Golfers’ Dogs

Are dogs on golf courses only of a bygone age?

On my travels,  I have found anecdotally, that a decent proportion of the ‘finest’ courses allow dogs off the lead.

A reasonable proportion of ‘Fine’ courses allow dogs on the lead and most commercial courses ban dogs.

The working dogs, for example Labradors and spaniels, are a favourite as a golfer’s dog, as they can be trained to behave, comparatively with ease!

When they are learning to behave properly they should be on a lead but when a dog can be trusted to come to heel, I have found over the years that a well-behaved dog adds extra delight to a social game of golf, providing an element of relaxation to help remind golfers that the fun is not all in the competition.

FineGolf has a ‘dog policy’ box at the top of each course review page that helps golfing dog lovers discover where they can play and have their dog with them on FineGolf’s 200 finest running-golf courses in GB&I. There is another brilliant website that gives dog information for every course in the UK called

Lorne Smith's Dog, Dexter, Fine Golfer's Dogs, Finest Courses


I have a black labrador retriever  named after my sporting hero, (Lord Ted) Dexter, whom I have now retired from gundog competition after he led an ‘Open cold game’ test on the Lincolshire Wolds including achieving a remarkable four dog eye-wipe. (we floated home that day!). He is a wonderful companion on the golf course.

He waits beside the green while we are putting and then on to the next tee. I always sit him in front of me. I once saw a golfer leave his dog behind him and just on his backswing the dog decided to move across and bang! the club did not kill the dog but he had a headache.

Dexter likes to join us on the green when we are shaking hands at the end of the game as he feels he has been part of the comaraderie!

I am often asked whether he retrieves golf balls?

I do not ask him to, as though on occasions when a ball has been deemed lost in a friendly match, with their extraordinarily  sensitive noses he would have no problem in finding the ball, nevertheless it would be difficult to castigate him if he then picked one up from the fairway!

There was an occasion when playing the Struie sixth hole at Dornoch, a partner had driven his ball onto the island in the middle of the right-hand pond and we could see it sitting there unable to be reached. I was asked if Dexter would retrieve it? I decided to try and sent him out over the water on to the island instructing him to find the ball. When he was standing over it, he looked at me and then at the ball and on my instruction to retrieve, he picked it up returning across the water, handing it to me before having a good shake. My partner was pleased to have his new pro-V back.

Dexter passed away on January 24th 2017  and an obituary can be read HERE.

Many golf clubs have dog walkers who just look for balls in the bushes.

Hannah of East Devon golf club, finest courses


Hannah, an English Spaniel became famous as during her working life from 1993 to 2004 she found 48,000 golf balls at East Devon GC at Budleigh Salterton, which enabled her owner to use the proceeds from the sale of the balls to spend over £10,000 on course and clubhouse furniture!

Below is a delightful story that suits Swinley but might not go down as well within more ‘competitive’ environs.

George Mobbs recalls:

“My wife and 2 other Northamptonshire County GC members went to play at Swinley Forest in a W.V.S. golf competition. We 3 husbands were graciously allowed to play behind them as long as we kept a respectful distance.
The Secretary was unable to join us AM but he did after lunch- together with his remarkable dog.

She laid quietly beside the tee while we drove off and then if a ball was hit into trouble, off she went to find it.

When you got to your ball it would be about 2 inches below her nose and would only move off when the clubhead was inserted between nose and ball.

If 2 balls were in trouble she would rush off to find the other one.
On certain holes she would dash off in front to indicate that the correct line was between 2 ears sticking out of the heather!
Such was her fame I recall reading a half page article about her in Golf Illustrated.
She was so keen on golf that on the secretary’s day off she still insisted on going to the Club for her lunch.
If my memory serves me right I think she produced a puppy to follow in her footsteps”

The Golf Society of Great Britain

is an attractive Society and I must put in a word for their wonderfully open approach when I posed a question concerning dogs at their meetings.

The reply was that nobody had ever asked to bring a dog and as there were no rules about dogs, as long as the golf club at which the meeting was held allowed dogs, there was no reason why I should not bring Dexter along.

I would like to think that he has set a trend for other well behaved dogs to follow!

Reader Comments

On August 14th, 2009 lee ault said:

As a dog lover myself I enjoyed your article about golf dogs. I have seen a few of our members accompanied on the course and think it is brilliant (provided they are well behaved)…….and the member!

On December 13th, 2009 Donald Booker-Milbourn said:

Dear Lorne (if I may be so presumptuous) I feel I have known you for a long time. I enjoy your newsletters. I am on my sixth Irish setter (more properly the ruadh setter). He is called Michael Finnegan, shortened to Finn (the nationality of my favourite composer, Jean Sibelius.) All six have been wonderful golfing dogs.I wonder if you have read Laddie Lucas’s book the Sport of Prince’s. I am sure you have,but in case you have not, I give you this little hors d’oeuvres :
” There is much to be said about a good golfing dog. Here is the ultimate companion . Indeed, only those who have sampled it, can know the joy which is to be had on a short, mid-winter’s afternoon in putting a few clubs in a light bag, playing ten or twelve holes by oneself and taking the ever-loving animal along for company and exercise. He will not report us to the secretary if we cheat a little, prefer the lies, give ourselves a few missed three footers or the benefit of a four here or there when we know very well we have taken five. To the silent partner, trotting jauntily along , all these things are fair game and much to be commended, subject, of course, to one governing proviso — that we get a move on.
On this sort of outing there can be no wasting time with such irrelevancies as extra shots or practice putts. The aim must be to press on to more and remote parts of the course. It is well accepted that here latitude is given for hunting and here return on invested effort is so much more rewarded.” It is a lovely book.

Golfing dogs are an unalloyed joy. They must,of course, have impeccable manners; on no account must they interfere with the game of golf. Finnegan when he was all of 6 months old came with me in the early hours of the morning with Mr O’Shaunessy (Shaun II), a most impeccably behaved Irishman of 7 years of age. We had nearly finished our walk about 6.45 a.m. and were walking towards the 2nd green of RDGC. I was a little behind both dogs and hidden from the green by tall whins. I heard angry feminine screams; I rushed to the green in time to see Finn making himself known to each of the four women by giving them a sniff between their legs; he then proceeded to lift each golf ball in turn and give it to its rightful owner: I then caught him by the collar and marched him off, apologising to the ladies profusely. One asked if I intended to say something strong to the dog: I said: ” No use. He’s deaf. ” That was a dreadful white lie. I spent the next few days wondering if, as a past captain I should resign. Any moment I expected to get a letter from the secretary telling me to appear before the Captain. None came. I am eternally grateful to those four girls for not complaining. (You will note that I have gone from women to ladies to girls.) I had of course never expected anyone to be playing golf at 6.45 a.m on a cold March morning. It was a salutory lesson which I have now learnt.
Shaun II went for his long sleep 2 years ago. Finn is now an extremely well behaved dog and no longer sniffs ladies between their legs.

I have gone on too long. Best regards to you, Lorne. I hope to meet you very soon. Donald

Dear Donald,
It is such fun to have responses such as above. Golf is not all about competitiveness! Regards Lorne

On December 13th, 2009 Chris Sandham said:

The Swinley secretary’s dog was a sheepdog called Ben. My father and I played regularly with Dick Bateman and George Mobb’s recollections are certainly true. Ben is recalled in the recently launched book on Swinley issued to celebrate the clubs centennary this year.
I too have a black Labrador trained to the gun who always accompanies me around Swinley. A high proportion of the membership run their dogs and we all enjoy this privilege greatly. Best wishes, Chris

On November 7th, 2012 Rupert Moore said:

Have you got a list of dog friendly golf clubs?
Here’s a few I go to:-
Walton Heath
Cowdray Park


Dear Rupert,
I have incorporated a ‘dog policy’ on each of the 61 courses I have so far had the time to review and publish and you obviously being a southerner let me add for you Littlestone, Prince’s, Crowborough Beacon, Hankley Common and Rye, that I know welcome dogs and are on the list waiting for me to publish their full review. best wishes Lorne

On September 23rd, 2018 Bruce Lynn said:

This website is a brilliant resource and inspired me and helped me in the beginning on my research for a more comprehensive catalog of all courses in the UK that are dog friendly.

Dear Bruce,
Well done, your work in creating is exactly the sort of information resource that golfing dog lovers need to use to discover, beyond FineGolf’s finest 200 running-golf courses, where they can play golf while taking their dog.
Many thanks Lorne

On February 21st, 2019 wizzy said:

loved reading about the golfing dogs. witty and well written.

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