reds were often far apart from each other (and not in line with the hole). On the 4th hole, the yellow tee is about 100 yards to the right of the red tees and a few dozen metres below them in elevation. Lots of comment between Lori and I saying, “There’s my tee, so where’s yours?”

Water – The course has water fountains at 6th and 9th hole (as well as a toilet at the 9th), but the fountains were all decommissioned due to COVID19 protocols. In the middle of the course – holes 7 through 13 – it seems like nothing but water hazards. I was relieved that most were flanking rather than impeding, and Grace was relieved for their easy access to cool her paws on the hot day and grab a drink.

Wildlife – The profusion of water features attracted the usual collection of water fowl (Canadian Geese, Egyptian Geese, Mallards) including 2 “Swans” set in the middle of the pond by the 16th and 18th that were Mannequin Challenge world champions.

Wind Down – Down the road was the lovely doggie pub, The Seahorse. A spacious garden which was perfect for the sultry summer’s eve. Unprompted, the host brought Grace a bowl of water which she welcomed as heartily a Lori and I did our distinctive cocktails (Pineapple Daiquiri for me and a Blood-Red Orange and Grapefruit Gintonica for Lori). With the crepuscular calefaction and the gimlet gratification felt just a touch transported to a tropical resort. All of the fare is a cut above typical pub grub (though maybe just short of gastro-pub quality), but it was all just bonus to the delicious drinks were savoring into the evening.

Bramley 2

Bramley 3

Bramley 4

Bramley 5

“Bledlow Ridge”

Bledlow Ridge

Welcome – Grace and we discovered an incredibly dog-friendly course with probably the most exclusive club membership in the UK right in our own neighbourhood – “Bledlow Ridge”. We had been invited to play a round at our much favoured Temple GC with a warm-up “round” (well, more a round of drinks than golfing) at our good friends Neil and Sarah. Their lovely country links included an admittedly small facility, but what it lacked in expansive playing field, it made up for in expansive views. And what it lacked in playing limitations, it made up for in fewer dog limitations as their high-tech playing surface meant that the dogs could wander freely wherever they wanted including the greens themselves. In addition to a new “course”, Grace met two new buddies, Baxter and Bailey. They weren’t quite ready for the big fairways, but they were literally right at home at Bledlow Ridge.

Walk – Ten metres from end to end, and completely flat, makes the walk by far the easiest in the UK.

Water – The “course” had dog bowls on ready offer (and stronger stuff for the golfer sthemselves).

Wind Down – Our follow up to the elite “Bledlow Ridge” (membership is strictly vetted) was a full round at Temple GC hosted by Neil (the founder and owner of Bledlow Ridge GC) who is a member there as well. We were quickly reminded of why we were so infatuated with Temple when we first played it at the outset of our dog golfing odyssey. The clubhouse and 18th hole might simply have one of the best course views in the UK. The dog friendliness is evident as we were greeted by a couple of canine companions at club deck when we arrived. The course is challenging enough (especially summiting some holes like the 17th) and interesting enough (plenty of twists and turns and the inimitable vortex of doom on the 10th). To top it all off, being out on the hottest day of the year, the club was sending around a cold drinks cart which kept us refreshed especially having quickly consumed our several bottles of water we had brought along.

Bledlow Ridge 1

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