Some golf courses like San Geronimo GC, Indian Valley GC and Belgrade Lakes GC are extending invitations to members’ well-behaved dogs, believing that having furry friends nearby can relax golfers and boost scores.
San Geronimo (Calif.) Golf Course and Indian Valley Golf Club in Novato, Calif., both located in picturesque Marin County in the north San Francisco Bay Area, are among the growing number of golf courses throughout the country that now “throw a bone” to their customers by allowing them to bring their dogs along for their rounds.
Steve Snyder, the head pro at Indian Valley for nearly a decade, said the club has been “dog friendly” for as long as he’s been there.
“I do think it leads to happier golfers,” he points out. “People who want to bring their dog along can still get out on the course and play.”
Other than requiring owners to clean up after the dogs, Indian Valley is “pretty rules-free,” Snyder says. “We don’t have a leash rule. They just need to keep them under control.”
At San Geronimo Golf Course, Executive Director Jennifer Kim says the course has had a dog-friendly position for eight years, and it became official three years ago under new ownership.
THE GOAL: To create a more enjoyable experience for regular customers and attract new ones, some clubs are allowing dogs to make the rounds with their masters.
In April, both courses’ dog-friendly policies were featured in the Marin Independent Journal. In the wake of that story, Kim says she has seen some new faces around the course, with their canine companions in tow.
“I have seen one or two new people each week that came because they now know we are dog-friendly,” she says.
Most of the members of the staff at San Geronimo own dogs, Kim adds, and they even bring their pets to work. So it was only natural to welcome dogs to the course.
“We feel they are part of the family,” she says. “It’s better to let them go along with their owners than to be left at home or even left in the car.”
Liability isn’t a concern at either facility, as neither has had an issue with a dog at the course. The only complaints Kim has received have come when dogs were not leashed.
“If we get complaints, we would ask the owner to leash the dog. If we were to get multiple complaints, we might have to ask the dog be removed. That has never happened,” she says.
On the other side of the country, Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, a daily-fee property in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, that has received both regional and national accolades, has been allowing dogs on its course for years. Maggie Evans, the club’s Manager of Events and Services, says allowing dogs on the course is just one more way to ensure that customers enjoy their visit.
“Our guests are often traveling, on vacation, and their pets accompany them,” says Evans. “When we first found a dog in a car in the parking lot, we knew we had to adopt a different approach. This also was aligned with the owners’ philosophy to create and operate a first-rate golf course, but not necessarily follow modern constraints of thought.”
At Belgrade Lakes, dogs must be under control of their owner. That does not necessarily mean leashed.
“Each dog is different, and we find that dogs traveling with their families are by-and-large very well-behaved,” Evans explains. “We have had no problems with waste being left behind. Owners have showed great respect for our course and are conscientious of cleaning up.”
All three courses make accommodations for their canine clientele, including access to shade and water.
“We have a restaurant and bar, and while California code prohibits dogs from coming inside, we do have tables outside where golfers can have their dogs,” Kim says.
Dog owners have appreciated being able to share this experience with their pets, Evans points out.
“It’s hard to know how many rounds we lost because golfers were not able or willing to leave their pets in a rented cabin, hotel room or camp site,” says Evans. “But anecdotally, we know we have guests who otherwise would have passed by the opportunity to golf.”
Neither Snyder nor Kim can be sure if their policies on dogs translate into increased play, but Kim says the dogs’ presence could very well lead to lower scores.
“A lot of people say it calms them when their dogs are there,” she explains. “Golf can be a stressful sport and when golfers are more relaxed, it can work to their benefit.”rss