So, you’ve done it. You’ve finally booked a bucket-list golf trip, or scored an invite to some swanky, exclusive club, or signed up to play in some big-time charity event.
The anticipation is going to wear on you. It’s exhilarating and exhausting. You’ll go through your bag a few times, because the one thing you don’t want to do is come unprepared, right? (The lengths we’ll go through to ensure a fun, memorable round are awesome, if not a little hilarious. “What will I wear?” “Do I have enough golf balls?” “Should I get a lesson prior?”)
But there is one general tip that many (most?) golfers forget – and most regret it soon thereafter; some in score, virtually all in overall experience…
BOOK A CADDIE.
Seriously. I can’t stress this enough. If the opportunity is there, take advantage. I’ve been lucky enough to play a number of great courses. Virtually all of my favorite memories were times I had a caddie on the bag.
“But isn’t that expensive?” many will ask. Not really, not when you consider 1.) The value you get vs. the cost and 2.) How do you put a price on ensuring a marquee golf experience you’ll remember forever?
So what’s the value? How am I so sure that having a caddie makes your round(s) significantly better?
Well, the most obvious reason is score. Do you want to score your best? Of course you do. And whether it’s reading greens or telling you what areas to avoid off the tee or quick tips to help your slice, a good caddie can make a world of difference to your score. This alone justifies the cost. But you already knew that. And for some, maybe score doesn’t matter? Should you still get one? Absolutely. In fact, I can give you 10 reasons to get a caddie in addition to helping you score better.
1. Truly enjoy the course: When you walk the course, you get a much better appreciation of the design, the beauty, the nuances that make a venue special. To do it without having to deal with the task of carrying a bag (they can get heavy and cumbersome), or the responsibility of maintenance (sanding divots, raking bunkers) allows you to really soak in the experience while saving valuable energy for the important last few holes.
2. Local history: Do you know which house Donald Ross lived in off Pinehurst No. 2 or Alister MacKenzie’s at Pasatiempo? Which is the famous Dustin Johnson bunker on Whistling Straits’ 18th? You’ll learn so much more about the course, the club, and famous players that have played there with what is pretty much a local historian with the group.
3. Local scene: You know what’s almost as important as a good round? A good dinner after. But where to go? I have never had a caddie steer me or my group wrong with restaurant, bar scene, whatever recommendations. They are not only locals, but they’ve heard the feedback from countless groups before. It’s a living Yelp so to speak. Take advantage.
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4. It’s more social: The group bonding aspect can’t be overlooked. When you’re in a cart, 90 percent of your conversations are with whoever you happen to be riding with. But with a caddie, you are free to chat with anyone in the group at any time. Walk up one fairway with one buddy. Walk up the next with another. It 100 percent promotes a more enjoyable experience.
5. Tour Experience: Don’t dismiss the “cool” factor in marking your ball after a good approach and flipping it to the caddie for a good cleaning – or discussing the shot and options prior to an important shot. I particularly enjoy splashing one out of the bunker and handing off my wedge for my putter while the caddie goes in to rake behind me. Feel like a pro, score like one. (Okay, I made that part up. But still…)
6. Carry stuff: Wait, what? Isn’t that what they do? Of course it is. But it’s not just clubs and towels that you’ll need. Ball markers, divot repair tools, tees, even your range finder. To always have it on hand and easily accessible… it makes a difference.
7. Ball Locator: Whether a regular caddie or a forecaddie, you’re more than likely going to need some help finding golf balls on courses you don’t know. And having the caddie there isn’t just an extra set of eyes, it’s an extra set of expert eyes who knows where wayward shots tend to collect. It will save you strokes, it will save you golf balls. That’s pretty good.
8. Great entertainment: Caddies tend to know all the best golf jokes. They have books of great stories from players they’ve worked with, from politicians, to entertainers, to sports stars, to last week’s buddy trip group from Oshkosh. Allow a little time to engage them with your best stories and jokes, they’ll reciprocate exponentially.
9. Cameraman: Here’s your group, on a lifetime trip, with an iconic hole in the background – this is a memory to keep forever. Now who’s going to take the photo? Selfies don’t work here guys. (really, ever?)
10. Positive Energy: It’s a golf trip. You want to win – or at least, play your best. And sometimes you need a voice to encourage you, give you confidence, stop the mental bleeding. A caddie, for that round, is your teammate, your friend, often your coach and psychologist, too. They can read your body language and help when you need it, where you need it. They can also share in the joy of the booming drive, the great chip or the clutch putt that drops. Good thoughts lead to good results. The right caddie will fill you with good thoughts.
Obviously, these thoughts come from my experiences and the shared experiences of dozens and dozens of friends who take travel golf very seriously. Some caddies will be better than others, but all will serve important functions in helping you enjoy your round. It’s not only their job to do so, for many, it’s their passion.
I play a lot of golf, but some rounds are just simply more special than others. And for those, I want to do everything I can to savor them, appreciate them, and especially, remember them. I’ve never regretted having a caddie, but often regretted not having one.
If you have gone through the challenges to arrange a special round, doesn’t it make sense to do everything you can to ensure it will be that special?