SUNNINGDALE, England – You can’t go to Sunningdale Golf Club without having one of its famous sausage sandwiches from the halfway hut. In fact, dogs can’t go to Sunningdale without having a sausage sandwich.
That’s right, dogs.
Sunningdale is one of the best and most famous facilities in the British Isles. In fact, many feel the Old Course is the best inland track in these islands, with the New no slouch either. (“New” is something of a misnomer. Harry Colt laid it out in 1923, 22 years after Willie Park Jr. created the Old.)
Sunningdale Old has staged many big tournaments over the years, including the Women’s British Open, the European Open on the European Tour, the Seve Trophy and every year it hosts the Sunningdale Foursomes, which was held this past week.
The Sunningdale Foursomes is a unique event in British golf since it features tour pros, club pros, elite amateurs and ordinary club amateurs with a handicap of three or better. Men and women can compete.
Dogs, too, are welcome at Sunningdale, even encouraged. My dog Izzy felt very welcome during her visit to this year’s Sunningdale Foursomes, but then my dog feels welcome at many British golf courses.
Dogs are almost de rigueur at traditional clubs like Sunningdale, The Berkshire, Swinley Forest and many others. Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley felt slightly disconcerted during qualifying for the Open Championship at Sunningdale a few years ago. McGinley is a member of the club and felt out of sync because he had to play the 36 holes without his dog. The Irishman couldn’t remember the last time he’d played Sunningdale without his faithful hound in tow.
I know how he feels. I can’t remember the last time I played a round at my club without Izzy. And my club is fairly new, having only opened in 1974.
It’s not unusual to see an eightball at, say, The Berkshire – four golfers and four dogs along for the exercise. Berkshire club professional Paul Anderson has a water bowl outside his professional shop to lubricate members’ dogs.
Dog bowls are also much in evidence at Sunningdale, so I wasn’t surprised when I pitched up at the halfway hut to find a bowl of cool water so Izzy could re-hydrate. However, I was surprised when I placed my food order.
As I said, a visit to Sunningdale isn’t complete without a sausage sandwich. I ordered four to serve myself, Anderson, playing partner Albert Mackenzie and, of course, Izzy. When I told the woman running the halfway hut to hold the bread on the fourth sandwich because it was for my dog, she asked me a question that could only be asked in the British Isles, and probably only at Sunningdale.
“Would you like a dog sandwich?”
I’m used to the eccentricities of British golf, but this one floored me.
“You serve dog sandwiches?”
“Absolutely,” the woman replied, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. She then produced a neatly wrapped pouch of sliced sausage.
So Izzy and I fueled up for the back nine, both happy to partake in a great Sunningdale tradition.
A “dog sandwich.” Only in the British Isles.