Golfen Met Hond

Lady dogs 1

Today DogGolf.info features an exclusive piece by international dog golfing advocate in the Netherlands, Linda Van Borssum. I stumbled upon her Facebook page “Golfen Met Hond”. It included lots of lovely posts about her fairway adventures with her two pups as well as great references to other dog friendly courses on the continent and even several shout outs to DogGolf.info. She kindly shared her dog golfing story with us:

I have been playing golf for a while. Mostly 9 holes because I have 2 dogs and I don’t want to leave them at home alone for too long.

Then one day…..

I saw an advertisement of The Dunes; a golf course in Zandvoort, the Netherlands. They were organizing a golf fair and invited people to join. So I asked my golfing friend and her husband in the Facebook comments where the event was being advertised:

  • Me: “Hey Simone, this looks nice, shall we go?
  • Simone: “I think that would be fun. But what about the dogs?” (we both have dogs and Zandvoort is a 4 hour drive for us).
  • Nigel (owner of the Dunes)“Just take the dogs with you!
  • Me: “No way, is that possible? I have never seen a dog on a golf course.
  • Nigel: “Yes, off course that’s possible. It’s also common here to go for a round of golf with your best friend/your dog

What a great idea. We often play golf on different courses in the Netherlands and when we are on holidays abroad. But when we take the dogs with us on holiday, we thought that playing golf would not be possible. This Dunes opportunity is something we want to try.

So off we went to Zandvoort, the four off us, with our dogs. Especially my dog Brigges (the black one, a Rottweiler, 5 years old) thought this was a great idea. First off all he likes to come along wherever we go. He likes to exercise. And he likes to do chores. And soon we noticed: he likes to run after the ball. (but he is a bit too strong to just run off, so bad idea!) He has to wait first and can only start walking when we tell him to. Then he looks for the ball and points to it with his nose; not touching it, because that is, of course, not allowed. He is also not allowed to come on the green so he has to wait a while. Otherwise, we are afraid he would leave pitchmarks with his nails. And we haven’t been able to train him on reparing pitchmarks.

It took some practicing. But Brigges loves to practice and to find the ball. He is very proud when he does. And he finds a lot of balls (even ones we didn’t hit ). He also likes the Ping-sound of the driver. In fact so do we, when its sound like a good hit . Dabbert (The red dog, a Boulab, 3 years old)) just likes to walk and watch. He doesn’t care so much to do the exercises and listening is not his cup of tea. But he likes the walk and the company. They both don’t care so much for other dogs or people on the course. But once we saw a herd of deer running across hole 3 at the Ullerberg, Ermelo. They liked that a bit too much. But we always have them on the leash on the course. Just for these kinds of moments!

Anyway; dogs enthusiastic, we enthusiastic. We wanted more. But it turns out: not everyone is enthusiastic about dogs on the course in the Netherlands. You get a lot of comments from people who think this is a really bad idea. “I don’t take my cat or my bird in the cage either, so leave them dogs at home! What’s next? What if he gets a ball on his head? Dogs don’t belong on the golf course. What will he do when I yell Fore?” etc.

Well, here’s a tip. You can train your dog for FORE. And you can train your dog for a lot more. Sometimes better than people, I guess. Ever noticed when someone yells FORE a lot of people look up to see where the FORE-ball is coming from?

Anyway, I asked our dog-trainer to come up with a few exercises to train the dogs for a nice walk on the course. Sit and wait even when strange things are moving before you, is always a good exercise!

And when you try this golfing with dogs; not to forget; bring enough water and some snacks for your hairy friend. A lot of courses welcome your dogs but most restaurants don’t.

My dogs are strong enough to walk all day. And they don’t care about hills or rough fields. But they don’t like it when it’s too hot. And I always carry poopbags. Just in case. But I walk the dogs before we go golfing.

I got more and more excited and wanted to check what more I could find. Where I could bring my dogs to the golf course. It opens new opportunities for vacations for example. I checked in England, Scotland, Germany, France and it’s all perfectly normal to walk with your dog there. Even St Andrews is dog friendly. After a bit off digging, I found out that there are also a number of golf courses who are dog-friendly in the Netherlands. Then I thought; maybe there are other dog owners who want this too so I have created a Facebook page: Golfen met hond (the page is in Dutch). Through the page, I found that a lot of people want to take their dog(s) with them so I made a list and put it on Facebook and I got a lot of tips from people to make the list even longer and longer.

Some courses reacted because they got completely excited. It resulted in competitions for “dogs and owners”, the first one in the Netherlands. Of course, at The Dunes. I wonder if it was the first one ever? I hope to organize another contest this year in September.

What I like about this, is that all of a sudden, I am in contact with people in and out of the Netherlands. People who want to take their dog on vacation and want to play some golf.

And that’s how I became the lady with the golfing dogs .

Lady dogs 2Lady dogs 3

Risebridge

Risebridge 1

WelcomeRisebridge gave one of the warmest doggie welcomes yet. Well, warm meant literally and best in Grace’s eyes for sure. Being a more than chilly day in January, we stopped at the main building (which is also conveniently the “halfway” hut at the 9th hole), to warm our bones with what was some quite delicious vittles. I had the meaty muffin and Lori a most cheesy omelet with chips. And Grace had a couple of heated sausages offered gratis by the kind proprietor. We offered to pay for them and she responded, “That’s okay. We like dogs around here.”

Water – Water is a bit of a moot subject in middle of the winter. There are puddles everywhere and one doesn’t get as thirsty in the colder weather. Still, the course had quite a number of water run-offs throughout the course and a few small water features near the 5th, 11th and 14th holes. And the clubhouse has a dog water dish on the patio for mid-course or end of round refreshment.

Walk – Like most clubs in the London area, the course was pretty much flat throughout. Well, “flat” in the overall layout. Many of the fairway we flanked by elongated hillocks which gave the sensation of playing in a trough. Also, the fairways themselves weren’t exactly “flat”, but instead characterized by cross-wise ripples in the turf like some frozen liquefaction of an earthquake. If the soggy ground didn’t stop your approach shot in its tracks, the array of mini sleeping policemen did.

Wildlife – More magpies around than you can shake a salute at, but otherwise not much to distract Grace.

Wind Down – I’ve already exceptionally warm welcome from the clubhouse café which offered a range of freshly cooked food and plenty of re-hydration alternatives (hot and cold).

Risebridge 2

Risebridge 3

Hall of Fame Inductee 2022–Millie

Millie Hall of Fame

DogGolf.info is proud to announce the induction of Millie into the Dog Golf Hall of Fame. Millie has distinguished herself with an extensive golfing career of over 200 rounds on over 70 courses. Her golfing person, Terry, recently shared a post about one of her latest outings. In a very special scoop, Millie has shared her own personal perspectives of a dog’s life on the fairways:

Millie – A life as a golf dog

Well, it all started when I was about 6 months old. My owners, Terry and Jenny, were keen golfers but always left me with their daughter whenever they went to play. On this occasion Terry decided that I was old enough to come along and so began my golfing experience.

The first course I visited was Thorpeness. I had to wear my harness which was attached to the golf trolley by a lead. I soon learned not to pull as the golf trolley would topple over! I very quickly learned to sit quietly whilst shots were played and to wait patiently whilst visits to the green were made.

Thorpeness was very quickly followed by a number of visits to other local courses that allowed dogs – Dunston Hall, Diss, Bungay, Brancaster, Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth to name but a few.

My first golf holiday was to East Sussex visiting Cooden Beach, Crowborough, Mid Sussex, Royal Ashdown, Lewes, Seaford, Seaford Head and Littlehampton, Since then we have visited Shropshire, Northumberland, Scotland and Kent, each area more than once. I have clocked up over 200 rounds of golf on about 70 different courses.

Last year Winnie arrived to join me on the course. She very quickly learned the ropes and its great to have the company on a round together. We love the fresh air, the walk and just being with our owners – I wish they would let me off the lead to chase that squirell!

Millie is 6 and is currently passing on her caddying expertise to fellow working strain black Labrador, Winnie (1 year old).

Millie HOF 2

Millie HOF 3

2002 Hall of Fame

Why Aren’t More USA Courses Dog Friendly?

Southern Hills - dog greeters

Happy New Year! Long time since I’ve checked in. Primarily because the English winter weather has descended making rounds hard to squeeze in between the gaps of rainfall and the shrinking daylight hours. Fortunately, we were able to juggle the various COVID controls and get ourselves to the USA to see family for the holidays. Lori’s family lives in North Carolina which is quite a popular golfing destination and we not only had plenty of courses to choose from, but warm and dry weather to play in!

One of our rounds was at the Southern Hills Golf Course in Danville, Virginia. When we arrived, we were greeted by a couple of charming canines (see photo above) and thought that we might just have stumbled on a rare dog-friendly course in America. Unfortunately, the friendly welcome was confined to the pro shop and dogs were not allowed to accompany players. But I did have a very friendly and informative chat with the proprietor about some of the distinctly American challenges to welcoming dogs so I thought that I would share them here:

  1. Less Dog Friendly in General – The USA is simply less dog-friendly than Europe. This “20 Most Dog Friendly Countries in the World” list features 13 European countries and the USA is nowhere to be seen. Our American friends are astonished that we can bring Grace to accompany us not just on the golf course, but also to pubs and cafes for meals.
  2. Less Walking the Course – Not wishing to propagate the “lazy American” stereotype, but our visit made it clear that walking the course is much less common. We had always noticed the preponderance of buggies on American courses when we played there in the past. In some courses, buggies are virtually mandatory. Southern Hills didn’t even offer trollies to rent (though you could carry your bag). In fact, Versed noted that Americans are 6 times more likely to use a golf cart than Brits. And if you’re not walking the course, it doesn’t make much sense to bring your dog along.  An article in Golf.com observed:
     
    Sure, golfers in every country forego carts, but in the British Isles walking is more or less compulsory; you generally need a medical exemption to get a cart. Whatever the conditions — in wind, rain or hail — Brits grab a trolley and off they go.”
      
  3. More Insurance Restrictions and Lawsuits – As much as Americans don’t like walking, they notoriously do like to file law suits. As a result, insurance (the public liability insurance that you purchase to protect your from lawsuits) dictates many aspects of business and public life. This consideration was also prominent for Southern Hills who told us that their insurance company would flat out not permit them to have dogs on their course.  I was able to get an expert perspective from Peter Small, Area Senior Vice President of RPS Bollinger Sports & Leisure who specialise in golf course cover:
     
    “Some policies have an ‘animal exclusion’ and other don’t, however if the dog is not owned by the golf course and a member of the public brings their own dog on to the course, there is really no liability on the golf club for the actions of that dog. I would assume most golf courses would require a waiver signed prior to allowing the dog on to the premises which would/should put the sole responsibility of the dog on the owner. Many other variables could impact the coverage depending on what state the club is located in.”

  4. Less of a Tradition – UK tradition of golfing with dogs started from the gentlemenly roots of the sport which shot birds with their dogs in the winter and shot birdies with their dogs in the summer. This heritage created a tradition very early in the sport’s history. The first golf club in America, Saint Andew’s GC in Yonkers NY was set up more than a century after the nearly eponymous home of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland east coast led the way with establishing the sport in the USA. On the other hand (or other side of the country), game (pheasant) shooting as a sport started more on the west coast and Midwest. So in the formative years of USA golfing, bird dogs were not as prevalent among the golfing crowd.

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