• Alistair Tait

Golf is a dog’s life in the British Isles

I wouldn’t play as much golf as I do if it wasn’t for my dog Izzy. I’ve played more rounds with her than anyone else.

Most of my North American friends are amazed when I first tell them I take my dog to the golf course. It’s perfectly normal at most clubs in the British Isles.

Izzy and I probably play golf together 3-4 times a week at Woburn Golf Club. Like many clubs in these isles, Woburn welcomes well-behaved dogs. Izzy’s a black lab and very well behaved. I sometimes say she’s better behaved than some members. She never leaves bunkers unraked, never leaves pitch marks on the greens and never takes a divot.

The only restriction on dogs is that they’re not allowed in competitions. Other than that, dogs are most welcome. It’s not unusual to see two dogs in the same four ball at Woburn. At more traditional clubs such as the Berkshire, you’ll sometimes witness four dogs and four golfers walking down the fairway.

I was in St Andrews this week and observed a faithful golden Labrador heading down the Old Course’s first fairway with her owner and his three playing companions.

And why not? If dogs are good enough for the most famous course on the planet, then why not at most other golf clubs? As long as the dog is under control and as long as the owner cleans up and bags its mess, then what’s the harm? None.

I once asked the president of the Berkshire Golf Club how the membership would react if the club was to ban dogs from the two courses? He looked at me as if I was from another planet and fired a question back at me:

“Why on earth would we stop members from bringing their dogs?”

Why indeed?

I didn’t have a lot of trouble training Izzy to adapt to walking a golf course. I first took her to the club when she was about six months old. The only trouble I had that first time was in the greenside bunker on the par-3 sixth hole. Izzy ran around in the sand as if it was a giant play pit. It took me about five minutes to rake. Thankfully I was on my own, it was late in the afternoon and there was no one behind me. I gave her a really stern talking to and she’s never gone in another bunker since.

Izzy’s so well behaved that I don’t put her on her lead, although I keep it in my golf bag just in case.

I’ve never had a problem in the 11 years I’ve been taking Izzy to the club. I’ll often take her for nine holes in the afternoon, just her and I. It’s a win win situation. She gets a decent walk, and I get to play golf.

She’s been welcomed into the three swindle groups I belong to with open arms. In fact, some of the guys I play with bring treats for her. The staff in the halfway huts usually have a sausage cut up and ready for her. I sometimes think Izzy’s more popular than me.

Golf really is a dog’s life in the British Isles.


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