Playing golf is a terrific experience, whether you’re playing 18-holes by yourself or with other local club members, but what about playing golf with a caddy? That’s right, a caddy.
Now I know what you’re thinking; aren’t the PGA Tour pros the only golfers who use caddies? Well, the answer is no, and I can tell you, living here in Japan, caddies are standard at most courses; whether you want one or not. But it’s not only golf courses in Japan where you’ll find caddies; you’ll find caddies at almost every exclusive golf club regardless of where you are in the world.
From Australia to the US and Japan to Europe, caddies are integral to every premier golf club. Most golfers, though, have never played with a caddy, and when faced with the prospect of having to use one, golfers are clueless as to how to act and what to expect.
During my 20 years as a professional coach, I’ve had the opportunity to caddy professionally on numerous occasions, of each and every experience I will treasure and remember for the rest of my life. Caddying at a club, though, is a totally different experience from caddying as a professional.
The main difference is at a club, you’re carrying the bag for different players every day, while caddying on tour, you’re assigned to a pro for the season.
Caddies are there to do much more than carry the bags, such as help with course management, provide the player with local knowledge, and keep the player’s spirits high when things aren’t going well. Caddies also perform other tasks like cleaning the clubs and ball after each shot and keeping the player’s scorecard.
This article aims to provide golfers with the necessary information to help them make their experience with their caddies go as smoothly as possible, not just for you but for the caddy too. Being a caddy is a fantastic job, but it’s not easy, so understanding the correct etiquette and what to expect from your caddy will make the experience an enjoyable one.
Before we get started, though, let’s take a quick look at the brief history of caddying and where the profession all began.
A Brief History Of Caddying
The word “caddy” is derived from the Scottish word “cawdy” originating from the 17th-century French word “cadet” meaning a student military officer. As the word evolved, it began to mean a person who did odd jobs until, finally, the word is now associated with the profession we know in golf as “caddying.”
The first caddies started to emerge in Edinburgh around about 1820. However, it is believed that the Duke of Albany used a caddy way back in 1681 during the playing of the inaugural international golf tournament. During the early years, caddies were only found at exclusive clubs; however, as time has moved on, caddies can now be found in golf clubs, hotels, and resorts.
Even as the PGA Tour was first established, caddies were few and far between, and players only hired those that could be found on a part-time basis. However, once the PGA Tour increased its sponsorship and prizemoney purses, the emergence of full-time caddies became almost immediate as the players started to see the value of having a caddy on the bag.
Augusta National, home of The Masters tournament and arguably the most celebrated course in the game was one of the few clubs that resisted the move by the PGA Tour to allow players to provide their own caddies. Up until that point, Augusta National provided their own caddies for each player. In the 1980s, the club buckled to pressure and allowed players to bring their caddies to the event.
The best caddies are aware of the local challenges that each course being played presents, and because they have this “local” knowledge, they can provide golfers with the best strategies to shoot their best score. Caddies, by nature, are invaluable because, more often than not, the golfer is playing the course for the first time. Without local knowledge, their score would almost certainly be a disaster.
In the US and Europe, caddies are generally found at private golf clubs and resort hotels, while in Japan, caddies are found at nearly every golf course, whether private or municipal. Another fascinating fact about caddies in Japan is they’re all female, and many of the positions are handed down through the family; in fact, some caddies have been employed at the same course for more than 100 years.
In Japan, caddies are regarded highly, and they earn a great salary along with excellent pension and retirement programs. In the US, most, not all, caddies are classified as “self-employed,” meaning they don’t receive any benefits from the clubs. In the US, caddies can receive “tips” that can add up, especially as most golfers tend to be wealthy business people who become regular clients; actually, many golfers request the same caddy every time they play.
6 Common Questions Golfers Have About Caddies
Playing 18 holes with a professional caddy is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling experiences any golfer can have. Still, unfortunately, most club golfers have never had the pleasure of playing a round with a caddy, and because of this, they’re unaware of what to expect and how to act.
I’ll be the first to admit that playing with a caddy can be intimidating, but again, that’s only because golfers don’t know what to expect. Below are 6 of the most common questions and concerns golfers have when faced with the prospect of playing with a caddy.
1. I’m nervous about playing with a caddy, what can I do?
The first and most important thing you can do has more to do with common courtesy than it does with golf; simply introducing yourself with a firm handshake and a smile can help set the mood for the rest of the round.
Next, be honest with the caddy and say something like. “I’m a 17 handicap and have never played with a caddy before, so I’m a bit nervous.” This is valuable information for the caddy and gives them a chance to set some realistic expectations of their own for the 18 holes.
Remember, caddies want to do a good job, so the more info you can provide, the better it is for the both of you.
2. Can a caddy really lower my score?
Simply put, YES. A good caddy has what is referred to as “local knowledge,” meaning they know every little nook and cranny on the golf course.
Caddies can provide you with advice that will put you in the best positions on the fairways and greens and, more importantly, teach you the parts of the golf course you need to avoid to stay away from trouble. Most caddies come to the fore when on the greens, and they are generally experts in reading the greens.
We have caddies at my home club, and they tell players that “they are there to help read greens but if you would like help or advice in any other area, just let me know.”
3. How much of the caddy’s advice should I listen to?
As I just mentioned, most caddies will generally help you read the greens, but in my opinion, if you want to take advantage of your caddy, your best bet is to ask for as much advice as possible; this way, you can filter the advice you like and the advice you don’t.
Caddies can provide you with local knowledge like the wind direction, changes in elevation, distance to the pins, specific landmarks, and the undulations of the fairways and greens. Telling your caddy how far you hit each club will help because they can guide you on local wind directions and whether you need to club up or down.
4. What happens if I disagree with my caddy?
This is one of the most common questions and concerns I hear from golfers who will be playing an upcoming round with a caddy for the first time; What happens if I disagree with my caddy? Let me tell you; it’s not a question of if but when.
Invariably, you’re going to disagree with some advice the caddy has offered at some point during the round, but it’s not a big deal. For example, the caddy says, “you should probably hit an 8 iron,” yet you’re thinking of hitting a 7 iron. In this case, just be honest with the caddy and tell them that you’d feel more comfortable hitting the 7 iron.
Remember, caddies are experienced veterans and completely understand that you know your game better than they do.
5. Can my caddy provide me with swing advice?
Caddies are typically outstanding golfers themselves, with some being former golf pros; however, that being said, as a coach, I would highly recommend not asking for technical advice from our caddy. Untried advice contrary to what you’ve been receiving is the last thing you want, especially playing on a course that you’re unfamiliar with.
Golf is hard enough as it is, so keep the advice from your caddy to things like giving direction off the tee, the best places to avoid and approach from, and reading the greens; If you take your caddie’s swing advice and it doesn’t work; it’s going to be a very very long 18 holes.
6. Am I expected to tip my caddy?
Before the commencement of the round, ask the Caddy Master or the Head Professional how much and when you should tip the caddy. It’s generally expected that you either tip your caddy on the 18th green after sinking your last putt or back at the clubhouse after they’ve finished cleaning your clubs.
I like to tip on the 18th green, where it’s more discreet for both you and the caddy. I can’t give you a figure of exactly how much you should tip because it varies significantly from club to club and country to country.
In Japan, for example, caddies are strictly forbidden to receive cash gifts; players and members know this, and instead of offering cash, they generally offer “gift cards” to a supermarket or department store. I’ve seen one caddy receive a $1500 gift card to an exclusive department store; she had a smile from ear to ear, and it was fantastic to see.
6 Things That Make A Caddy Great
The previous paragraph on how much to tip your caddy is the perfect segway into the last part of this article; What makes a good caddy? There are some things that all caddies will do regardless of their levels, such as clean your club and ball after each shot and obviously carry your bag.
But some caddies offer specialized skills and experience that go “above and beyond” what other caddies might offer. Let’s take a look at 6 such things.
1. Local knowledge
Caddies provide expert advice about all areas of the game of golf, but where they really display their greatest value is local knowledge. Caddies understand every inch of the course, and because of that, they can save you possibly 3 or 4 strokes on the round, which doesn’t seem like much but actually could mean the difference between breaking 70 or not.
Caddies know the undulations of the greens and can give you advice on the lines and speeds of the putts. Having a caddy who knows the lines of the putts is invaluable, especially when you’re playing on greens you’re unfamiliar with.
The speed of the greens is also difficult to gauge, and your caddy can provide local course knowledge that will give you the best chance to make a few birdie putts during your round. Many golf courses have specific areas that you never want to venture to, and your caddy can help you steer clear of these traps like deep bunkers and water hazards.
2. Providing the best advice
Caddies give advice, but great caddies give the right advice at the right time. Many caddies are former professionals who play off very low handicaps, and as such, they have a deep understanding of everything golf.
Good caddies know exactly when to chime in with some advice that could help you steer clear of trouble or put you in the best position on the greens to make birdies putts. There’s nothing worse than a caddy or playing partner constantly chirping advice at you about your swing mechanics or shot selection.
A good caddy picks and chooses the best time to offer valuable and practical advice to help your game. Caddies are experienced in the game of golf and dealing with different personalities, and they understand how to tailor their advice to each golfer.
3. Eyes like a hawk
Every golfer has lost their ball at some point during the round, with many golfers losing more than one, my dad included. But having a caddy, you’ll never have to worry about losing another ball again. Caddies have eyes like a hawk, and they can pinpoint precisely where your ball lands each time because they have local knowledge.
You can concentrate and swing freely and have your caddy worry about tracking your ball flight and planning your approach shot.
4. Lends emotional and motivational support
It’s all very well and good for caddies to offer technical and strategic advice, but the best caddies take it a step further and provide emotional and motivational support; particularly important, especially if you’ve just hit your third ball into the water.
Golf can be a stressful and incredibly frustrating game, and having a caddy who can help keep your emotions in check will go a long way to helping you get the most out of your round. Caddies can help you to keep things simple rather than overcomplicate things, which is a common problem with most golfers.
Make sure you have a good rapport with your caddy because you’re both out on the course together for close to 5 hours at the end of the day.
5. Builds trust
The best caddies build trust with their players, and many of the caddies and pros on the PGA Tour have been working together for 15-20 years; some even keep the same caddy for their entire playing and caddying career.
If you’ve been lucky enough to go to a PGA Tour event, then you’ve probably witnessed players and caddies sitting down after the round and sharing dinner and a glass of wine. The relationship between caddy and player goes far beyond the fairways and greens. When you consider they spend nearly every waking hour together, the importance of building trust cannot be overstated.
6. Bag and equipment
Cleaning the clubs and carrying the bags might be seen as just “part of the job,” but in fact, cleaning the clubs needs to be done correctly. Golf clubs can be worth thousands of dollars, and having a caddy scratch them up by carelessly cleaning them can be a real problem.
The best caddies take immaculate care of cleaning and looking after their player’s clubs. After each shot, they’ll clean out the club’s grooves to make sure they can keep providing spin, and they use both dry and wet microfibre soft towels to give them a sparkling sheen.
The 18th Hole
So there you have it; following these tips will help to make your first time playing with a caddy one of the best experiences of your golfing life.
It doesn’t have to be an intimidating and nerve-racking time; playing 18-holes with a caddy can be one that provides great enjoyment and an opportunity to learn.