Being a caddy is an incredibly challenging yet rewarding job that, if successful, can earn you big bucks. But a caddy does a lot more than just carry the bags and the clubs. Caddies themselves are generally accomplished amateurs, low handicappers, or former golf pros.
They’re almost like an on-course coach, friend, and valet, all rolled into one. As a caddy, you need to display an in-depth knowledge of the game and be able to give objective and practical advice when called upon.
Becoming a PGA Tour caddy is certainly possible, but it will require patience, determination, commitment, and sacrifice, as with any job at the highest levels.
Remember, though; the rewards can be life-changing; the chance to earn money you never thought imaginable, and more importantly, the possibility to walk the fairways with some of the greatest players in the game.
Five simple steps to becoming a PGA Tour caddy
- Study; yep, you heard me right; golf is a game of 100s of obscure rules and regulations, and as a caddy, you’ll need to know every single one of them; failure to do so could lead to a decision that costs your player a penalty, possibly ending his tournament.
- Make sure to spend as much time as feasible at your local golf or country club. Seek out others who have caddied before and pick their brains to learn as much as possible Talking to others with caddying experience is invaluable.
- Offering your services to golfers at your local course is another excellent way to gain in-depth knowledge of the game. It also lets you hone your caddying skills while simultaneously networking.
- Contact your local pro shop or golf association and ask for a calendar of all the upcoming top amateur and minor tour events in your area. Volunteering at these tournaments is likely the best way to acquire experience; it’s also an excellent way to gain exposure and make a name for yourself.
- Don’t be shy; you need a go-getter attitude. Network at all the significant tournaments and talk to as many caddies as you can; you’ll always find great people willing to help. Don’t be afraid to offer your services to an upcoming pro; generally, at this stage, they’re strapped for cash, so it’s a 360 win.
Expert Tip: Don’t forget to keep your own level of play at a high level. Showing you can do more than talk and carry the bags goes a long way to gaining the trust and respect of a PGA Tour pro.
Learning The Ropes
As with anything you want to be successful at, you don’t magically wake up one morning and find yourself standing on the first tee at Augusta National carrying Tiger’s Bag.
Starting as young as possible gives you the best opportunity of realizing your dream of becoming a PGA Tour caddy. You can carry the bag for your father or his friends and start to learn the intricacies of the game itself and the psyche of the top-level golfers. Gaining as much on-course experience as you can will pay big dividends later in your journey.
Perhaps your parents don’t play golf? In this case, you can find a local golf or country club member and carry the bags for them. Most golfers will jump at the chance to play without having to carry their bags. The goal of a caddy is to gain as much experience as possible in every aspect of the game. By volunteering to carry the bags, you can start honing your skills in areas like etiquette, yardage, and green reading.
I remember caddying at my first LPGA event in Japan and was blown away at just how much work and detail the top caddies were putting into each round. They would wake up early or stay back after the round and walk the entire course again, drawing and mapping out every little detail on every hole. Whether it be an unseen hazard to the right of the 10th fairway or the subtle undulations on the 17th green, they had it all mapped out in incredible detail.
That’s why starting young and putting in the hard yards to learn invaluable skills like calculating accurate yardages will pay off later down the line.
Know The Rules
Golf is one of the most complex and challenging games to master both on and off the course, and when it comes to rules and regulations, golf can be baffling.
Every opportunity you get away from the game will need to be spent scouring through the seemingly never-ending books on rules for the game of golf. Having an intimate knowledge and understanding of the rules are invaluable and will help set you apart from average run-of-the-mill caddies.
You’d be surprised at just how many professional golfers don’t know the game rules, and it’s easy to see why. Hours and hours a day practicing, stretching, lifting, and doing cardio leave them with little to no time, which is exactly why they rely so heavily on their caddies to know the rules and regulations.
The Professional Caddy Association is also an excellent resource dedicated to helping young and aspiring caddies achieve their dreams. You can find information on aspects of the game like etiquette and yardages, go through extensive training, and receive accreditations to caddy professionally.
Making The Jump; Hobby To Career
So you’ve gained some experience over the last few years by volunteering at some significant amateur events, and you’ve even made a bit of a name for yourself.
Now you’ve got some pretty big decisions to make; Is caddying just a side hustle? Or do you want to make a living from being a full-time caddy? These are important questions because, depending on your answer, you’ll be taking two completely different roads on your caddying journey. Choosing the wrong pathway will almost certainly lead to failure.
Many young caddies at local tournaments can make up to $150 per loop, which is good money in anyone’s language, especially if you’re still in school. But even if you’re a bit older and have already left school, picking up extra money caddying is an ideal and viable way to make the jump to the big leagues one day.
The more experience you get working with different players early on, the better, as this exposes you to the different playing styles and personalities each player has. Golf is a game, but to the pros, it’s their livelihood. Many pros are highly-strung and demand excellence in every area; being a caddy is a great career, but it’s no walk in the park.
As a coach and manager to professional athletes, the one aspect that separates the great coaches from the rest is their ability to listen and communicate. As a caddy, knowing what to say is critical, but knowing when to say it is even more important. The ability to calm your player after a disappointing shot can mean the difference between a top-ten finish or missing the cut and going home empty-handed.
So you can see why being exposed to as many players as possible plays a significant role in your future success as a caddy. Approaching members at your local club or finding a nearby university with a golf program will give you the best chance of walking the fairways as a PGA Tour caddy.
Finding employment at a resort or course that holds regular amateur and pro events is another excellent way to put yourself in the mix. Who knows, you might find yourself on the bag for a pro!
You’re Heading To The PGA Tour
You’ve been caddying for several years now at top local and national amateur events, but now you’re looking to make the final leap to PGA Tour caddy.
All the networking, hard work, and sacrifice has paid off, and you’ve got several players after your services. But before they make the final leap with you, the mini-tours and Q-school await. Mini-tours not only provide aspiring pros the chance to further hone their skills, but they also allow caddies to improve and gain added tournament experience.
Mini tours expose both player and caddy to the pressures of tournament play and provide the chance to see how well you gel as a pair. You might be great friends off the course, but it’s on the course where the rubber meets the road; that’s the true test of the player/caddy relationship.
Unfortunately, though, the harsh reality is that professional golf is a brutal environment, and although you might be having a good run, things can turn sour in a heartbeat: one bad tournament and a few poor decisions, and you’re looking for a new bag. Remaining loyal to your player is always the priority but keeping your eyes open for new talent is also part of caddying; it’s a fine line to walk.
The other thing to remember is that caddying is a small niche. You can generally bag hop relatively easily once you’re “on the inside” and have good relationships with caddies and players alike. Despite popular belief, not every pro has a caddy, and many turn up each week looking to put someone on the bag.
Now you can take advantage of all the years you’ve spent networking and making a name for yourself. Remember, at the end of the day, most players just want a caddy they can have a laugh with and enjoy the round.
The Pros Of Caddying
Let’s be honest, very few caddies will end up on the PGA Tour earning money that can literally change lives, but not everything is about money, and caddying has numerous benefits other than financial.
Caddying is a great way for golfers who tried to turn pro and didn’t quite make it to stay involved at the highest levels. Many of the best coaches were also former pros who realized their talents and passions were better suited to coaching instead of playing.
Then there are the obvious benefits of being outside and enjoying all mother nature has to offer. Out in the sun, fresh air, and being surrounded by beautifully manicured fairways sounds like a much better way to make a dollar than being stuck in a high-rise office cubicle.
And finally, there’s the part I loved the most; the travel. Having the opportunity to travel the world, meet new people, and experience new cultures are memories that will stay with me forever.
Show Me The Money?
Have you heard of Micheal Greller? In 2015 he took home just shy of $1 million. No, he’s not one of the leading golf pros on the PGA Tour, but he is one of the leading caddies.
Greller, who caddies for the young superstar Jordan Speith is a former 6th-grade math teacher who taught in Washington. As early as April 2015, Spetih had already posted two wins, two seconds, and soon after went on to capture the Master’s title and $1.8 million. Remarkably, Speith had already amassed more than $4 million in prizemoney by May.
What did this mean for Greller? Well, for the first half of 2015, Greller took home $375,000, and by year’s end, had earned just over $900,000, not a bad year for a math teacher who otherwise would’ve taken a teacher’s salary of $60,000.
But what about the other caddies? Surely not all of them earn more in a year than what most make in ten? The average salary for most caddies is between $1,500 and $3,000 per tournament; you might be thinking that’s actually not much, and you’d be right.
The real money-making comes from getting a percentage of the prize money, and when you consider the winner takes home $1 million, caddies can make good bank each week. Generally, caddies get 10% for a win, 7% for top-tens, and 5% for anything else, but this varies greatly and is typically negotiated between player and caddy.
Full-time caddies at clubs also make good money, but it’s considerably less than their tour counterparts, with an average of $40,000 per year. However, caddies at high-end clubs and resorts are believed to make almost double that figure + tips making it possible to earn close to $100,000.
Can Caddies Lose Their Job?
In a nutshell, yes. Caddying, remember, is a job, and just like any other job, if you don’t perform, you’ll be out on your bum. There have been some very public spats between player and caddy, and one, in particular, took place on course in 2015.
Australian golfer Robert Allenby fired his caddy in the middle of the fairway after the two nearly came to blows. Spectators following the grouping said Allenby was berating Mick Middlemo after Allenby flubbed his iron into the water and took a triple bogey. It was the fourth time Allenby had fired a caddy mid-round.
Luckily for Allenby, a fan carried his bag for the final nine before pulling out of the event after shooting 81.
In 2013 Jessica Korda also blew her lid at longtime caddy Jason Gilroyed during the Women’s US Open at New York’s, Sebonack Golf Club. Like Allenby, Korda fired her caddy mid-round and had her boyfriend take the bag for the duration of the tournament.
Tiger Fired Fluff and Steve Williams
Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest player of all time, has also fired two of his caddies during his career, although not on the course, and to be fair, these caddies were both with Tiger for more than ten years.
Tiger fired his first caddy Fluff Cowan after an almost ten-year partnership that included numerous international wins and several Majors. After departing with Fluff Cowan, Tiger hired Steve Williams, a native from New Zealand, and the two would go on to forge one of the most significant partnerships in golf history.
However, the partnership ended in controversy, with Williams writing in his book that he felt like a “slave” while caddying for woods. It’s estimated that Williams earned close to $15 million while caddying for Tiger and was presented with ten cars that Tiger received during his career.
Caddies And The Law
In recent years caddies have banded together to bring a number of lawsuits against the PGA Tour in Federal Court. For years caddies felt they were treated poorly by the PGA and the lawsuits are an attempt to better their working conditions.
One of the caddies’ primary complaints was that although they were required to wear bibs with high-profile sponsor logos, none of the millions of dollars of profits were ever shared with them. Some of the claims include antitrust laws, intellectual property, and contract law.
In 2015 in Northern California, the caddies petitioned for a class-action lawsuit that would represent all caddies throughout the continental US; the case is ongoing.
Unlike players, caddies receive no pension from the PGA and have to pay for their healthcare and retirements.