Caddying on a golf course is much more involved than many people might initially expect. The responsibilities of even the most basic caddy are designed to make the round of golf move as smoothly as possible for the golfer. Caddies provide support for their player in a variety of ways, many of which are often overlooked. Any golfer with experience will understand that the performance of the caddy can sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing.
The Importance of Caddies
There are certainly varying levels of caddies, depending on who employs them. Many professional caddies are employed directly by their golfer, but club caddies generally work for the course itself and serve a wide range of golfers on that course. In either case, the basic duties of that caddy will be the same. Perhaps the most obvious duty a caddy has is carrying, handling, and distributing golf clubs during the round. The full duties of a caddy can extend far beyond those simple requirements, especially for those caddies working with professional golfers on tour. Without caddies to perform even the most simplistic version of their job, the golf course would become a much less enjoyable place for the golfers.
When you look strictly at professional caddies, their importance to the game begins to skyrocket. Many analysts have compared professional caddies to strategists, co-competitors, and other equal parts of a sports team. Professional golfers spend so much time with their caddy, and take so much advice from them, that certain golfers would be entirely lost without the help from their most trusted assistant.
The Personality of a CaddyImage Source: edition.cnn.com
Caddies need to be dynamic individuals that can relate to their golfer’s level of play without encroaching upon it. Caddies are essentially resources that should be used by a golfer to achieve the best possible score, so even though the knowledge passed on by the caddy might be invaluable, the caddy must remember that the golfer ultimately makes the decisions.
A caddy can be thought of as a sort of concierge between the course and the golfer. The caddies personality must be passive enough to ensure arguments over strategy don’t develop, but they must not be so passive that they fail to impart pertinent details. A lot of caddies have a hard time finding the appropriate balance between the two, and many times the situation will depend on the personality of the golfer.
Flexibility is perhaps the most important characteristic a caddy can have, especially course caddies who often switch between golfers. Each golfer is going to approach the game in a slightly different way, so a caddy must be able to adapt to the style of their golfer. By learning to gauge the sort of advice a particular player might prefer, a caddy can increase his own effectiveness by quite a bit.
Common Caddy Responsibilities
The job of a caddy is certainly not limited to hauling around clubs all day. Caddies are responsible for assisting their player with nearly every facet of the game, regardless of the level of play. Caddies you see helping pro golfers on TV have essentially the same duties as the average course caddy, but the professionals tend to be more involved and invested in the overall process of gameplay. Below is a brief outline of the most notable duties for all caddies.
- Handling Clubs – This makes up the primary job of a caddy. Some teams of two golfers will employ a single caddy for the two of them. Caddies are also responsible for distributing golf clubs to the player at each hole as the player sees fit. The caddy will then return the club to the bag once the shot has been taken.
- Cleaning – Keeping the golf balls and clubs clean is paramount to optimal gameplay, so caddies are expected to maintain a certain level of cleanliness amongst the equipment. Most golf courses provide mechanical washing machines specifically designed for such equipment, and caddies typically carry a small hand towel with them for quick spot checks between each hole.
- Scouting – Many golfers trust the advice of a caddy who walks the same course day after day, especially when it comes to measuring distances. Many golfers want close estimates of the distances between landmarks on a course, and they often rely on caddies for those estimates. Some caddies carry digital range-fingers with them for just such occasions, but many courses also include distance markers for quick assessments. Distance markers convey how much farther the green lies, and caddies often use these markers to make quick guesses at the total distance remaining between the golfer’s ball and t
- Raking – Whenever a golfer is forced into a sand trap or bunker, their caddy must rake the affected area after the player has left the trap. It’s common courtesy for parties to repair any temporary damage done to the course during their play, and the shoulder of responsibility falls onto the caddy.
- Repairing Divots – This is an extension of the damage repair idea from above. Divots occur when players accidentally strike the ground instead of their ball, and they can be detrimental to players following behind you on the course. Caddies are responsible for finding and returning the disturbed portion of the grass before play can continue.
- Pin Removal – The pin is the flag that sticks out from the hole as an indicator to its position from afar. When golfers reach the green, the pin is no longer as necessary as it was before, and it can actually be a hinderance. If a golfer has their ball on the green, but they still cannot see the hole, the caddy is responsible for standing beside the pin in preparation of their golfer’s shot. Once the shot is taken, the caddy removes the pin so it won’t obstruct the ball entering the hole. If the ball lies close enough that the pin is not necessary for visualization of the hole, the caddy should remove the pin well before the shot is taken. Once all the golfers in a party have finished, the pin should be replaced for use by the next group.
Course Caddies vs Pro Caddies
One of the primary differences between a course caddy and a pro caddy is their level of commitment to the game. Course caddies are valuable assets to players who can’t afford to hire a full-time caddy, but their lack of specialization when it comes to a specific player can prevent course caddies from being optimally effective. Course caddies are primarily utilized for their specific knowledge about the course itself, and not their ability to offer help that is specific to the player they are working with.
Professional caddies, on the other hand, tend to move with the players, meaning they get very little repetitive experience on a single course. A professional caddy must be able to make up for this disadvantage by showing how their advanced knowledge of the mechanics of the game can overcome inexperience in certain locales. It has been estimated that a good caddy can save a player up to 10 strokes per round thanks to their ability to read greens, predict weather conditions, and provide club recommendations. One famous example of this occurred in the 1964 British Open. Tony Lema won the competition despite having never played at St. Andrew’s Old Course, which hosted the event. After he won, he publicly announced that the majority of his victory was due to his caddy, Tip Anderson. Anderson was a veteran Scottish caddy at the time, and his insight into the game allowed Lema to come away with the win.Image Source: www.bobpix.com
This is a downside to professional caddying as well, although it isn’t often discussed. Some professionals treat their caddies as disposable tools that should be utilized and discarded. Many caddies are fired out of no where for giving poor advice in a single instance, or for not giving advice that could have helped their player. One such instance occurred at the 2015 Canadian Open. Robert Allenby, a veteran of the PGA, fired his caddy after sinking a triple-bogey on hole 13. According to the caddy, Mick Middlemo, Allenby lost his temper after making a series of bad shots that he blamed exclusively on Middlemo. Allenby fired Middlemo on the spot and was forced to have a fan caddy for the rest of the round. Middlemo was the fourth caddy to be removed from Allenby’s service.
While it’s widely regarded that caddies are a necessary aspect of professional golf, many pro caddies experience highs and lows similar to those of Tip Anderson and Mick Middlemo. Caddies of all varieties certainly live interesting lives, and as long as professional and recreational golf exists there will be caddies trudging along, trying to improve the game without stepping on the toes of their colleagues and friends.