In celebration of National Dog Day, Brandon Tucker is lobbying for more dog-friendly golf courses in the U.S.
It's a pleasant summer afternoon and you have a tee time at your local golf course, set on hundreds of acres of sparsely-populated green space. Meanwhile, your energetic, furry companion is sitting at home in the A/C.
That ain't right.
Chances are, you haven't even thought about bringing the dog, because you've never seen a dog at your course and it's presumably because they aren't allowed.
Seems silly in a way, doesn't it? You would think that well behaved, leashed up dogs would be allowed in just about every outdoor space on earth.
But in reality, very few public courses in the U.S. allow golfers to bring their dogs along, most likely a result of liability fears and the fact many courses aren't all that walkable. Golf course superintendents, of course, have energetic sidekicks who chase geese and perform other duties. Courses in the U.K. are generally more welcoming to dogs, especially those historic links courses that double as public park space.
The Links Trust courses at St. Andrews are a public park and there are dogs sharing the grounds with golfers every day. Other links have walking trails that weave through holes, and most let you bring them for the loop, like Cruden Bay G.C. near Aberdeen:
Quick 18 tonight before #TheOpen later in the week. For the record the caddy was useless here on the dog-leg 7th at Cruden Bay. #crudenbay #crudenbaygolfclub #Scotland #golf #travel #podcast #blogger #golfers #golftrip #golftravel #homeofgolf #linksgolf #visitscotland #beautifulgolfcourses #scotlandgolf #scottishgolf #BrilliantMoments #birdiecage #bunkersparadise #golfwrx #instagolf #playjones #visitscotland2015 #gabestphoto #whyilovethisgame #enjoyyourwalk #scottishgolfpodcast
As someone who enjoys both playing golf and walking the dog, I'm fortunate to live near Austin's municipal courses, which allow dogs at each (downtown's Butler Park Pitch 'n Putt allows them as well). At another muni in Burnet, Texas, Delaware Springs, they allow them as well. There are rules: scoop the poop, and keep them on a leash. Once in awhile it's abused and you'll see a dog scurrying down the fairway chasing squirrels.
But generally speaking, no one seems to kick up much fuss. And whenever I bring my dog Izzy (who was kind enough to pose for the lead image in this article by the way), I see other dogs there too. Heck, at Hancock Golf Course, a homeowner across the street often lets his chickens out of the coop in the evening onto the course.
I digress ...
I have a hypothesis the golf industry might want to consider: Walker-friendly courses in over-saturated markets could stick out from their competition by marketing to dog owners.
Many golf facilities' futures lie in providing a more multi-dimensional product (see: FootGolf). Appealing to dog-owning golfers could give business a nice little uptick. Maybe a non-golfing spouse comes along and walks the dog while the other plays, and then ultimately becomes curious enough to try the sport themselves.
Conversely, if you showed up to your regular course and was paired up with a golfer who brought their dog along, would it incense you to the point of never returning?
Look, there can be risks with bringing any animal to a sporting venue. Dogs, off-leash or spooked by noises, could find themselves in harm's way.
One of my dogs, a skittish rescue pup, doesn't have the temperament for golf. I realized this when I tied her up to my golf bag next to the practice green while I went into the pro shop to pay. While inside, apparently someone came up to her, which spooked her and she ran off, dragging my golf bag thru the parking lot, clubs falling out and scattered between cars. We played nine but she was in obvious distress, and my golf bag has the scuffs to prove it.
It is paramount that owners take every safety precaution necessary and perhaps most importantly, know whether or not their dog has the proper temperament for the course. I don't think it's safe for dogs to be in a moving golf cart, especially if they are tied up.
So, golf isn't for every dog. And not every dog owner follows the rules. But if we outlawed every activity that was ruined by a few bad apples, we'd never leave the house, amirite?
If recent public spats over off-leash dog parks is any indication, there are many of you who would be incensed to see that your home golf course begin to allow dogs. We asked you on Instagram recently if dogs should be allowed and the responses have been quite mixed, from "Absolutely!" to "Are you crazy?!?!" You can view the comments in the post below:
With @nationaldogday in just three weeks, we want your opinion: Should dogs be allowed to come along on the golf course? Do any courses near you allow them? #Repost @brandontuckergc ・・・ Went to Hancock GC to hit some pre-dinner chip shots and what do I see but a little puppy playing its first round of golf. #whyilovethisgame #dogs #atx #gabestphoto #golfdog
But, what is the worst that could possibly happen? All sorts of businesses have begun catering to the dog-friendly crowd: restaurants and bars, high end hotels, Major League Baseball games, you name it. Surely there are some enterprising golf courses in each market that could follow suit.
The #GolfDog hashtag on Instagram has more than 1,000 posts, and you can see there are a decent amount of golf courses scattered across the U.S. where dogs can come along for the loop. If you have a course in your hometown that allows dogs, be sure to let your fellow readers know in the comments below. This GolfClubAtlas thread also lists some courses that allow dogs.