‘Help me help you’: Advice for people taking a caddie
“Good swing right there.”
I finally hit a 7-iron somewhere on the face during this early morning range session, and it felt good to have it validated by the voice walking up behind me. I turned around to a young man reaching into my bag to clean some clubs I had already hit.
“Don’t get used to it,” I said only half-joking. “I take it you’re with me today.”
“Yes sir, I’m Marcel.”
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Little did I realize that Marcel’s introduction was more than a “Hello.” As my caddie, he was preparing for our round already. And my reaction and behavior right then would be setting the tone for the rest of the day.
Since my write up on “Why you should take a caddie,” I’ve had a number of people reach out to me with some interesting queries and discussions.
While most agreed with my position — and even shared some of their best golf memories — a few recalled a round or two where the player/caddie chemistry just didn’t spark. Why not? What happened? Did they just get stuck with a poor caddie (possible) or was there something early that put out a bad vibe and communication broke down.
I recently had the chance to play a round at East Lake Golf Club, the home of the Tour Championship and a facility that requires players to take caddies for the round. I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore the player/caddie relationship a little deeper. The line from Jerry Maguire (it’s an old Tom Cruise movie for the younger readers) kept popping up in my mind: “Help Me Help You.” Could there be some guidelines for players that would make caddying for them easier, better – and in turn, they would be better able to assist that player? That’s what we’d find out.
I asked Marcel this question and he answered it by first telling me that to be a good caddie, he needed to know what that meant for each player. He was creating a “golf profile” of his player the moment he knew his assignment and met his player. So as he came up to me on the range, he wanted to learn a few things.
- The swing: Well, duh. It’s not about how good (or bad) you are. But more about what can they learn from your pre-round activities. What’s your miss? What’s your shot shape? If they are going to help steer you around the course, they need an idea of what you can reasonably do.
- Your temperament: Virtually every caddie can “read” a player just like reading a putt. In about the same amount of time, too. Is this player a hothead? Is he super serious about golf or is he out here for fun? Is this going to be a quiet day? How are the players engaging with each other? Marcel knew early. “That guy in the blue shirt, he’s not a talker. You… talk a lot.” OK, guilty.
- Short Game: Marcel watched me hit some chips and putts. Some players like to die putts into the hole, some are a little more aggressive. I climbed down into a bunker and bladed a couple shots over the green. “I’m usually OK — but not great — out of bunkers.” He responded, “We just won’t hit into any bunkers today.”
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So now Marcel had me and my game assessed. He has a reasonably good expectation of what he can do to make me enjoy my round the most. Now, what can I do to help him reach that goal (again, which benefits me)?
Lighten the load: C’mon, this one is obvious. Do you need the umbrella, rain gear, two dozen balls? Probably not. The bag can get heavy – and many caddies are carrying two of them. Lighter bags aren’t just easier for the caddie to carry, they’re easier to manage (find stuff in) and help caddies keep up. Which again, benefits the player most of all.
Set the Expectation: If a caddie is going to create a mental profile, why not make sure it’s accurate? “I’ll need help on the greens”; “I may lose a few balls right”; “I’ve been battling a pull”; etc. I asked Marcel if he was a good player. He assured me he was. I asked him how confident he was in reading the greens. He said, “It’s what I do best out here.” That was good enough for me. I was going to take his word and trust it, right or wrong. Overwhelmingly, he was right. But taking (and believing) his word, and not having to second guess it, made it a better day for me as well.
Say “Thank You.”: This one should be obvious, too. Did you hit the target line off the tee? Were you clubbed right? Did you make the putt because of a good read? Great! Celebrate. And thank the caddie who made the read. Share in the celebration of it. It makes it a better day for everyone.
Don’t blame: You missed the putt? Sucks, I know. But you hit it. Maybe you pulled it? Did you hit it a different speed than you’ve been putting? Ultimately, golf is hard. A good caddie can help, but they can’t perform miracles.
Don’t be an ass: Or, maybe the caddie just flat out missed the read. You know who feels the worst when that happens? Him or her. So don’t act like an ass and complain, berate, show out, etc. I promise, absolutely swear, that it’s not the caddie that looks bad when you do that.
Show Appreciation: Caddying is tough work. On a hot, humid Georgia day, it’s near excruciating. When the group stops at the turn house (or wherever) for drinks, pick up something for your caddie. It’s $3 or so. And it makes a world of difference.
The Human Factor: This shouldn’t need to be said, but it needs to be said. I’ve asked a number of caddies if there’s such a thing as a perfect loop. No one admitted to having one. Always something that could have been done better. Even more, sometimes, mistakes happen. A headcover goes missing. A towel is dropped. A wedge left behind. No one likes it. But your attitude — as the player — when something like this happens will go a long way in determining the day you (and your playing partners) have. The caddies want you to enjoy your day. They are doing their best. They are every bit as worthy of respect and appreciation as anyone else on the course.
I’ve heard a few nightmare stories about how players treat caddies. Even some high profile folks who should absolutely know better. I hope they shot a hundred and threw their back out.
For the rest of us, just wanting to enjoy a special round in a memorable way, let’s make that memory a good one. Your caddie is there to help do just that. If you give them just a little help in doing so, you’re going to make it so much better on yourself and your group.
Great write up. I’ve been looping all of the USA from coast to coast. Currently at Bandon Dunes. You hit everything on point.
Seems strange to have to say it but I am surprised by how some people treat their caddies on course. Whatever happened to the statement “Treat others how you would like to be treated yourself”?
The caddy master should know their caddies. I played Bandon Dunes with a caddie and the first thing the caddie master did was lift my light carry bag and look to a young lady and said you will be fine. Imagine how I felt? I’m paying $325 for a round of golf and $100+ for her services. I asked the caddie master if she was experienced and stated all our caddies are good. First green I ask for a read on my par putt. She gives her read and think to myself I’m getting ripped off. Went with my read and sunk the putt. After that I had no confidence in her abilities to improve my very experience experience. She was as we call them in Ireland a bag carrier not a caddie and should have been paid half the price. I bit my lip paid her$120 and went on my way. I’ll never play at Bandon Dunes again.
My son caddied there for a summer. Your experience was exactly what he described as the issue at Brandon. Too many locals/donkeys just carrying bags. You deserved a better experience.
All your points are spot on, however, isn’t it terrible that any of your content needs to be pointed out.
pay your caddie.
I caddied for several years at a country club while in HS. It was $4 a bag and usually you carried two so a loop was worth $10, maybe $12 depending on the players. But there were some jerks who couldn’t break 100 who would grade you (in their feeble minds) and give no tip at all. Then they would race into the clubhouse and drink away your tip!
In 2007 I played TPC Scottsdale that was my first experience with a Caddie all I asked him for if you can guarantee that I would par the sixteenth hole he look me right in the eye and said ” you what I tell you on the 16th hole no problem he told me what iron the tee up with what area on the green to try to land any read my to putt for par ! I I tipped him $100 that was my only experience with a Caddie and it was fantastic I can forever tell my friends that I parred the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale
Don’t be afraid of taking the inexperienced caddie and help them learn the craft. It is the only way you will get an experienced caddie in the future.
Modern day golfers have mostly lost sight of the companionship factor of golf. A typical foursome today races out in carts like the banana splits never caring or watching the other players shots just only caring about their own. Oh and if they have to take a caddy they cant wait to prove them wrong. I had a caddy at Metedeconk one day he was talking about dining and life as we strokled the fairways golf was an afterthought. I shot 73. I was like he was great company but not really into golf. Turned out he was a Tour caddy. Go figure. Its all about the company folks
Advice for golfers who take a caddie.
1. Read your own putts but ask the caddie to confirm the read vs having the caddie only read the putt. It’s a much more positive experience.
2. Engage your caddie in a conversation in anything other than how great you are as a golfer. The caddie will think of the next few hours less as a job and more fun, and consequently will do a better job for you.
3. If you happen to be paired with a less experienced caddie, take the opportunity to help them learn the game. The next time you are paired with that person, they will be better at their craft.
I’ve been Looping 18 years & seen a lot, though I admit not everything just yet!! Just when I might think “Well Now I’ve seen everything” the Golf Gods rear their heads and PROVE me wrong! I could and maybe will write a novel and the do’s & do not’s as far as how to treat a Caddy, but I’ll try & be short & hit only on a few points that Golfers of all Levels can “do” … 1. When you meet your Caddy, look them in the eye & when they give you their name or nickname, do your best to REMEMBER it!! Turn around & say it to yourself 10 times, or something like that!! Also, try to understand that your Caddy probably meets 10+ “You’s” each week, so He/She may forget your name & if so, don’t take it too personal, crack a joke & refer to yourself in the third person or something along those lines !! Some places have Caddies who only carry 1 bag, some have guys who carry 2 bags, and others may have 1 caddy for 4 players and 2 carts!! Please Act accordingly!! I’ve had people get upset that I forgot their name & I’ve told them things like “My bad ALLEN, This is my 2nd loop today and you are NEW FACE #8 for me, I’m just a Caddy man so I apologize that my mind can only keep so many Names straight!! I’m a work in progress & don’t worry, it never forgets
a bad Tipper!!” or “NEXT time maybe give me or your whoever your next victim is $10 or $20 on the range & tell him ‘That’s to remember my name!! There’s more where it came from & I’m not too hard to impress, but You’re gonna have to earn it” …
2. Thank You’s … These CAN flat out get disingenuous when USED too much!! Use other Phrases from time-to-time & its easy to avoid. Most of us don’t need a “Thank You” every time we exchange a club or wipe a ball or give you a yardage!! It’s Awesome & I know I’m Blessed to NOT have one of those “Thankless” Jobs, But after like 30 “Thank You’s” before we hit #10 I begin to wonder if you’re mocking me & really meaning “F*ck You Caddy”!! Please understand I’m not “complaining” I’m only trying to “help” people who don’t understand that “THIS is my job” and I don’t say “Thank You” after a Cop does his job & gives me a speeding ticket UNLESS he’s a jerk & I really mean “F*ck You Copper” !! Personally, I like love a Player who will throw a “F*ck You Caddy” in there now & then!! Not in a bad way really but in a joking manner!! Say you hit a bad shot and you KNOW it’s your fault, Your Caddy may say “That’s My Bad Boss” and that’s where a “F*ck You Caddy, it’s my BAD” can change a round of Golf!! Most of us Jocks/Caddies/Loopers hold ourselves Accountable & don’t mind shouldering SOME of the blame as long as it helps the Player relax, laugh, & forget about it!! I want to know when I’m correct & when YOU think I’m wrong, it helps ME improve & be a better Caddy from that point further!!
3. It’s a GAME, not life & not THAT important in the grand scheme of things!! Relax, Smile, Laugh at yourself of Poke fun at your Caddy or Playing Partners, but do it in Good Taste & not to Offend anyone!! You PROBABLY work for a living and put in 40+ hours a week, Do not to EXPECT “Tiger Woods results” when you only Play once or twice a month!! It’s ZERO Fun for you or your Caddy when YOU get pissed every other tee shot & beat yourself up all day!! Lower your Self Expectations & remind yourself that most likely some of your BEST shots immediately follow some of your WORST ones!! That’s how I approach them & trust me, it’s the absolute BEST way I’ve found to enjoy the Game!! And the results will surprise You!! I have an “I’ll show YOU” attitude towards the Golf Gods & often I am rewarded for It!! Shank a tee shot that only goes 100yds & ends up behind a Tree, “Real Cute Golf Gods, you wanna try & screw me huh… Well I’ll show YOU & make Par from there if THATS how you wanna Play today!!” Then punch out aggressively, Hit a solid approach that leaves you with a Putt, Get up & Bury the damn Par putt!! “I Told You Golf Gods!! And I got more where that came from so let’s do THIS!!” …
To End … TIP WELL !!! Even if you have a Caddy you think ain’t great, TIP DECENTLY !! But should you have one you KNOW is a good one, Think about what you think a Good Tip would be for THIS Caddy, then DOUBLE that shit!! Try & make the Caddy unable to Forget YOU & wish you played everyday and took HIM/HER as your Caddy!! Money is Replaceable People, Memories Shared with Good People are NOT!!
Really well put across points , just be courteous to each other even if its going well or going to hell in a hand cart…it can affect the whole group .
I caddy in Scotland ,one time the Dan Marino foundation turn up and I love college football so I know a few of the guys playing . Had a blast but one of golfers really could not click with his caddy , he then asked my advice on tee at 17th , I said I really can’t go against your loopers advice which was different to other 3 loopers . He actually walked off at 18 and said to me he wished I had been on his bag . Good and bad in some respects. He came back following year and asked for me .
He said that when i move to Florida this year he can get me hooked up at Old Memorial for looping, fingers crossed .
I caddied for professionals for 12 years. I mostly caddied for two fine players regularly but, when I had a player who was new to me, I established two things: 1. Do you want me give you a read on every putt, no putts or only when you ask? 2. Do you want to know where “the miss” is or where the danger is?” One guy, whose initials were Lanny Wadkins, told me “never” and then asked for help on every green (Quickly and early, but he asked). Some people can’t process language in looking at break. I caddied for a guy who is in the HOF. Took me a little while to figure out that he could not process “Two Balls out.” It was just meaningless to him. But, with him facing the line, he could digest “gonna swing from your right knee to your left big toe.” One of the things a caddy can do is figure out not “what to say,” but what YOUR PLAYER HEARS. You hear coaches say that all the time. It’s the same for caddies. Finally, the caddies on the LPGA, just amaze me. Most of the women are young, many are not native English speakers and they all seem to have Strong-headed Dads and Husbands and Swing Coaches and former College Coaches. I would have no idea what those great athletes, with all that swirls in their heads, would “Hear.” I caddied once each for Jackie Pung, Betsy Rawls and Patty Berg. No coach no Dad, no Agent. Pung was so nice, she would say “sorry” to me when she hit a bad shot. Rawls always wanted to know “what’s behind this green.” Berg wouldn’t hit her tee shot until she knew where every bunker on the hole was, which made no sense. She could get it closer with her sand wedge than most people could with a putter.
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thoroughly enjoyed this. i loop at Robert Trent Jones GC in Northern Virginia. thankfully membership is incredibly generous and good to us, but i can certainly relate to all of the above. so much headache on the course can be avoided pre-round on the practice areas with good communication!
cheers and happy looping everyone
if you play a resort course and do it once or more every year, it is best to take a looper
who you know is compatible. many of these people are professionals at their job. as good
or as bad as you might play they seen better or worse. some of these folks have great stories, and they know very quickly how to club. nice, on say number 8, at pebble to
have the right club in your hand. if you have a good looper, save the contact information
and hire them again. when you have a pool of several hundred caddies it can happen
that you draw someone that just doesn’t click. be extra generous with these folks.
I have caddied at two major clubs one of the biggest things that affect a caddie is the bags !!! I can’t understand that people never clear out there bags of all there junk they should never weigh more then 22 pounds !!! You only need 8 balls and I guarantee you your definitely are not going to lose 8 balls a round with a caddie !! The other thing is the golf bags that guests and even members need to be replaced every two years especially if your play a lot of golf !!! The straps get wore out and definitely don’t buy the mountain type bags that are meant to be personally carried they are almost impossible to adjust !!! The other thing if you hit in a bunker or rough around the green n your in the fairway grab a few wedges so the caddie can drop the bags n cut across to the next fairway so he can forecaddie !!! Also most of us are at the course 6-7 days a week and we do know the greens distance to bunkers,water,and any other things that may be a problem !!! Also most of us know the greens and if you haven’t played there a caddie can be of great help !!! To be honest I know members who have been members for 20 years and still don’t know the greens !! And last if you get a senior/ experience caddie pay him according we work really hard to try to make your time on the course enjoyable !!