Here’s what it’s like for a caddie to take on a new bag on the PGA Tour
Talking before a shot
“When you work with a new guy you have to find out what kind of verbiage he likes hearing on the golf course,” Barnes said. “Do you like hearing a front edge number? Do you like knowing that it plays about five yards uphill? Some people don’t. Some like front edge, to the pin, and maybe the back edge, and that’s it.”
Barnes discovered what his players have liked pretty early on.
“James Driscoll (former boss) liked a lot less numbers. I remember early on I started giving him a few extra numbers and he was like, ‘hey, that’s too many numbers, I’ll figure it out.’
“Charley Hoffman (current boss) likes more numbers because that helps him. Charley speaks more out loud to narrow down a number we think it’s playing, how far the shot is we are trying to hit, where we’re trying to land it. Where we land it dictates everything for us.”
For Scott, he had to adjust from giving more to less numbers. His boss from 2003-2005, Paul Azinger, wanted more yardages, whereas when he got to Bubba Watson starting in 2006, the big lefty wanted less.
When a player is in between clubs, the discussion tends to increase.
“If you’re in between clubs I think it’s our job to say ‘OK, it’s probably a really hard eight, but the pin is tucked over that bunker and we have 10 yards behind the pin, the error is past the pin, so maybe we sautée a 7 iron in there” Barnes said.
Farnell began working with Harold Varner III at the 2015 Australian PGA Championship and the veteran says it took only two rounds before Varner started having him help with club selection when they were in between clubs.
But each situation, and player/caddie relationship, is different. In Barnes’ experience, he likes to defer to the player on shot selection early in the working relationship.
“You let (the player) dictate the first few weeks, only speak up when you need to. Once you get a little more comfortable, you might get a little louder, present the numbers before he has them,” he said.
“In the end, the caddie has to be who he is but has the freedom to speak up and should not be afraid to speak up in certain situations. Those are the caddies that last longest. The ‘yes’ caddies who don’t speak up after a few weeks, they’re the ones that don’t seem to last.”