In his 2014 piece, “Where have all the caddies gone?” Mike Belkin wrote, “As I breezed through a quick round this past Saturday morning at Putterham Meadow, a muni just outside of Boston, the thought occurred to me that I might actually want a caddy. And I’m not talking about a lifer, but a local middle or high-school-kid…”
Well, Mike, now you can. Thanks to the new Uber-like app, Looper, golfers can get linked up with an on-demand caddie in general, and a “local middle or high-school kid” (Jr-Looper) in particular.
In line with Mike’s perspective, Dave Cavossa, co-founder of Looper, spelled out the caddie situation in his area.
“If I want to take a caddie today—I live in northern Virginia—I’ve got two options: I can join Trump National and spend $100,000 joining, or I can join RTJ and spend $100,000. I don’t have another option. Those are it. And every time I want a caddie, it’s $150, plus experience. What Grant and I have done is take that down to no membership, or low membership…and the entry price point is $30.”
To learn more about how Looper works, and how the app has fared in its six months since launch, I spoke with Dave and his co-founders Grant Creighton.
How did Looper get started, and what’s the idea behind the app?
Grant: I was a professional golfer…I caddied to supplement my income for six years…I was getting out of professional golf and put together the idea that a mobile app like Uber could manage scheduling and payment for caddies and communication between caddie masters and caddies. About a year ago, I met Dave at the PGA Show who was also of the same mindset. We were both…working on this concept, so we decided to put our minds together…and we’ve been collaborating ever since. Our main objective is build a network where golfers can find caddies and caddies can find work and grow the caddie trade and grow the game of golf by including junior loopers.
Dave: We launched Looper in the mid-Atlantic back in April. We have 22 courses in the market and over 500 caddies.
Great. Tell me more about how it works.
Dave: Well, we want to bring caddies back to the game of golf. We know that the way to bring caddies back to the 95 percent of courses that don’t have caddie programs is to make it free for them. We actually pay the golf course…golf courses can’t believe when we say, “Not only do you not pay a dime, but we pay you.”…We give them a small revenue share of every loop done at their course. We want to give every golfer at every course the option of taking a caddie again. The key word there is option. When you’re at a typical golf course, you can walk, you can take a cart, or you can take a pull cart.
How do you assemble a roster of caddies in a new area?
Dave: You go out to recruit hundreds and hundreds caddies…mostly teenagers…some college…some part-time…some retirees…you let them caddie at multiple courses in a region on their schedules when they want to…in addition to the fees that caddies are getting, they’re also getting to play free golf at these courses…about 70 percent of our caddies are teens…30 percent are part-time workers…Now we’re starting our national expansion…we got funded this year. We launch in San Diego over the next three months…We’re partnered with the First Tee of West Palm Beach, and we’re launching there in November. And we’re trying to launch in the Detroit and Philadelphia areas in April, and then we’re expanding further on the east coast as well.
I understand that you’re targeting private courses without caddie programs, high-end daily fee courses, and more low-end daily fee tracks. Tell me about some of the headwinds you’re meeting in that pursuit.
Dave: The biggest problem that Grant and I have every day…is the behavior change, and the perception change. When people hear “caddies,” they think “expensive” or they think, “I’m not good enough to take a caddie.”
And if a course says, “My customers don’t want caddies, they want to take a golf cart.” We push back…with, “Have you ever offered them caddies?” It took 60 years [to get to this point]. When golf carts were first introduced in the ’50s and ’60s, people didn’t like them at all.
We don’t think that we’re going to change the world in a day, but we do think with our three-year plan we’re going to change behavior and change perceptions. People want to get out and walk. They want the 10 to 15 thousand steps. They want to burn 2,000 calories.
There’s a portion of the golf community…we call them “would walkers.” Ten to 20 percent of the golf community. Somebody who would happily walk, but they don’t want to carry their bag [or take a pull cart]. But if you give them the option of an inexpensive caddie—our entry price point is $29, slightly more expensive than a golf cart—they’re going to try it. And they’ll say, “Let’s bring caddies back. Let’s grow the game. Let’s get teens caddying again.” It’ll introduce the game to kids who wouldn’t have had a chance to play otherwise…couldn’t afford it.
Regarding what the company offers consumers, Dave indicated that Looper delivers value to caddies, golfers, and courses.
- Caddies: No longer do they have to sit on a bench at 6 a.m. and wait around for three hours and maybe get out. Who they’re working for. Where they’re working. When they’re working. Paid in direct deposit the day of. Tipped in cash. Free golf.
- Golfers/Customers: If I’m at a course that doesn’t have a caddie program, I can take a caddie. Same caddie again and again.
- Courses: Free. No program to set up. No caddie check. No recruiting, training, certifying, scheduling. No liability, insurance issues.
To learn more about how the app works for golfers and caddies, check out the aptly titled “How it works” page on Looper’s website.