Dog Gone Rules

No Dogs Allowed

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

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

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

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

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

General

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

Dog Safety

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

Sanitation

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

Wildlife

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

Disturbing Players

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

The Most Dog-Friendly Golfing in the UK

Dog-friendly golfing in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

Dog Friendly Golf Courses UK heat map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Posts by Dog Golfers Wanted

Dog typing

Send us your overviews of your favourite UK dog golfing course!

Over the past few months since we started DogGolf.info, we have gotten around to a good number of dog-friendly courses in the west-of-London outskirts with a few forays into Surrey and Norfolk. We probably can comfortably make the claim that we have golfed more courses in the UK with dogs than anyone else in the world (if anyone knows of anyone who has done more, please let us know!).

Rusty and Grace have now visited most of the “under control” dog-friendly courses within a 1 hour driving radius of our home in Marlow. That covers most of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and some of Oxfordshire, Surrey and Hertfordshire. We are also plotting dog golfing holidays in dog-golfing hot beds of the south coast and the north coast (ie. Scotland).

But those outings will skim the surface of the 400+ dog welcoming courses in the UK. In order to fill the gap, I am hoping that you can help me with your own perspectives on dog golfing where you go.

A submitted course review should look at the course from the dog’s perspective and your perspective being with the dog(s). You can include a sentence or two about the course play, look, service, amenities, etc., but otherwise keep the post focused on how aspects of the club and grounds affect the dog side.

As you will know from my posted pieces, the review has four basic components:

  • Welcome: What is the dog vibe? Do the people seem happy or a bit put off by the presence of your pooch? Do you encounter other dogs? Are there any special amenities laid on for the dogs?
  • Walk: How hard is the walk? Are there distractions or dangers to the dog?
  • Water: What is the access to water on the course (eg. lakes, ponds, streams, spigots)?
  • Wind Down – The ideal piece includes a post-round visit to a nearby dog-friendly pub with a few words so people will know where to go for refreshment after a day of dog golfing.

We will also need two pictures with of your dog(s) on the course and an introduction to them (names, breed, ages, how often do they go golfing with you, what do they enjoy the most about it, what is the biggest challenge).

I reserve full editorial rights and all copyright is fully licensed to doggolf.info.

Thanks to any and all contributors.

Waterstock

Waterstock 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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Harpenden Common

Harpenden Common - dog golf 1

Welcome: Another “Common” course on the same weekend this time travelling north a bit to Harpenden Common. We had to wait a few minutes for a scheduled event to finish up before we started our round. So we sat outside the clubhouse to have drink Dogs are welcome on the course , but not in the clubhouse…in fact, no golf shoes of any type are allowed in the clubhouse either. Not a problem since one of the bar staff came down to greet us and offered to bring us drinks. Without even asking, our beer and prosecco was accompanied by a big dog dish of fresh water. A number of members greeted us through the day and complimented Rusty and Grace’s fine behavior and chatted a bit making us all feel very welcome.

Half of the course is on common land which gets lots of dog walkers anyway and there were plenty about during our round. There is handy poo-bag bin on the 3rd hole (by the walking path).

Walk: At £30 (twilight fee, peak fee is £40), Harpenden Common is one of the more expensive common land courses we have come across. What you get for that are well-tended, lovely grounds (grounds maintenance is one of the biggest expenses for a course) rambling over a relative flat stretch.

What you do have to navigate are some roads. They are small byways, but cars do go down them periodically. They don’t just run along the course, but they run through it. In fact two holes, 2 and 8, cross the road. Signs warn you to be on the look out for cars before playing, but dog golfers will also need to take special care with that their canine companions don’t wander across.

Water: The is one water hazard by the 7th green and the 16th tee, but it is artificial and relatively stagnant. I don’t think even Rusty or Grace fancied a drink from it. So bring your own water and the 9th does finish by the clubhouse where a fresh dish of water is always waiting.

Wind Down: We made our way over to the Elephant and Castle pub on the other side of the Harpenden Common. Another DoggiePubs 5-star pub with the clientele to match (5 dogs when we arrived). Tasty, hearty food at a reasonable price in a warm, friendly ambience.

Harpenden Common - dog golf 2

Chorleywood

Chorleywood 1

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

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

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

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

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

Chorleywood 2

Chorleywood 3

Merrist Wood

Merrist Wood - course

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).

Merrist Wood - stream

Kirtlington

Kirtlington - dog golf

The biggest divide between dog-friendly golf courses is whether leads are required or not. About 2/3rd of the courses that allow dogs do require a lead. The others simply require that they be “under control”. Kirtlington Golf Club’s policy occupies a curious middle ground where leads are “preferable”.

Even though Rusty and Grace are extremely well behaved and very biddable (voice, whistle and hand commands), we still tend to start all our outings on leads (even where they are not required). One good reason for Kirtington’s recommendation is the fact that between Holes 1 and 2 lies a field with sheep and goats protected by an electric fence. We know from past experience that Rusty’ inquisitive nature would certainly have earned her a zap on the nose if we hadn’t had her on the lead there.

Later on in the round, since there weren’t many players on the course, we let them off to stretch their legs a bit in the wide open fairways of Kirtlington. Hole 7 comes back to the sheep pen so back Rusty went on the lead.

Welcome:  The course has a very dog friendly demeanor. A number of folks commented that one of the course managers has her own dog who accompanies her to the clubhouse (but not on the course).

Walk: Kirtlington had probably the most best [sic] views we’ve ever enjoyed on a golf course. And we didn’t have to climb arduous hills to get them. Instead, the course sort of sits like a table top at the edge of the Cotswolds with nearly broad vistas overlooking the Oxford Plain on nearly every hole.

Water: A couple of water hazards on the 7th and 12th were maintaining their water levels even in the heat of August (most appear to be lined to keep the water in place).

Wind Down: The doggie pub for the day was The Boat Inn in Thrupp (5 stars on DoggiePubs). They have a spacious enclosed garden as well as good sized bar area where dogs are very welcome. Our dogs got offered a biscuit by the barman before we had even ordered our drinks. A few other dogs joined us during our meal. And a hearty meal it was just perfect for an appetite worked up by 7+ kilometers of walking. The extensive menu filled two sides of an A4 sheet. The nachos with beef chili was superb (though a bit on the hot spicy side, be warned). Most of us had the “Hock and Cock” (ham hock and chicken) pies with chips and gravy, with our friend Ian (in photo below with wife Jenny) opting for the steak (perfectly cooked). And it turned out that Rusty and Grace’s food hadn’t thawed out thoroughly, but one of the other patrons was a canal boater moored up outside and they took the packets to their boat to zap them in the microwave for us.

Kirtlington - dog golf 2

Basildon

Basildon 1

Basildon isn’t polished around the edges (for examples, the sand hazards didn’t have rakes in them and their edges weren’t cleanly groomed), but its fundamentals (eg. green surfaces, fairways, layouts) are superb. Its more relaxed ambience combined with a very dog-friendly demeanor takes any stress out of the apprehension of dog walking even, off-lead.

Welcome:  While there were no fellow dog golfers, we did come upon dog walkers on the fairways a couple of times. When we stopped for a 9th hole drink, the shop/café/bar manager came out with a dog bowl of water for Rusty and Grace without being asked. In fact, dogs are allowed in the small clubhouse and its bar. When we stopped at the end of our round, several best friends were sitting there with their owners.

Water: No spigots on the course and the only water hazard is right next to the pro shop where a few feet away you can get fresh tap water.

Walk: The course topology is sort of giant parabolic humps. It was the total inversion of Manor of Groves. Sort of like its yoga counter pose (instead of down-and-up from one elevated ridge to another, it is up-and-down over a single ridge). If you can get your drive over the top of the looming hill, then you will get a decent bonus distance as it rolls down the other side. It gave Grace an opportunity for some ball-sniffing outside the rough even if they did go straight down the fairway. You are driving over the top of a ridge that once you clear, you have no idea where you have landed.  Lori’s most frequent questions of the day was “I wonder where the pin is” (often followed by “Grace, find the ball!”). At least a third of the holes are “blind” in this way.

Basildon 2

Manor of Groves

Manor of Groves 1

Go east young man’s best friend. Having done the vast majority of our golfing in the provinces just west of London, an annual social gathering got us to pack up our bags and head to Essex for the weekend. The event invites the whole family including the dogs so we figured we would take in a couple of rounds of dog golf – one en route there and one en route home.

Manor of Grove is a chance for those puppies to stretch their legs and the golfers to stretch their swings. The fairways are some of the widest I have seen. So unless your slice wouldn’t pass a European Union regulation for banana straightness, you have a chance to let loose with some real welly and the approach will be very forgiving to a moderate amount of veering. And just to boost your ego a bit more, the majority of holes run perpendicular to two long ridges. So you are going downhill on your drive. But be warned you will need to go *up* the other side. And naturally, water collects at the bottom of most valleys so most of these holes will have horizontal hazards running in front of you. Some of that water is feeding some very ‘healthy’ (ie. tall) growth that I swear has mutated tendril hands to grab your ball out of the air. If you will be tempted to go for the monster drive, but if you don’t think you can make it across, you could get sucked into the nadir of the abyss where the gravitational pull is strongest.

Welcome:  Everyone was very welcoming of Rusty and Grace though they did seem to be a bit of a novelty on the course to most.  As it turns out, they were a complete novelty because dogs are not actually allowed on the course.  We had previously received an email from the course confirming that they were allowed, but then after our visit, someone was so surprised to see them, that they checked the rules and told us that actually the rules prohibited dogs.  Oh well…an exclusive round of dog golf for Rusty and Grace.

Walk: As described above, the landscape is a bit of a Newton’s Cradle. Up and down, up and down. Nothing particularly steep. Just relentless. A variation of the Chumbawamba song (“I get to drive downhill, but then it goes up again…”).

Water: Quite a number of streams and water hazards, but in the mid-summer, they were all dried up. The 9th hole finishes across the big parking lot from the pro shop and bar, but it was worth the walk for us to load up on liquids.

Manor of Groves 2