Friday, July 15, 2005

Using A Caddie

Recently Rich from Eat Golf posted an article asking me to try and come up with a list of things players should remember to “make a typical caddie's day better.” Most people, after reading some of the posts on this site, will come to the obvious conclusion that I’ve caddied for a few “assholes” over the past few months. So having somebody ask me to come up with some sort of unofficial guide for players’ to use was a very nice gesture. I jumped right on the idea.

After doing some free-writing I realized that it would be nearly impossible to come up with a numbered list and say, “There’s your damn list. Everything you need to know about using a caddie is right there. There’s nothing more to discuss.” Because let’s face it, there are some strange things happening on the golf course every single day. Take today for example. Today one of the caddies said that while he was playing golf the other day, he looked over on one of the other holes and saw two people having sex in a cart. Well, I guess TECHNICALLY it wasn’t IN the cart, but half of her body was definitely bent over one of the seats. I mean come on: even if a player was trying his or her best to make the caddies’ life easier, the relationship of the caddie / player just became rather awkward. I mean, neither individual knows if that’s something the OTHER person would like to see, and there’s really nothing you can suggest as far as “etiquette” is concerned to get you out of the situation. Or here’s another one: what if your caddie has to take a shit so bad that he grabs your towel and hustles off into the woods? Now it’s NOBODY’S fault. It was just something that NEEDED to happen. But there are no RULES I can give you to handle a situation like that. So I approached this “list” as more of a work-in-progress than anything even CLOSE to resembling gospel. Here we go.

On Using a Caddie…

Don’t be afraid to throw your ball to a caddie on the green for cleaning, and if you just happen to take a huge divot and need your club cleaned immediately because you need to use it again, feel free to ask the caddie to help you out. Hey, it’s part of what we do.

Understand that your caddie may have stayed up late the night before playing poker and drinking, so it may take him 2 holes to warm up and get into a good groove. But don’t worry. He’ll be on the ball soon enough, so please try and cut him a little slack.

On the greens: don’t ostracize your caddie after a couple of bad reads. He’s only human. Wait until he fucks up 3 in a row. THEN you can call him names. “Stevie Wonder” is always popular.

To help guarantee that your caddie does the best job possible, do NOT burden him with drinks to carry or excess baggage such as umbrellas or rain gear (if it is a REALLY sunny day out do NOT assume it will rain).

ALWAYS trust a caddie on a yardage. The minute you don’t, you’ll be giving yourself more work and affecting your playing partners’ games because they will begin to question their caddies’ abilities as well.

Remember that the higher your ball flight, the harder it is to see when someone is in a forecaddie position. So don’t blow up at your caddie when he asks you where your ball went. Yes, a caddie asking a player where his ball is the entire ROUND is a BAD thing, but this shouldn’t happen very often. So please be kind when it does.

If you’re playing a course where there’s a snack bar or something at the turn, offer to buy your caddie a Gatorade. Human beings burn a SHITLOAD of calories while caddying. Help replenish your caddie’s energy a bit. It’s sort of like refueling a car. And your caddie will thank you. He’ll be working double-time on the back nine.

Ask your caddie his handicap. That will give you a good idea about how much advice you can really ask for. If the caddie doesn’t even KNOW what a handicap is, run away. If the caddie’s a scratch, understand that he might offer you some shot selections that you might not be able to pull off. Either way, it’s a good idea to see where the caddie’s advice stands relative to your ability.

On the same token, it’s a good idea to ask your caddies’ how long they’ve been working at the course. Green-reading ability is invaluable, and unless your caddie spends the majority of his time smoking crack (I mean who DOESN'T), long-term employment at the club usually correlates with a higher aptitude on the greens. If the caddie HASN’T worked at the course for very long, I would STILL suggest asking him for advice. Two heads are normally better than one, and by asking a caddie to help you with a putt, you’re HELPING him learn how to read the greens. The best green-readers are forged in fire. They STILL carry scars from bad reads that cost their players'. All it takes is time. Help your caddie improve.

NOTE: GOOD CADDIES KNOW TO OFFER A READ ONLY WHEN ASKED. If the first thing your caddie does when he walks onto a green is start to read your putt, feel free to tell them they’re not doing their job correctly. I HATE it when caddies shirk some of their other duties around the greens just to read a putt they weren’t even ASKED to read. Remember, you’re paying your caddie for services rendered. If you don’t feel like they’re helping you out, give them a warning, and if they still don’t listen, count it against them in their tip. Or tell them they need to be replaced and carry your own bag. Because some caddies just don’t get it, and we need YOU the golfer to help straighten them out. Again, don’t be nervous or try to empathize with your caddie if they’re doing a crappy job. Out on the golf course, the Caddie Master isn’t their boss. You are.

Another aspect of caddying, which I’m sure you’ve heard me say before, is that we’re never supposed to SPEAK unless SPOKEN TO. Now I understand that rule is in place to protect players’ from caddies who can’t seem to shut up, but I mean COME ON. The whole experience for the golfer and the caddie is so much more enjoyable if there is a good line of communication established throughout the round. So players, give your caddies several chances to talk with you. I’ve found that most caddies have led incredibly interesting lives. You’ll probably learn something.

As far as I know, the three golden rules of caddying are as follows: never lose a player’s ball, keep up the pace of play and never speak unless spoken to. We’ve gone over one of those so far. Let’s look at the other two. Pace of play: if a caddie tells you to start picking things up, he’s only doing his job, so don’t get upset and count it against him. In addition, by keeping the pace of play up, you’re saving your caddie a lot of ridicule after the round is over, because the caddies behind you will definitely let him HAVE IT if their rounds were slowed down because of your slow-ass play. Lost balls: if a caddie loses your ball in the rough, he’s not fulfilling one of his promises to you. Now I for one am not a HUGE stickler for this, because some courses have rough so tall you can only see the ball if you’re right on top of it and just happen to be looking straight DOWN. So I would say that unless you’re playing in a tournament or a very serious match, don’t worry about it, console your caddie and tell him everything is going to be alright. If the caddie loses your ball TWICE, ehhh….that’s your call. But I’ll tell you this: I have NEVER lost two balls in one round. If the caddie is really working hard and just couldn’t help it, give him some slack. But if he’s barely moving faster than YOU are the whole round, dock his pay for it. Because a caddie should ALWAYS be moving a little faster than you are. Occasionally they’ll be at your side to talk, but for the most part, they need to be a little ahead of you to make sure that when you get to your ball you already have a yardage. Because that’s the main purpose of a caddie: to make sure that all you have to think about the whole round is swinging the golf club. Yardages, bunkers, divots, or whatever else shouldn’t concern you. As a result, there shouldn’t be that much waiting involved on ANY shot. Now, if a caddie is carrying two bags, you may have to wait. But that should hardly ever happen. A good caddie is always on top of things.

I’m not sure how other caddies will talk about yardages with their players, but I’m accustomed to giving the yardage to the front of the green as well as the distance from the ball to the hole. Some players don’t see the point of that and only want ONE yardage. Some players would rather have the yardage to the BACK of the green. Some players just want an “estimated” yardage. Regardless of what you want, that’s fine. Just make sure you let the caddie know EARLY so he can tweak his normal routine to fit your playing style. Don’t get frustrated with your caddie and BLOW UP at him on the 10th hole because YOU didn’t establish how you’d like to receive your YARDAGES. Ahem. Sorry for the outburst. But that HAS happened to me before.

Whereas it is OKAY to toss a ball to a caddie for cleaning, please do NOT toss your clubs. Yes, your caddie will fetch the club and pretend that little tantrum of yours DIDN’T just happen, but remember two things: one, if a player somehow manages to injure a caddie by throwing a club, you have the potential of costing that caddie $500 or more in lost wages. That’s not cool. And secondly, you’re using a CADDIE for cryin’ out loud. You’re playing golf like the professionals (as far as using a caddie is concerned), and you don’t have to worry about a thing all day. There’s no need to EVER get upset on the golf course. Well, wait. I take that back. If a colleague of yours calls and tells you that a $500 million dollar deal just fell through, I give you permission to get a little upset. But OTHER THAN THAT, everyone ELSE should be happy and enjoying themselves. Period.

Caddies are not allowed to smoke, drink or ride on carts while on the course. Believe me, we WANT to. It’s just against the rules. So don’t tempt / compel your caddie to have a cigar / beer with you while you’re playing. Again, we WANT to. But we can’t. So don’t ask.

Tipping: before you tee off, ask the Caddie Master what the recommended “per-bag” tip is. Do not ask the caddie this question during the round. Because it is awkward. Use the number the Caddie Master gives you as a MINIMUM. If the caddie does a satisfactory job, add $5-$10 to this number and put a smile on your caddies’ face. If they do an AMAZING job, it’s not unheard of to go $40-$50 over the minimum. I’m not saying you HAVE to give that much, but remember: if you play the course a lot and you want to make SURE the caddie makes himself available for you, give him some incentive to come back. Don’t give an AMAZING caddie the minimum and then request him the next day. Odds are the caddie would rather just sleep in or roll the dice on another loop. And yes, if the caddie does a horrible job, you are welcome to give less than the minimum. But please provide the Caddie Master with a couple of reasons so he a) doesn’t come to find you when the caddie complains about the tip, and b) knows what he needs to help the caddie with to assure future success.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’m sure when I’m out on the course this next week I’ll think of some others I should add. And I will. Like I said, I see this list as a work in progress. Caddying really is an art-form, and I’m still too new to the game to come up with a finalized list. But Rich, thanks so much for the suggestion.

And one more quick thing. Tuesday and Wednesday definitely provided me with some interesting stories. I’m currently working on a post to inform all of you what the hell happened to me during those 48 hours.

And one random comment before I go: why the hell do energy drinks change the color of your BM’s?


Rich Hodge said...

AWESOME JB! Just fantastic. You must have burned a few calories writing such a good post - I owe you a red Gatorade..

Jam Boy said...

Not a problem Rich. It was a great idea. Thanks for the suggestion.

dave said...

The red gatoraide won' I know it won't

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but what are "BM's" ??

Slingblade61 said...

"I'm sorry but what are "BM's" ??"


Before we, as a society, became, course..."taking a crap" was referred to as a Bowel Movement (thus the "BM")

Anonymous said...


Have you forgotten about us, your loyal readers? What gives? 1 post a week just isn't enough!

Jam Boy said...

Never. If it wasn't for you the reader, I wouldn't have nearly as much fun. I won't be posting any more "apology-oriented" posts simply because at this point, I think you guys have heard enough of that. I'm simply trying to get to the computer whenever I can, and HOPING that means at least 4-5 times a week. Please hang in there guys.

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Anonymous said...

A caddie should read EVERY putt but only offer his opinion if asked. The caddie would be wasting time otherwise.

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