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!
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!
- Golf Bag Cover [ABOVE]
- Head Covers –
- T- Shirts
- Dog Golf Shirts
- 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…
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…
- “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
- “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
- “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.
- “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
- “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
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)
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 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.
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).
Welcome: We are travelling a bit further afield to find courses where leads are not required as Rusty and Grace like to stretch their legs a bit. While Surrey’s Merrist Wood does allow off-lead, they are very keen on keeping dogs “under control”. They reiterated that concern a couple of times and they have a marshal that patrols the grounds (he passed us twice) to ensure that everyone is keeping to the club protocols. We always start Rusty and Grace on lead for the first couple holes to get them oriented, settled down and to burn a bit of energy. We kept them on lead a bit longer this time not just because of concern about tight control, but also there is quite a bit a wildlife which was all too tempting – a big flock of Egyptian geese, plenty of pheasants and of course the ubiquitous rabbits.
Walk: Probably the flattest course we have played in the UK. Only a few minor hillocks to climb. But it what it lacks in elevation is makes up for in sheer distance at nearly 7,000 yards. The hazards do rise above the ground, but rather sink deeply into it. Merrist Wood has 80 sand bunkers (yes, I counted). That’s more bunkers than par. Many of them with quite steep exits.
Water: All that sand doesn’t mean that Merrist Wood is a desert. There’s plenty of water for the dogs. But you can have too much of a good thing. Water hazards are generally a good thing for the dogs. A chance for a drink (see photo below) and they always enjoy exploring the reeds which directs their curiosity away from the course and other golfers. Rusty and Grace might have gotten their fill of drinking and cooling off a bit, but it did impose a few extra challenges for Lori’s and my precision (and we did lose a few balls into the drink). 14 of the 18 holes have water hazards including 5 holes with lakes (Hole 17 is 100 metres across directly in front of the green).
Wind Down: We are finding out that a bit of advance research is required for finding an accompanying doggie pub after our rounds. We like to golf late on a Sunday when the courses are less crowded (so fewer people to be bothered by having dogs around). But that means finishing around sunset between 7 and 8. Well, lots of pub kitchens close at 7:00 pm on a Sunday. So finding a pub that (a) is dog friendly, (b) has a kitchen open to 8:00 or later, and (c) is close to the course can be a bit of a confining filter. Fortunately, Ye Old Ship Inn in Guildford ticked the boxes and we had a lovely meal. Their main event is their homemade pizzas baked in their brick oven which are as good as you will find anywhere (and Grace loves the pizza crusts). Lori opted for the lasagna which was a sizeable serving, very juicy (I hate dry lasagna), cheesy (I love cheesy lasagna) and meaty. The pub has lots of casual table spread around and the dogs are welcome everywhere so you don’t have to be confined to a limited area (some pubs have a couple tables by the bar or outside where dogs are welcome, but the bulk of their dining area tables are off limits to pups).