The definitive guide for tipping a caddie

caddie
There is nothing like taking a caddie. When you have that opportunity, make sure you know how to tip accordingly.

A good caddie is more than a mere assistant. He is guide, philosopher and friend. The British golf writer and commentator Henry Longhurst said that once and the words have appeared on a caddyshack wall along the way.

Playing with a caddie is ideal. There are more opportunities now than ever before in the golf cart era, anyway.

Upscale private clubs from Palm Springs to Westchester offer caddies or forecaddies. Strong caddie programs at resorts like Streamsong in Florida, Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Pinehurst in North Carolina give visiting golfers the opportunity to learn unfamiliar courses through the trusted eyes of a veteran looper. Even the rare public course like Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Illinois has a crew of sturdy backed youngsters ready to haul your Pings around the loop.

If you’re fortunate enough to have someone carry your golf clubs, be prepared to give them a tip in addition to the flat rate charged by the club. This person is lugging your golf clubs up-and-down hills in all weather, shy of a sleet storm. They will trudge through knee deep grass, thickets and possibly creeks, risking infection, snake bites, Lyme disease, sprained ankles and potential loss of life or limb to find your golf ball.

MORE MULL: How I became a PGA Tour caddie | Unwritten rules to caddying

Presumably, you tip your waitress for delivering a plate of food and filling a glass. You tip your bartender for unscrewing beer bottles and such. You probably, hopefully, tip the person who trims your sideburns and neck hairs.

Tip your caddie. You’re on the golf course to have fun. He or she is on the golf course to make a living — and help you have fun along the way. Unless the looper is rude, disrespectful, lazy, really drunk or otherwise incapacitated, he’s earned a little something for the effort.

How much then, should you tip?

At Pinehurst, the flat rate is $90 for a single premium caddie and the recommended tip is a minimum of $30, or 33 percent.

A good caddie is more than a mere assistant. He is guide, philosopher and friend. The British golf writer and commentator Henry Longhurst said that once and the words have appeared on a caddyshack wall along the way.

If that percentage seems extravagant, consider this:

There’s a 90 percent chance your caddie is a better golfer than you are. And, even if he or she doesn’t currently have a lower handicap, he or she probably did at one time. Finally, maybe you’re a real ace, one of those professional amateur world traveler know-it-all types. Just remember, your caddie has been around the course you’re walking many times more than you have. He or she might have insight that you, in all your wisdom, are unable to glean in a maiden voyage around the layout. Those sage words might save you a shot or three.

He or she could also have a joke to lighten the mood after your first four-putt, a light for your smoke, a good story from the night before, sharp advice on why you should take the road underdog Monday night, local dining suggestions, or an array of anecdotes appropriate for the situation.

Again, he or she is hauling around your stuff.

How does one determine how much to tip?

Handles The Basics: Maintaining a good pace, cleaning the clubs, locating the ball, knowing the course and cleaning the ball.

Every caddie should wipe the chunk of mud off your 7-iron after you lay the sod over an approach, keeping the grooves clean for the next swipe. They should have a rough idea where your squirrel hooked tee shot came to rest in the forest (three rows? Four rows deep?) and be able to locate the ball. If you ask your caddie what lurks beyond the fairway bunker on the left side of No. 11, he or she should be able to tell you with confidence and ease your mind or steer you in another direction. Upon reaching the green — and everyone arrives eventually — the looper should ask for the ball to scrub the dirt, soot, pine sap and Lord knows what else from the dimples. That way you can putt with a clean ball and stroke purely your 28-footer for quadruple-bogey uninhibited by any evidence of the seven shots needed to get there.

Any caddie who delivers the basics for four hours or so has earned a tip in the 30 percent range.

Better than Most: Reading putts, assisting with club selection, understanding the appropriate level of banter.

A good caddie knows the greens, grasps the speed on that particular day, whether the ball is traveling uphill or downhill, which direction the grain goes and how much it impacts a putt, whether a particular green is faster, slower, firmer or softer than the rest. Trust a caddie who has this knowledge and the tools of communication. Let them guide you around the greens like a sherpa.

A good caddie also uses their rangefinder and observation skills to assess either on the range or in the opening holes how far you actually hit your 6-iron which may or may not be how far you think you hit your 6-iron. When they nudge you toward a club selection in a moment of indecision on the back nine, heed the suggestion.

The amount of conversation varies from golfer to golfer and a good caddie knows early in the round how to deliver the right experience.

It’s your money, but right now we’re giving good advice on how you should spend it. If your caddie is checking all these boxes, providing this level of service, a 40-50 percent tip is adequate.

In general, your caddying experience will fall into one of those two categories. Yet on rare occasions, your day goes Above & Beyond.

Perhaps you made a hole-in-one or survived a long weekend golf trip with your buddies and won all the money in the 16-man shootout. Maybe, somewhere along the way, your caddie shared a tip or pointer that led to a significant upgrade in your putting or bunker play. In these situations, consider yourself fortunate and let your conscience be your guide as it pertains to tipping. The caddie was invested in the decisions that led to a memorable day or weekend. Make sure they’re fairly compensated. They’ve surely run across some tightwads and jerks in their travels on fairways and greens. Fattening the caddie’s wallet will make those forgettable rounds fade faster. And it’s unlikely you’ll miss an extra $20 bill or two.

COMMENTS

  1. Man this is so true.I get to be around some great people of all walks of life and it is nothing like being a entertainer on the course making sure that the foursome have a great time .when a guest plays at your course No one spends more time with them than their caddies.

  2. Well written and true, however there is an error. The recommended minimum tip for a single premium caddie at Pinehurst is $50. The recommended minimum for a double bag caddie is $30 per bag. As the article suggests you should pay according to the level of service you receive.

    – a Pinehurst caddie.

  3. Most golfers have no problem tipping a waiter $80 to $100 for 1 hour of service after their round ,but get very short arms when it comes time to tip your caddie for being your valet , photographer, entertainer ,and golf Sherpa for 4 1/2 hours !

    1. Who in the world is tipping a waiter $80?! That’s insane. Maybe if the pre-tax bill is $500. Maybe.

      And most of these comments must be written by caddies. If the rate for a caddie is $100, a $20 is plenty. Better yet, just make the rate $120 and drop the tipping.

      This tipping stuff is out of control. Tipping 50-100%? Please.

      1. a $20 tip….? You think $.90 cents per hole is an appropriate amount to pay someone for tracking and locating your drive, providing a number and line of attack to the green, cleaning your club, cleaning your ball, and reading a putt?

  4. As a member of Pinehurst Country Club, I usually carry my own bag around #2. If the group I’m in has a caddie, I really enjoy talking with them and keeping an ear open to any advice they pass on to their player (am still working on how those greens break, if at all). At some time during the round the caddie will clean my ball or rake my bunker, without my asking. It’s just the way these loopers are – all wonderful (in my experience). I may even ask for some advice about a putt if I’m really confused (which rule does this break again?). At the end of the round I have no issue pulling a $20 from my pocket as a way to say thank you! They don’t have to help me in any way shape or form, but they do, and always with a smile on their face. Thanks!!!

  5. a 30.00 dollar tip for 4 to 5 hrs of working around a golf course is a
    disgrace. a minimum of 100.00 is passable. lots of caddies call a 100.00
    a sheet. two sheets per bag is a reasonable amount for the person who
    does a good job.

  6. $30 a bag is what we call “gack”. $50 a bag is pretty much minimum these days. Love when New Yorkers come in to play. New Yorkers throw $100 a bag…. everyone should tip like New Yorkers.

  7. I loop at a course where you can only see the flagstick or green on 3 of 13 non par 3 holes. Lines of play and grain on the greens are paramount for a good score.
    Think my knowledge might be helpful and add value, remember that when we finish, please!

  8. For some courses that have forecaddies, those guy’s only make $8-15 per bag from their company or course that they work at. They work 4-6 hours for 4 people at the same time. The course would recommend $20 per player which was atrocious. We’d wish for at least $150 for the group but often times only got about $100 due to the recommendations when they checked in.

  9. Played Bandon five days.Same caddy each day so I assume my respect shown to him & the tip were good enough to show up each day.Great guy, great caddie and would love to go back to show him how much I’ve improved at an older age. Sure he’s still there, had the heart & love of the game that will make him a lifer. Also a world class ball hawk!

  10. I have been caddying for 6 years and it is the best job I’ve ever had. I make about 60k a year. But some of these amounts seem low! If I don’t walk out of the cart barn after a loop without at least $200 (NET) then it was not that great of a day. I’m talking about $200 from the whole group. $50 per player. Nothing on here includes the part where the caddy has to pay the caddy master after the loop. If I caddy for a 4some, I owe my boss $20.

    Tip your forecaddie at least $75 per bag
    And if the guys is carrying 2, minimum $120 per bag!! (This is a minimum and it is including the caddie fee + tip)

    It is a bad day if we walk out with under $200

    Don’t be the reason your caddy had a bad day

  11. The best advice I can give to caddies who want to make money is stay away from any Caddie Master Enterprises’ properties. They take a big chunk of your income. Stay away at all costs!

    1. Caddiemaster is a borderline criminal organization with regard to the way it treats their caddies.

      They’re fine as a way to get trained and learn how to caddie, but unless you like the idea of your employer taking 60% (or more) of your bag fees while providing zero benefits, look elsewhere for long term employment.

  12. Very true. I caddied for years all over the country. I worked at a non tipping course and made about $5,400 in tips during the season. For a caddie we are on stage every loop and we’re only as good as our last loop. There are players that know how to take care of a caddie and ones that don’t. For players who are playing the same trax for a weekend I highly recommend that if you get along and like your caddie ask for him for the time you are at that course and if you go back again ask for him. I now am a member at Tucson CC and I like a good caddie. If the caddie is good take care of him and remember he might be working two players with a bag on each shoulder. Let him or her know you appreciated the job they did. It might be the best loop you’ve ever had and I’m not talking about your score.

  13. I’ve read a few articles on this site and love them, thanks for posting but I do have a question on tipping. And, i’d like an honest reply… My buddies and I played Bandon in June 2019 for our first ‘buddies trip’ and we were new to having a caddie so we got a forecaddie. We played 4 courses over 2 days and we all pulled our bags with the carts.

    Unknowingly and naive, after each loop we each gave him $50 so that each loop was $200 in tips and each day $400. After reading this article that feels excessive considering he was giving yardages, reading greens and finding balls, was that too much? Many thanks.

  14. I caddied for professionals from age 16-28. I am very critical of caddy performance. I do not deal in per cent ages. I’m tying up five of the loopers hours. He’s getting a taste from the course or horrible management company. So I start at $40. That’s for basics. If he or she (one of the best caddies I’ve ever had was a college woman varsity golfer.) enhance my experience, I go up from there. If the course is a tough walk, I go up from there. The only time I’d go below 40 is if the caddy starts talking personal stuff theirs to me. “I just don’t know how to get my GF off meth”. Will cause shrinkage. If the towel is not half wet and half dry, there might be minor shrinkage. I’d say I’ve given more 100% tips than tips under 40 bucks. Percentage of what the golf course thinks a caddy is worth is just a bullshit starting Point. I’d rather let the caddy tell me what he’s worth.

  15. I caddied to a group of 4 at old Prestwick then Dundonald and western gailes, best 3 day looping , so much so I visited them in St Pete Fl, at their insistace ,met my new wife hope to get my green card for moving this autumn and then find a new course to work.
    PRICELESS
    ps Love doing loops

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