Caddie Network

The definitive guide for tipping a 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.

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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.

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