He was born in Greenwich, England. He was educated at Hurstpierpoint College, Magdalen College School and Felsted School and then attended Oxford University in 1906. Having inherited a legacy, he left Oxford without a degree, and moved to London to write.
He first took an editorial position at Country Life magazine. He was then in 1908 a sub-editor for English Review edited by Ford Madox Ford (at that time still named Hueffer). Goldring edited his own literary magazine, The Tramp, in 1910, publishing early work by Wyndham Lewis, and the Futurist Marinetti.
From 1912 he was associated with Max Goschen, a troubled London publisher. He there produced Ford's Collected Poems (1913), principally as a financial arrangement. In 1913 he was in close contact with Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticist group, helping with getting the literary magazine BLAST printed.
He volunteered for the British Army in 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, but was discharged for medical reasons. Subsequently he took a more critical attitude towards the war, from a socialist position. He joined the 1917 Club, the mixed gender Bohemian radical equivalent of a "gentlemen's club", at 4 Gerrard Street, Soho; the name celebrated the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. He moved to Dublin, Ireland, and married there his first wife, Betty Duncan; they had two children (the elder, Hugh, was killed as a soldier in World War II).
In 1919 he visited Germany for Clarté, Henri Barbusse's organisation.
On returning to London, he intended in 1919 to establish a People's Theatre Society and publish a series of dramas; but let down D. H. Lawrence, in the end only getting his own Fight for Freedom into print. He became more involved in the 1917 Club, meeting there not only the President of the Club, Ramsay Macdonald, but also Aldous Huxley, C. E. M. Joad, and E. D. Morel, until it petered out in the 1930s. He witnessed the destruction in 1924 of the John Nash facades on Regent Street, leading to his later interest in the preservation of Georgian period architecture. He spent much of the 1920s on the French Riviera or in Paris. He taught in Gothenburg, Sweden from 1925 to 1927.
He became known mostly as a travel writer. In the late 1930s he came to prominence in two ways. He was Secretary of the Georgian Society, which he helped to found after writing in the Daily Telegraph in 1936, with Lord Derwent and Robert Byron. It became in 1937 the Georgian Group, a section within the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, on the advice of. Lord Esher.
He was also noted, at the same period, as a radical journalist and prolific contributor to left-wing publications. He attacked George Orwell, for Orwell's reporting of the machinations on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. In return, Goldring was later on Orwell's notorious list of crypto-Communists.
Douglas Goldring's archive is now in the special collections of the University of Victoria, Canada.