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Need a caddie? There’s an app for that

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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.

looper screen shot

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.

Looper Logo

The Looper icon in Google Play and App Store.

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.

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19 Comments

  1. TeeUpOne

    Oct 30, 2016 at 2:19 am

    I’m extremely excited to have come across the article and can’t wait to actually be able to use the service. Looper just added our course a few weeks ago. The thought that I will be able to book a caddie at my club or one of the premier clubs that I often play rather than ride and actually enjoy the round is spectacular. For me, the best experiences have always been with a caddie on my bag or caddying for my grandfather over 30years ago when I was learning the game myself and caddies were still a big part of the game. I’m also very impressed with someone taking a great idea and making it even better by including the youths of today instead of just going after experienced caddies. Not only does it make it more affordable for those not looking for a Pro type Caddy but just someone to carry the bag, rake a bunker here and there, clean the clubs and tend the flag. For the youths (h.s schoolers/ students and recent grads) and young professionals that do take part, well they are learning possibly a new sport, staying a part of one, making new contacts and will just have a overall learning experience that they sure can’t get from sitting in front of a game system. Earning money by working hard and best of all…free golf or at least when I caddied back in the day we got to play. I probably play 20-30 rounds a year with clients and to now be able to take them out with a caddie to not always be stopping and starting in a cart but to really enjoy the course, our surroundings and have one another’s attention is priceless. Is it for everyone…..absolutely not but for everyone to have the option is fantastic in my opinion. Well done Looper and again I look forward to using your service soon. ????????

  2. Ms

    Oct 27, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Whoa whoa whoa. There is a MASSIVE difference between a real Caddy, and just a looper who carries the bag and not do any of the reads or advises on shots – the looper just needs to wash the clubs and fix divots and keep his mouth shut the other times. So instead of a walker having to push or pull cart or carry his own bag (oh the horror! haha), or rent an expensive cart, he can just have some kid carry his bag for him so he can have a nice walk on the course. Nothing wrong wit that

  3. TheCityGame

    Oct 27, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Problems with this. . .

    1) This $29 seems like a real come-on. The website itself says for a junior looper, it’s $40 plus tip, so what. . .you’re talking $60?

    2) Even if it WERE $29, now you’re asking me to play this $90 course with a $30 bag carrier or I can go play a $120 course that might be a better course.

    I guess looper did their market research, but it seems like most people don’t care about caddies. For one, I’ve had more negative experiences with caddies in my life than positive ones. And two, the positive ones weren’t really positive at all. Show me a weekend golfer that really benefits from a caddy’s read, or needs a good line off the tee on a course in his regular rotation.

    If you’re into caddies, you probably already belong to a course that has them. I just don’t get it.

    In a related issue, most courses just don’t treat walkers fairly. There’s no reason that a walkable course shouldn’t have $X for walking, $X+$Y for cart, and then give me the option of $X+$Z for a caddy.

    • dave

      Oct 27, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      Oops, forgot to update the website with our new pricing for 2017! http://www.looper.golf/caddies/

      • SemiPro

        Oct 27, 2016 at 11:02 pm

        No one cares bro
        You guys are in a garbage market

        • Noonan

          Oct 27, 2016 at 11:47 pm

          You do realize the Washington, DC metro area is a Top 10 golf market in the U.S. as measured by total number of golfers…

    • Dave

      Oct 27, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      I think its a little…crazy…that their $29 rate is for 14-18 year old juniors. There are at least 8-10 courses on that list that would be an absolutely brutal haul for an adult let alone a 14 year old kid. They might have done their market research on the program itself but I really question their choice of courses and wonder how much research they did in that regard.

      • KK

        Oct 27, 2016 at 10:40 pm

        14-18 year olds have a ton of energy. They’ll survive.

        • Dave

          Oct 28, 2016 at 6:43 am

          Just curious, have you actually seen or played some of these courses? Augustine, Raspberry and Old Hickory are completely unwalkable. Old Hickory has several 1/4 + mile transitions between holes – how are they going to handle that? You could easily see a group getting way, way out of position after just a few holes.

  4. SemiPro

    Oct 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    These “looper” guys are a flop, check out this up and coming company from Texas. loopgolf.com

    • EAZ

      Oct 27, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      LOL! This “up and coming” “company” isn’t even up and RUNNING.

      • SemiPro

        Oct 27, 2016 at 10:59 pm

        That’s why it’s up and coming not already here genius

        • EAZ

          Oct 27, 2016 at 11:27 pm

          Generally speaking, an up and coming company has more than just a website…e.g. a working product or at least a beta. Otherwise it’s just an idea. Regardless, best of luck to them getting off the ground.

  5. Dave

    Oct 27, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    One problem with this whole system is that you are hiring teenagers and part timers who – chances are – will barely be familiar with each course if they are caddying at 6-8 courses. The nice thing about a caddy program at an established course is that they have worked there for years and are familiar with the layout and the greens. If you want to just pay a kid to schlep your bag I guess thats fine though.

    But the bigger issue in the DMV is that a lot of these courses simply werent built for walking. Caddying at Worthington Manor sounds…insane to be honest. Same for Bull Run and Raspberry and Old Hickory. Theses courses all have *several* green>tee transitions that just dont make sense to walk.

    I applaud the effort but I think its really more applicable to the older private clubs in the area that might be much more compact and conducive to walking.

    • Jack

      Oct 27, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      @Dave, I think you’re taking the idea way too seriously. The benefit of Looper and another caddie app, ClubUp, isn’t to get a senior-level, experienced caddie to give you advice and read the greens. It’s to have someone there to carry your bag so you can walk without pushing a cart or carrying. Other benefits are things like giving a First Tee kid an opportunity to be around the game and earn some cash, give others opportunities to make money on their own schedules and provide an alternative service for those who want to get some exercise instead of cruising around in a golf car.

      As an aside, I have played all of the Northern VA courses you mentioned. If you’re not carrying a golf bag, can you not handle walking up a few hills?

      • Dave

        Oct 28, 2016 at 9:07 am

        The point isnt walking – thats fine. The point is that several of those courses simply werent *built* for walking. The distance between the 1st green and 2nd tee at Old Hickory is over 1/4 mile. 3rd to 4th tee is the same coming back. 4th to 5th tee – long walk, close to 1/4 mile. 8th to 9th tee – about the same. 9th green to 10th tee – over 1/4 mile. At a course that packs 9 minute tee times you could be two holes behind after the front nine – just from walking.

        Its not “you should walk instead of ride” – I agree, I walk all the time. Its that a lot of these courses from a *layout* perspective are not built for walking. Thats why I said they should probably concentrate on some of the older private courses in the area that are much, much easier to walk.

        • Chubbs

          Oct 28, 2016 at 12:30 pm

          Of course there are going to be courses where the layouts are more or less conducive to walking. The courses that are tough to walk will probably see less use. That’s just reality. But, I think the point is to give golfers the OPTION of taking the caddie. Or maybe the golfer wants the challenge and more steps.

          In terms of Worthington Manor, they hold U.S. Open qualifiers there…do those guys get to ride? Don’t think so. What about when the USGA held the Public Links (RIP) Championship at Laurel Hill a few years ago…yep, they walked too. Bet they all wished they had caddies to do nothing more than carry their bags.

          As for pace of play, there are many more factors (as researched by USGA and others) than just walking vs. riding. Green speeds, quality of golfer, playing ready golf, the time of day, and length of the course just to name a few.

        • dave

          Oct 31, 2016 at 9:39 am

          All good points. At LOOPER we focus on Forecaddies for “hard to walk” courses. That way everyone wins. Side note, we walked Raspberry and Worthington and 4:15min. 17,000 steps, 40 flights of stairs, about 8miles. I slept well those nights!

  6. Double Mocha Man

    Oct 27, 2016 at 10:43 am

    The Uber of caddies. This is great. When I take a caddy I love the fact that I get to wander about, no encumbrances, while my buddies are slaving over their shots. It becomes a stroll in the park. As an aside, if you ever play Pebble Beach DO NOT take a power cart. All the cart paths are on opposite side of the fairways from the cliffs. To make sure of the best vistas, while walking, hit that power fade down the right side of most holes. Take a cart and you might as well have played your local muni.

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GolfWRX Rules Refresher: Is it OK to remove white stakes?

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Have you ever been told that you’re not allowed to remove a white stake from the course? And that you are not even allowed to touch white stakes? I have… many times. When I conduct rules seminars and ask, “Are you allowed to remove a white stake?” almost everyone yells, “NO!” without the slightest bit of doubt.

Well, guess what. They’re wrong. Let me tell you why.

In general, we don’t want golfers moving things on the course. Play the course as it is and the ball as it lies; these are fundamental and sound principles. But if we dig a bit deeper into the rules, there is a certain rule stating that you are not allowed to improve the course by removing something that is fixed. And since white stakes are considered fixed, the conclusion must then be that you are not allowed to remove white stakes. Well, no, not quite.

The prohibition only encounters certain areas (I call them “forbidden areas”). This is an area where you in general are considered to gain an advantage when you improve it. These areas are:

  1. Your intended stance
  2. Your intended swing
  3. The lie/position of the ball
  4. The area where you are going to drop or place a ball
  5. The line of play (including a reasonable extension of the line on the other side of the hole)

Therefore, if you are improving such an area, you are penalized. If you are improving another area, however, you are not penalized. Let me give you a few examples. These examples are about a par-4 hole where you (a right-handed player) have made your drive from the teeing ground and your the ball is lying near out of bounds (yet still in bounds) on the left side.

  1. Your ball ends one inch from a white stake. You are not allowed to remove the white stake, since you would thereby improve a “forbidden area.”
  2. Your ball ends three feet from a white stake, perpendicular to the course (compared to the direction to the hole). There is no penalty to remove the white stake, as it is not in a forbidden area.
  3. Dog leg left (out of bounds), which you will fly the ball over over. There is a white stake in your line of play, 30 yards ahead of your ball. You have 150 yards to the hole. The stake is in a forbidden area, but since your potential advantage is so small, you will not get penalized to remove the stake.*

*Example 3: A certain Decision states, that there is no penalty if the improvement does not give the player a potential advantage, i.e. the improvement is so small that it really makes no difference for the player.

You might say that this Decision is not logic. Well to that I must say, that the rules are not always logic.

Examples

  1. Why are you penalized to remove a piece of loose grass in a water hazard in the backswing to your stroke in the water hazard but not to remove a piece of growing grass?
  2. Why are you allowed to place a club on the fairway to align your feet in the correct direction…. but not allowed to do the same with an alignment stick bought from your local pro shop?
  3. Why are you (in the 2019 rules) allowed to strike the sand in anger before a stroke in the bunker… but not allowed to touch sand in the bunker in a practice swing?
  4. Why is there a “no-penalty-if-the-advantage-is-very-small-rule” when it comes to improving forbidden areas… but not a similar rule when it comes to removing leaves from a bunker (where there is penalty no matter improvement or not)?

The answer is… the rules says so. Learn the rules; don’t try to find the logic in them! Back to the question: “Are you allowed to remove a white stake?” The answer in many situations is “yes.” The next time you get this question try to yell “YES!!” as loud as you can.

Although life normally does not give any guarantees, I can guarantee you one thing — you will be unpopular, very unpopular. And I can guarantee that you will get into a verbal discussion with most people when you remove a white stake on the golf course. If you do, try asking them which Rule they would penalize you under. If they still insist, refer to the below mentioned rules.

Rules of Golf relevant to this matter: Rule 13-2, Definition of “out of bounds” and Decision 13-2/0.5.

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Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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TG2: What’s this on the back of the Mizuno JPX919 Hot Metal irons?!

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Speculation about Mizuno’s new JPX 919 irons that recently popped up on the USGA Conforming Clubs list, as well as in-hand photos of new Srixon Z785 and Z585 irons. Also, Editor Andrew Tursky and Equipment expert Brian Knudson talk to a special guest, Steven Bowditch’s caddie from the 2018 John Deere Classic (who he found on Twitter).

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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