Cotswold Hills

Cotswold Hills 3

Welcome – Venturing a bit further afield with a personal invitation to Cotswold Hills from a longtime friend and member there, Andrew Pickup. He was intrigued to see Grace’s joy and energy on the course which convinced him to give dog golfing a go with his own cheery Labrador Bailey.

Water – No water hazards to sip along the course, but it does circle back to the clubhouse at the 9th if you need a refill (and a welcoming water bowl sit out on the clubhouse deck).

Walk – Top rate topology for the course walk which has a gently undulation about it providing just enough elevation for some lovely vistas while never feeling that you are summitting the Matterhorn to get to the next hole.

Wildlife – SQUIRREL! While the rough was low, the course is punctuated by plenty of copses which seem to attack as many of our shots as it did squirrels.

Wind Down – We enjoyed a refreshing brew on the clubhouse deck and then retired to The Beehive down the road for a more robust meal. Very tasty food, happy to have Grace and spacious enough dining area that she could settle comfortably into her bed.

Cotswold Hills 1

Cotswold Hills 2

Chiddingfold

Chiddingford dog fold 1

WelcomeChiddingfold is smart casual, fun where a well-behaved dog fits in just perfectly. The grounds are handsome and smart, but not overly fussy. The vibe is cheery and good-natured and everyone we bumped into had a kind word for Grace.

Walk – The course seduces you with a collection of gentle undulations with copious par 3 holes. Until right at the end when you are finally weary, and then it hits you with the first par 5 on hole 17 with a mountainous climb to get to the tee (but at least then you are just a final par 3 from being at the 19th hole for refreshment). The course has a higgledy-piggledy layout with fairways and pathways crossing over one another, but at least the course is superbly well marked. “Next Tee ->” signs after every hole and huge hole numbers on the teeing green so you can spot them from a distance.

Water – A half dozen reasonably sized water hazards as well as a modest stream crossing 9 and 11 which Grace seemed to prefer to the fresh water we packed and despite the fact that it was a bit of stretch for her reaching the water level from the elevated ground for a tasty gulp.

Wildlife – A few scampering squirrels is all.

Wind Down – The “Dirty Sixth” at the Winterton Arms might just be the best wind down pub we have come across in all our dog golfing. Perfect for us with its dog-friendliness. In fact, its booking system allows you to select for “dog friendly” tables when booking (which is helpful because many pubs now have dining sections where dogs are not allowed and we often have to call for our reservations to clarify that we have Grace in tow). Also, one of the first orders of business by the server was to offer Grace up a tasty dog biscuit. We found Winterton through the (semi-)trusty DoggiePubs.org.uk. I say “semi” because DoggiePubs isn’t really curating its crowdsourced information. I am increasingly finding that the majority of links and establishments are out-of-date (website missing, places closed, telephone numbers not working). But given the glowing review for Winterton and its proximity, I chased down its new website a booked a table. I’m glad I did. I was super intrigued by its description of being “an Asian smokehouse, the love child of a rebellious barbeque joint and offbeat oriental supermarket.” The mashup of something as homespun basic as BBQ with the air of the exotic raised my expectations. And Winteron simply exceed them. As someone who has sought out top American BBQ joints in the Southern USA, their Bao Bun Brisket nonetheless ranked right up their at the top of my favourite sandwiches. I also appreciate the attention aesthetic details that the establishment has taken as well as some great investments in the customer experience like a dramatic canopy enclosing the outdoor seating and an inviting play area to occupy kids.

Chiddingfold dog golf 2

Chiddingfold dog golf 3

Canine Classic Competitions

Canine Golf Competitions 1

Happy National Dog Day (in America). While North America does not actually support dogs on the golf course (except in a few rare clubs), their canine appreciation does, inspire a few special fundraiser competitions on the tournament calendar. Many of these are in aid of canine charities (and yet, still oddly don’t integrate the beneficiaries of their largesse into the day’s festivities). In fact, one charity Canine Companions Golf promotes such events and keeps a list of those on its website (as well as a number of “Putting for Pups” events).

So show your appreciation for your best friend by asking your club about allowing canine companions on your round (even if for a trial period during off-peak times), or at least join in a golfing event which at least supports better lives our puppy pals.

Canine Classic Competitions 2

2021 Hall of Fame Inductee–Dexter

Dog Golf Hall of Fame - Dexter

Dog Golf UK announces the 2021 Dog Golf Hall of Fame inductee – Dexter. 

Dexter the black lab is a pioneer of dog golfing whose exploits were an initial inspiration for Dog Golf UK.  When we were first looking for courses to take Rusty and Grace on to.  His person Lorne Smith is editor of the Fine Golf website and newsletter which is a rich source of information on golfing in the GB&I and was the one place I found with information on the dog protocols of various courses.  It also featured a number of pieces about golfing with your dog.

Dexter holds the world record for the highest number of different Courses Walked by a Dog – 83.  Dog Golf’s Grace is up to 72, but since we have golfed most of the dog friendly courses within an hour’s drive, and given the uncertainty about 2021 with the pandemic impact (as many courses are limiting visitors with so much pent up demand by members), and given that Grace is going on 13 years old (still healthy and vibrant but get more fatigued on the rounds), Dexter’s mark could stand for quite some time.

Dexter’s obituary a few years back documented his illustrious career.  A few excerpt highlights:

  • “In early days, taking him on the golf course formed part of his training to be patient and not ‘run-in’ on squirrels etc. He learnt to wait by the green while the golfers putted out and then moving on to the tee would be seated in the right place to the front off-side.  He was seldom interested in the golf game itself but when he saw Lorne coming down the stairs in the morning wearing his golfing plus twos Dexter would not leave his side until he was in the car and on their way in case he was left behind.  Hares are the most difficult game to stop a dog from chasing and when out at Royal West Norfolk GC, Dexter put one up near the second tee and belted across the seventeenth fairway, losing it in the salt-marsh. When it is almost de rigueur to have a dog with you at Brancaster and many dogs can be less well-behaved than Dexter, Lorne was not too worried as the players disturbed on the seventeenth fairway were not angry but enjoyed the spectacle of his embarrassment and were at least impressed by Dexter’s obedience to return on the whistle.”

I contacted Lorne about Dexter’s honour, and he shared these added reflections:

  • “I am honoured for the late Dexter to enter your lovely idea of a golf dog hall of fame. A lot of people still ask after him as he was always with me if dogs were allowed and there are lots of photos on the FineGolf course reviews with him sat in front of somewhere that I wanted to photograph.  He did become a bit of a star primarily because of how well behaved he was having been trained as a gundog with whom I competed in trials as well as working him picking-up.”

2021 Hall of Fame Dexter

2021 Hall of Fame

Golf Dogs of Instagram

A great source of “golf dogs” is the social media site of the moment, Instagram. Unfortunately, it is not as great a site for identifying dog-friendly courses. I explored Instagram, especially the #doggolf tag with 820 posts (for some reason #golfdog has 19,087 posts!).

Of course there was over half of the pictures with hashtag grenades that only vaguely has anything to do with “doggolf”. Some were just dogs on indoor putting matts or sitting on a golf club at home. But a good number showed a dog actually on a golf course – just over 100. A dozen or so posts that were not geotagged, I DMed the post to ask which course they were on. Only 2 people got back to me (and they clarified that dogs were no actually allowed on the course for one of the reasons below).

Nearly 90 were actually geotagged with the name of the course so I simply contacted all of those courses. About a quarter (22) of the courses got back to me. 6 confirmed that they were dog friendly (so I added them to the Worldwide Dog Golfing Map). The other 18 told me that they did not allow dogs. Which did beg the follow-up reply of “Why does this Instagram post have a picture of a dog on your course?”

These false alarms tend to fall into the following groups:

  • Staff – Especially grounds keepers bringing their dogs to work.
  • Working – Scaring birds and some assistance dogs
  • Dog Walkers – Photos taken “by” the course.
  • Unauthorised – A few snuck rounds
  • Poseurs – Just there for the photo

Let me know by email or in the comments if you know any other courses in the world that welcome dogs.

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