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Where have all the caddies gone?

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Professional golf events often support certain causes or foundations, helping to raise both money and awareness. The BMW Championship, one-of-four events in the 2014 FedEx Playoffs, has raised over $16M for the Evans Scholars Foundation, which has sent over 10,000 student caddies to college. Having carried hundreds of loops myself, I couldn’t help but smile by the pleasant reminder of how caddying positively impacts the lives of the kids who partake. My nostalgia for caddying stems not from good money made, but life lessons learned.

Since caddying meaningfully connects kids and adults through golf, it begs the question, where have all the caddies gone?

90’s Golf Real-Estate Boom: Caddy-Killer

My assumption is that a decrease in caddy programs occurred in the 1990’s when 60 percent of the golf courses built were tied to real-estate development. David Hueber, former President and CEO of the National Golf Foundation, explains in his piece “Code Blue”: For Golf Course Real Estate Development: “Code Green” For Sustainable Golf Course Redevelopment that:

Too many golf courses were built, too much was spent on developing them and, as a result, many of these golf courses are not financially viable enterprises. Also, these golf courses were often too difficult, too expensive and took too long to play, which has eventually translated into having a large number of golf courses that do not meet the needs of the golf industry’s ultimate consumers… average golfer

Hueber goes on to examine the cost of building courses from the 1960’s to the 1990’s where the average range rose from $190K-$380K (60’s) to $540K-$1.08M (70’s) to $2M-$4M (80’s) to $3.8M-$7.6M (90’s) across the respective generations. Hueber’s point — that real-estate centric golf courses are not economically sustainable — makes sense according to research from the National Golf Foundation stating that there are currently 4,050 private clubs in the U.S. representing an 18 percent decrease from the golf course peak in 1988.

With economically unsustainable business models, private clubs will do what they must to survive, including cutting caddy programs to make six-figures of cart revenue. According to the Club Managers Association of America’s 2014 Finance and Operations Report, 32 percent of all private club respondents have caddy programs. The report also shows that the the median private club cart count sits at 60 with median total club cart revenue at $207K+.

More Caddies in Massachusetts

I was pleased to learn that caddying is on the rise in Massachusetts. I spoke with Colin McGuire, Assistant Executive Director at the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, who provided some interesting statistics:

There are currently about 30 caddie programs and roughly 3,000 caddies in Massachusetts. The population has actually grown in last few years as more people like to walk as a form of exercise.

I also reached out to Frankie Cartaglia, veteran Caddymaster, Starter, and Outside Operations Manager at the Wellesley Country Club who explained:

For my first 10 years I never got caddies out during the week. The last five years it’s all changed. I now have guys texting me asking for specific caddies when they bring their guests. At our major member guest, half of the field now walks with caddies.  The game changer for us occurred when taking a caddy on weekend mornings became “recommended.”  People didn’t love it at first, but when they actually experienced how much better golf is with a good caddy, members started requesting caddies all the time.

Cart Golf is Bad Golf

As courses continue to close, we as a golfing community need to work together to bring back the wonderful traditions of the game such as caddying and cut out the fat, specifically economically unsustainable, real-estate-centric golf courses. In my previous article, In Search of Answers to Improve Pace of Play, dozens of folks lamented how carts are slowing down the game because many golfers don’t understand cart etiquette. I believe that properly trained caddies could help speed up the pace of play.

[youtube id=”IhknFgI8tJY” width=”620″ height=”360″]

While Tony D’Annunzio (the caddy above) may have some off-the-course troubles, he nonetheless does comically demonstrate the ability for caddies to help speed up pace of play. Many of 21st century cart-riding, beer-chugging, pot-smoking, 100+ shooting hackers are not that different than the elderly couple when it comes to pace of play. And for the record, I have no issue with people crushing beers (a great course revenue source) on the links, just don’t take over five hours while doing so.

So Who Wants A Caddy?

Unfortunately for most of us, caddies are not available at the local public courses we play. Further, I don’t have the money at age 25 to pay an extra $70 for someone to carry my bag. That said, 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 that wants to make $50 bucks carrying two light bags for four hours. I’d even be willing to pay an extra $5 to get the course behind the program and mitigate lost cart revenue.

While not all caddies become golfers, all will learn to understand, appreciate, and even love the game of golf. My mind continues to boggle as some people view footgolf as the game’s next savior while caddying — one of the game’s most storied traditions — seemingly fades away. I’m interested in bringing caddying back to golf; who is with me?

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Mike Belkin is a Co-Founder of Nextgengolf & Director of College Golfer Happiness. Mike played varsity golf at Amherst College, currently resides in Boston, and is passionate about growing the game for millennials. Contact Mike on Twitter @MikeBelkin11 or [email protected]

123 Comments

123 Comments

  1. JOEL GOODMAN

    Jan 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    NO ONE CAN ARGUE THE VALUE AND ENJOYMENT OF PLAYING GOLF WITH A COMPETENT CADDY ON A LOVELY 70-75 DEGREE DAY. TRY IT IN SOUTH FLORIDA WHERE IT IS 90 DEGREES + MAY THROUGH OCTOBER AND THE STANDARD CADDY FEE IS $100 =+ TIP. IN ADDITION ONLY A VERY FEW OF THE VERY HIGH END PRIVATE CLUBS HAVE ANY CADDIES. THE CART REVENUE IS PROBABLY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STAYING OPEN OR CLOSING THE DOORS. THEORY IS GREAT BUT REALITY RULES…….

  2. James

    Oct 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    A lot of interesting comments but there are more complex issues concerning the costs of hiring a caddie. Economics being the biggest one. The economics of today don’t make caddies viable. If they work now over a certain number of hours which I suspect the government will be all over, then the course is going to have to pay their healthcare. That won’t happen so they won’t get but a couple of days to loop. Two, the cost of everything has shot up due to higher energy prices and higher taxation on us all and not just income taxes mind you. More of our income goes to various taxes than ever before. Three, other than healthcare, government regulations play a role as well. These aren’t the all the problems by any means but the simple fact is a dollar doesn’t buy nearly as much today as it did in 1960.

  3. Pingback: The Lost Caddy Conundrum - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  4. Mike

    Oct 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Mike, I’m a firm believer in the “conservation of revenues” law. The golf revenue pie is shrinking every year. Re-jiggering the splits to make room for more caddies seems pretty utopian, and will accomplish little more than shutting down more golf courses per year, since the pie is fixed in size.

    On the other hand, if you want to grow the pie a little, if you want to get more revenue from the golfers, you have to offer something of value to them. I walk, and haul my bag for the exercise, so paying someone else to do it is of no value to me. Help in finding lost balls and reading greens is of some value, but no where near minimum wage. I don’t hit that many errant shots, and I’m not that good a putter. I’m not sure there is an answer.

    Alternately, you could work on reducing the caddy cost, replacing monetary gain (at the expense of cart fees) with something of value to the caddies. Free golf is great for some, I’m sure. The hope of a scholarship is also great, for some. Perhaps free lessons for others? How about equipment or clothing discounts? I think if you build this list out, and stay focused on reducing the cost of caddies, you’ll see demand increase.

    BTW….I don’t buy the pace of play side of this. Some of the slowest guys I’ve EVER played with had caddies hauling their bags, and cleaning up after them. They were just slow, and they just didn’t care. I suspect if they didn’t have caddies they’d still have played in 5 hours. But no divots would have been replaced, and no ball marks would have been fixed, and they still wouldn’t have cared.

  5. Bob

    Oct 15, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I caddied as a private club in the early 60s. I got $3.25 for a round, and hardly ever got tipped. So much for the finances. I did, however, learn things about golf that my friends I play with will never know. I enjoyed every moment of it. I’m going to Bandon this winter, and will definitely hire a caddy. I have a hunch that a good caddy can take four strokes off my score. I’ll find out.

  6. Sam M

    Oct 15, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Anyone know the name of a caddy at Cordevalle think it was Julian or something? Proper legend.

  7. kevin

    Oct 14, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Being a caddy myself throughout the season on Long Island, I have now had the opportunity through a regular loop to play Shinnecock and Friars Head with a caddy. I will say that Ray and Norman and Shinnecock made the experience so much better with their experience, course knowledge, and stories about Tiger before the 2004 Open, and Phil who they truly adore because he takes care of everyone when he comes, even taking them all over for a chipping lesson. I will also say that my experience at Friars Head was incredible because it was a course designed for caddies, and that there is not a divot left unfilled, or ballmark to be found on the greens. Aside from this, I do feel a lot of peoples anti-caddy sentiment. It truly is an expense that everyone cannot afford, and to be honest they shouldn’t be forced to if they don’t want to be. There is nothing worse than being out with a group that doesn’t want you. However, I have seen the program grow some lazy kids into little, responsible adults that now love the game.

  8. Rich

    Oct 11, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    This article only focuses on the US scene. I’ve been playing golf for 35 years in Australia and I’ve never known any clubs to have dedicated caddies. Caddies are still a must in most of Asia when you play but I’m not sure about the UK or Europe. Perhaps a more diverse article article would be useful. BTW, if all caddies looked like the blonde in the photo, I’d always make sure to hire one!

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 13, 2014 at 6:22 am

      Haha thanks Rich. I’ve only played golf once abroad during a trip in Ireland (which had great caddies, by the way). I realize the WRX community is global so appreciate the feedback.

      • Bob Houle

        Aug 9, 2019 at 11:27 am

        This comment about caddying abroad reminds me of the lithesome lasses old Joe Kennedy always had in Europe back in the day, As I recall one looked like Brigitte Bardot.Played Putterman during Open at The Club twenty years ago when I was only 61. Walked yesterday pulling/pushing cart and bemoaned the lack of caddies. So my research led me here. Any updates? Caddied 1948-1954 MANCHESTER CC Manchester, NH. 1956-57 WILSHIRE CC, Hollywood,CA
        Need I say I loved it? Free golf Mondays at Manchester CC. No such perk at Wilshire.needless to say.

    • Bunty

      Oct 13, 2014 at 7:22 am

      Agree. Play in Perth, WA.

      Have not seen a caddy on a golf course in Aus. Always thought they were just for the pros. Turns out there is some substance behind caddy shack now.

    • Ed Bardoe

      Dec 31, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      Minimum wage in Thailand is $10 a day (recently raised to that level) so caddies are still possible. With so many older people now playing here in the states, I think you miss the importance of carts to them. If I were a rich man (sounds like a song) I would hire a caddie for the service, but would still need a cart to haul my bad back, ankles, knees etc. around the course.

  9. Double Mocha Man

    Oct 10, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    I caddied as a kid back in St. Louis. Had to wait around most of the day until all the regular caddies were out. Not sure if the Caddymaster liked me ’cause I’d end up on the end of the bench, all scrawny 115 lbs., hangin’ around until mid afternoon.

    It all became worth it one summer afternoon when I was among the only available caddies left. Much to my surprise and delight I was assigned to caddy for the Manager of the St. Louis baseball Cardinals! In a foursome that also included the television play-by-play announcer for the Cardinals. I’ll never forget that. I even learned a few new curse words that day.

  10. Jeremy

    Oct 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Amusing side note, the first time I played with a caddy was in India, because it was mandatory. I caught him cheating on my behalf, and then at the end of the round he was angry that I’d paid him “only” the amount I was told by the starter. Good times.

  11. David

    Oct 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Mike-great article and insight. I caddied for 5 years and thought it was a great experience for a young person. I made better $ than friends working fast food jobs etc. and it taught my how to converse and work with adults from a young age. I credit caddying as much as my parents with forming me into the man I am today. I support the Ouimet Fund often and take a caddy any time I can. Public/resort courses can be successful with a program-just look at Bandon Dunes and Chambers Bay. Classic courses that were built by Tillinghast, Ross, etc. were designed for walking-makes carrying 2 bags much easier if the next tee is near the green and not 1/4 mile away. If designers would get back to that style of development more people would walk I believe and caddies would be more in use.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks, David. I would love to see a return to building classic courses that utilize less land. We don’t need 7,000+ yard courses for amateurs. Make the course walking friendly, add caddies, and improve the golfing experience for all!

  12. Jim

    Oct 10, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Lot of great points in this article. I worked at a club on Long island with a great caddie program through HS and College. Its a great tradition, grows the game and is a great job. For the person who thinks they are working for “minimum wage” i’ve never seen a good caddie walk off after a loop unhappy with their pay.

  13. Mat

    Oct 10, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Please allow that this is very crass… however I’ll say it anyhow. If you want a caddy program, you have to find someone willing to work for 5 hours outside with minimum wages at best. Those folks exist, but places often get in trouble for “hiring” them.

    If you want to think “outside the box”, I would imagine that a “caddy” isn’t a human being anymore. Just as your car isn’t a horse, it isn’t economical anymore. My thought is that carts have to become single-person mode of transport to move the game along. If you’ve ever seen a foursome with four carts, they’re fast as hell usually.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      High school kids are willing to work for minimum wage, receive straight cash, work when they want, and also get free golf and life lessons.

      Folks have mentioned one-man carts in previous threads….but what about the capital expenditures that would go into that for courses?

      • Golf Symantics22

        Nov 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

        Im a highschooler and would Be thrilled to be a caddy. Golf is my sole passion and being on the course is great. The payment may not bethe best but the benefits of working at a golf course are phenomenal.

    • john

      Oct 10, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Anybody who has candied over the past 30 years knows it’s nowhere near minimum wage. The place I grew up caddying now pays +$80 per bag. That’s big money if you carry 2 bags. Long live the looper!

    • bradford

      Oct 13, 2014 at 10:22 am

      Do carts find wayward shots, repair the course, rake bunkers (properly), offer conversation, or clean your clubs? Nobody allows foursomes with four carts, not even most privates, or even courses where people own their own carts. If you’ve seen it, it was the exception, not the rule. That being said, I will bet all day a twosome with a caddie plays faster than a twosome on a cart.

      • dot dot

        Oct 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm

        Twosome with a caddie faster. I’m not buying it. lets see some supporting documentation for your argument.

  14. Sean "Shack"

    Oct 10, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Awesome. Just awesome.

    As a professional caddie who travels between NJ during the summer and South Florida for the winter, more people need to see it this way.

    If you get to play at a place with a reputation of a good caddy yard, which is basically any course on the top 100, even to top 200 courses, more than likely you’ll wind up with a lifer, a pro jock. You’ll be surprised how far throwing him or her a c note for their work will do for your game.

    And for the high school student up in Boston, how does the Cape for the summer or Nantucket sound to make some cash? You might just fall in love with the job and the game…

    thumps up. Keep walking ladies and gents.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Yeah you can make out fabulously well as a caddy on the Cape / Long Island / Vineyard areas in the summer.

  15. David

    Oct 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I think there are a large number in the golfing public who have never played with a caddy. I myself just recently played with a caddy for the first time after almost 25 years in the game because the course required it, and to be honest it was a bit uncomfortable because it was something I had never done before. I didn’t grow up at a country club and wasn’t a caddy in my youth, so now that I’m in a position to be a member at a club and have the option of having a caddy, carrying my own bag, or riding a cart, I choose to carry my own bag 99% of the time (the other 1% I ride because that’s what my playing partners “grew up” doing and I can’t convince them to get out of their comfort zone and walk). I know I should try using a caddy, because I agree that caddy programs are certainly good for the game, but change can be hard and I think for alot of people today use of a caddy is a change.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      It often takes a caddy a round or two to figure out your game and provide valuable advice. Of course, not all caddies are good caddies and some are there just to carry the bag and not add much strategic value to your round.

  16. Jason

    Oct 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I would love to have a caddie but I can’t afford to pay $25-$50 extra per round plus a tip, I quit riding around in carts to save the $15-$20 cart fees. I would love for it to be a feasible thing, I have a 15 year old son who is a 10 handicap golfer that would love to work on the golf course as a caddie and it would be a great experience but I couldn’t justify him having a job that after 4-5 hours of work you made enough for 4 gallons of gas, unless you live on the course it just wouldn’t be feasible. I would love to see the caddie come back but I don’t know how it would be affordable for the golfer and worthwhile for the caddie.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      Everything you write is true. There was have to be some serious changes in the caddy structure and how it is supported to make it available and economically feasible for “regular” courses.

    • Sean "Shack"

      Oct 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Base rate at most places is more than 4 gallons of gas.

  17. bradford

    Oct 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    It seems pretty clear that $$ can’t work as an incentive to caddy. It’s a 4-5 hour job that doesn’t pay quite as well as some others. Carrying two bags may make it worthwhile, but again, few people are willing to pay the $60-70 for it.

    HERE’s A SOLUTION:
    Clubs provide non-monetary (ie little overhead) incentive programs to caddys. This could EASILY be done through earning free rounds of golf for carrying for a set number of rounds. Hell, I would do it. “Carry 3, Play for Free” You wanna bet me that a course offering cheap caddies doesn’t fill it’s books all day every day? I’ll take that bet.

    Caddies who show up and can’t get a loop–RANGER the course. Go out and patrol and help out in other ways. Same incentive program. Proper rangering–>faster rounds–>lower cost to you AND more profit to the course.

    • bradford

      Oct 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      To clarify, this would still make the course “cart” money, and you’d half to tip the caddy, but now we’re MUCH more reasonable at normal fee plus tip for caddy.

      • Mike Belkin

        Oct 10, 2014 at 1:23 pm

        I like your creative thinking, Bradford.

        • jeff

          Feb 6, 2015 at 10:52 pm

          Have it set up like waiters and waitresses pay. 2.25 an hour tip based program. 15 dollar caddy use fee to course so they dont cry about their carts being abandoned.

    • kevin

      Oct 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Not in Long Island, 4 hours of work for 160 minimum for a double bag. I’d say that is a little better than minimum wage.

  18. Wally K

    Oct 10, 2014 at 11:29 am

    I love to walk every time I play and would entertain a caddy also. Please tell me where I can get a caddy for $25?! It isn’t happening no matter where you go now a days for that price.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 11:49 am

      You can’t find caddies for $25 right now. Wouldn’t it be nice….

      • jchris74

        Oct 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm

        Senior caddies at my club are $45 tops, including tip. The base rate is $20. A cart is $28. I’d rather walk and pay the differential…

    • bradford

      Oct 13, 2014 at 10:25 am

      See above, I think it would get pretty close

  19. Ryan

    Oct 10, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I wish my local courses had the opportunity to work as a caddy when I was growing up. I would’ve jumped right on it.

    I’m also happy to read of the re-increase in walkers – however anecdotal it may be. I can’t walk and push my own bag anymore because of physical issues, but with a caddy carrying, it’s possible I might get through a round. I use a cart now full-time, and hopefully we continue to see that the only ones who use carts are the people with physical issues that actually need them to play the course. Walking is a wonderful way to enjoy life and the course’s scenery.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Ryan. It’s great that carts help you stay in the game. But there is no better way to play than with a caddy as you say!

  20. gvogel

    Oct 10, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Only 1%’ers can afford caddies. As the disparity in incomes in the United States has grown tremendously in the past few decades, the rest of us struggle with equipment and green fees. Who can afford caddies?

    When the segment that used to be labelled “upper middle class” starts to grow again, caddying may become more popular. I have no idea of how to fix the economics.

    Until then, I advocate that players should play with 6, 7, 8, or 9 clubs, and carry their clubs themselves.

    • bradford

      Oct 10, 2014 at 11:49 am

      But how then will they carry a 30-pack of beer?

      • Mike Belkin

        Oct 11, 2014 at 7:23 am

        I was once caddying for some guys in a major member guest and in addition to playing mental coach, picking all clubs, reading all putts, I also was also feeding them beers the entire day from the bags.

  21. Kevin

    Oct 10, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I’ve learned so many life’s lessons in the caddy yard and on the course; what to do, what not to do, whom to admire, whom to avoid. This goes for players and caddies. I feel like I’m paid 4X: cash, exercise, free golf and by and large a positive working environment. What part-time job offers as much with as much flexibility? And caddy programs remains the most reliable feeder program into the game. Palmer, Hogan, Byron Nelson, Trevino, etc., all caddies before we knew them. It’s not cheap to take a caddy, but the joy of the walk, and the great service when provided are worth the expense. Support caddies: for them, for you and the good of the game.

  22. vjswing

    Oct 10, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I caddied during my high school years around 1981-1982, and made a grand total of $7 for each bag I carried. Nearly every player just rounded it up to $10, with the exception of a couple of a-holes.

    Economically, it still only came out to $2.50 an hour, which was less than the going minimum wage of $3.35 at the time, but it still wasn’t a bad entry-level job at all, given the perks, which included the opportunity to play the course on specific days and times.

  23. DontChase

    Oct 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I think the one issue ignored here is that course design completely destroyed the chances of bringing back caddies. I could think of 8-10 courses nearby that could financially sustain a caddy program. But the courses themselves were built to be completely unwalkable. There are some unfathomable drives between green/tee which just makes it a complete impossibility unless you employ some kind of shuttle system. But course design in the mid to late 90s meant that most of these courses could never employ caddies even if they wanted to.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Yes, caddy programs won’t work at cart-centric courses, no doubt.

      Many of these failing real-estate based courses will likely fail over the next decade or two in my opinion.

      • bradford

        Oct 10, 2014 at 11:53 am

        I’ve noticed a bunch of non-golfers lately that want to live on a golf course. I guess it provides security that you won’t ever have another house in your back yard. Problem is, they don’t buy into the club and it fails. You end up with a $10 muni with Mcmansions all the way through it. I can name 2 of these within 5 miles of my house.

  24. Jafar

    Oct 10, 2014 at 9:52 am

    That’s all we need is high school kids hanging out with beer drinking pot smoking adults.

    I think I see why caddying was some of the fondest memories for some of you all.

    And the 80’s were great. But you gotta let go to move forward.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 9:55 am

      Move forward to what, Jafar?

      • Jafar

        Oct 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

        A game that can sustain itself without massive debt.

        Isn’t that what you article points out, the decline of golf courses and their cost for maintenance, and caddies?

        • Mike Belkin

          Oct 10, 2014 at 11:12 am

          Yes, but I am specifically highlighting that real-estate cart-centric golf courses that were overbuilt in the 90’s are unsustainable…These courses aren’t build for caddies and will go bankrupt over the long haul in my opinion.

  25. Alex Megrey

    Oct 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I’m currently the caddy master and outside operations manager at a prominent club in Pittsburgh, PA. While some clubs in the area are struggling to maintain a solid Tuesday-Sunday caddy program, others are flourishing. For me, there’s nothing better than seeing our Saturday morning men’s group be predominately (roughly 92 %) walking. Our membership contain avid walkers who actually dislike to be in carts. To me, its refreshing to see that perspective in a day in age where carts dominate the golf scene. I wished that more courses would make an effort to strengthen their caddy programs, or even start a program at their courses. Its risky to try and change your consumers perspective on how the game of golf should be played, but in the instance of a caddy program, I think it’s worth it.

    PS. Loved the article Mike!

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Thank you, Alex. I look closely at ways we can grow the game and one of the biggest issue the game faces today is that the EXPERIENCE of playing golf isn’t good enough across the board.

      Issues such as pace of play, non-walkable courses, and lack of basic golf etiquette can ruin your experience on the links. And it may not be the guys or gals in your group, but the group in front of you that doesn’t know what they are doing at take 5.5 hours to play.

      Making caddying ubiquitous and properly training caddies to promote the playing of Ready Golf would make golf SO much better that people would pay slightly higher greens fees because the experience of walking a round in 3.5-4.5 hours is just that much better.

  26. Paul

    Oct 10, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Mike I totally agree with you and have been talking about this very thing as one component in growing the game. I too did some caddying when I was young 1) to earn a little spending money(better than picking berries) 2) to play a premier private club on Mondays. As a 46 year old golfer who is focused on staying heathly I would be happy to pay $25 to a caddy and have an opportunity to get to know and teach the game to a young boy or girl. If the course split the caddie fee and kept $10 and you had 4 caddies in the foursome then the golf course just made $40 for that foursome which would be more than they make on carts after maintenance. The caddie makes $15 plus tip and gets to play free golf on one designated day during the week. The PGA of America and the Tour start a massive scholarship program to encourage more kids to caddie with the hope of getting their college paid for if they get good grades and serve as good citizens!

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Now you’re talking….

    • Alex Geanakos

      Oct 10, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Paul,

      As being a caddy throughout my adolescent life and still currently looping during the summers, I see the main detractor of taking a caddy as being the cost. Your cash figures are below minimum wage, so I don’t see your hypothetical as being viable. I’m sure everyone would love to shell out only ~$25 for their bag, but virtually no caddy is willing to loop for that price. I receive $80 per bag plus a $10-20 tip, and while I understand that this paycheck is clearly in the higher percentiles, the caddy still needs to be compensated appropriately. Irrespective of caddy credentials, age, wealth of club members, etc, I feel that a caddy must receive $50 for a day’s work per bag.

  27. Evan

    Oct 10, 2014 at 9:03 am

    A caddy program needs to be just that, a program. There needs to be benefit apart from money. Realistically, a High School kid could carry two modern bags (just as a cart is shared) and make $40 for a loop, which comes out to $10 and hour for caddying. Yes, that’s not a great wage, it sure as heck beats McDonalds, though. So that’s $20 per player for caddy services. That caddy would also probably get free or discounted golf as compensation. The likelihood of that caddy creating beneficial relationships by caddying is also much greater than working in fast-food.

    I do think it should be an option at most courses. It would most definitely speed up play as a cart does not have local knowledge, can’t find lost balls, can’t pull the pin, replace divots, fix ball mark, etc. that could greatly speed up a round. For the cost sensitive and many public courses, a four sided cart could be created and one caddy/ on course assistant could accompany one group for $40-$60 total. This person could also be included as staff and their wage built into green fees. Many people will also tip, so the upside to this job would be pretty good for a young/ retired person. If a caddy went out with every group, a ranger would not be necessary.

    • Jon

      Oct 13, 2014 at 6:01 am

      Great points Evan. The caddie program should adjust to the times. Caddies do not need to increase the cost to play but help create jobs, mentoring, increase pace of play and educate all on the rules & etiquette. The cost of a cart plus tip is reasonable. As for those concerned about the added cost and choose to walk, employ a caddie when you can or want to support caddie programs. Denver, CO is actively growing caddie programs for high school kids at public courses for roughly cart fee plus tip. Entrepreneurship, Evans Scholarship, employment and social skills are just a few of the benefits. It would be great to book a caddie that could go to any course a group/player chooses.

  28. Nick

    Oct 10, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I caddied at a high end Country Club in my community when I was a kid too. Loved it. But you answered your own question at the end. It all has to do with the cost. I grew up and lived in Boston all my life. Green fees at your average public course were 40-60. Throw on an extra 50 for a caddie and its getting way too expensive. I recently moved to Florida and the average price for golf with a cart is 30-50. If you told people showing up to your average public course that the green fees are now 20-40 but you gotta get a caddie for an extra 50 their heads would explode. I know you wrote in the comments that the average green fees are 26 in the US but people arent willing to triple that to have a caddie.

    And you mention the average golfer, the beer chugging pot smoking 100 shooting guys. I dont think they need or should have a high school student out there caddying for them.

    20 years ago when I was caddying you only thought about caddies at exclusive top end country clubs and very high end prestigious public courses. I dont think that state of mind has changed. Thats still as I see them. Thats where you have the guys that dont blink at the thought of paying an extra 50 every time they play. Caddies at your standard public courses where 95% of us play would never work.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 9:10 am

      I’m not saying that the current caddy model would work at average public courses. I do, however, have a vision for a different type of caddy system that would be cheaper, involve more high school students, increase the number of golfers, and most importantly, improve the golf experience. How this would occur is beyond the scope of this article.

      • bradford

        Oct 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

        Sure, there are great ways to do it. I love caddies for the purity of it, but as far as pace of play the Ranger system works better IF you have them properly assisting (rather than just sitting in carts telling people to speed up and play faster than the people in front of them), their contribution will do more than a caddy can.

        • Mike Belkin

          Oct 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

          The overwhelming majority of rangers I see don’t do a good job of pushing pace of play. The average golfer just doesn’t understand basic readygolf etiquette. It’s not the rangers job to teach ready golf, they are there to say speed up.

          But if you don’t know how to play fast, a ranger saying “speed up!” not going to help anything and just make everybody’s day worse.

  29. ca1879

    Oct 10, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Reality check Mike. I can’t get the local kids to cut my grass for $20 an hour, and you want them to carry bags for $12/hr? Not to mention that even the guys I play with at a mid-range private club are looking to cut their golf costs, not increase them. Caddying is a fringe aspect of modern golf, at best.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 9:12 am

      Yes, you’re right. Per my comment above, I’m not saying the current caddy model will work. Trying to think outside the box here and reshape the caddy model.

      I do think local middle/high school kids would carry bags for $12/hour, however.

      • bradford

        Oct 10, 2014 at 9:47 am

        12/hr/bag—It should be commonplace for them to carry double.

      • CairnsRock

        Oct 10, 2014 at 7:18 pm

        So $12/hr for 4:15 hours = 5 x 12 = $65. Sorry, not going to happen.

        Nice to think the fuzzy images of the “good old days” but they are so gone.

        One of the exales mentioned guests which sounds like a business environment where a customer event is being expensed and cost is no object. May be attractive in that scenario, the caddie may need to be a knowledgable and entertaining character vs your average high school kid.

        Sounds elite and expensive and diametrically opposed to the needs of current trends in the golf industry.

  30. Kirby

    Oct 10, 2014 at 4:05 am

    I also caddied from the age of 11-18.I loved being able to play and fish one of the top 3 courses in my state on mondays. Best benefit.When I was 18 they hired a new pro who outlawe any caddies from playing.I never showed up again.I became a master caddy at 17 and was the personal caddy for one of the part owners of the club, who now I just recently found out is the richest man in the state of Missouri! I got paid $20 plus tips,that gentleman eould tip me $5. Looking back now I think he should of tipped me more.LOL. I also had a great experience there on one occasion, they were holding the regional I beleive U.S Open qualifier and a young guy needed a caddy and I volunteered.He had just graduated college from North Carolina and he ended up winning the event and playing at the Olympic Club. His name is Mark Wilson. If you have never used a caddy before and have a chance, do it, you will not regret it, in my opinion having used friends as caddies for different qualifiers over the years that is my favorite way to play.

  31. markb

    Oct 10, 2014 at 12:45 am

    As a former caddy and old timer I remember that by-gone era with fondness, but it will never return.

    Here’s the reason: the pro’s and/or the municipalities keep the revenues from cart rentals. They get little to nothing if you hire a looper.

  32. TinWhistle

    Oct 10, 2014 at 12:24 am

    Caddied at a great club for 10 years growing up. Platt scholarship to college. CEO of a company for 7 years. Caddying still the best job I ever had. Carts kill!

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 10, 2014 at 7:53 am

      It would be interesting to see how many former CEOs are caddies.

      • Chuck

        Oct 11, 2014 at 12:02 am

        Mike I don’t know the answer to your question, but I do know that among collegiate scholarship programs, the Evans Scholars is one of the most successful (in producing successful alums) in the nation.

  33. paul

    Oct 9, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    If the problems with golf are time, cost, and difficulty, and you want to bring back caddies to improve the game. Doesn’t that just take more from the cost category? If I have to pay double to play golf my wife and son (he’s 2 years old) would shoot me. If I told her it would help me play faster and better it wouldn’t even matter, I would still be shot for wasting money. The common golfer or hacker doesn’t need or want to afford a caddy. Caddies are for the excessively wealthy. Which is only a small portion of golfers where i live. Once again another article detailing all the problems and giving one small solution that might work a little bit at some courses.

    Yearly golf budget $2000
    Virtual golf (its cold here) $500
    Real golf $1000
    Lessons $200
    Clubs $300 (or whatever is left of budget because they make the least difference in my score)

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 9, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Fair enough, Paul. I’m by no means suggesting that all players should be taking caddies.

      What many people don’t realize, however, is that the median US greens fee is $26. Golf ISN’T actually that expensive.

    • 2

      Oct 10, 2014 at 2:28 am

      $200 for lessons…….. pffffffft! That’s all you spend on lessons? What’s that – like 2 hours?

    • CD

      Oct 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

      This is eye-opening. There is no culture for long lessons (half hour being the average) and I’m yet to see a club that offers caddies in the UK. The UK is seeing the same decline in members and green fees and it is interesting to see what responses are different sides of the pond. Re: slow play, there just isn’t a culture for beer swigging (pot-smoking?!!? Does that actually go on in USA? Incredible) and a buggy is a rarity used by the occasional person who can barely walk and wants to be secretly laughed at. But then… It is colder, out courses are shorter and less tied to project development – you don’t see cart paths, holiday villas etc. Which might go some way towards explaining the five hour rounds that seem to come across as the norm as posted by people on this website. I’m stewing when my round takes 4 hours and that’s with a break on the 9th for a coffee and a bacon sandwich!

      If the article is suggesting caddying is a solution to the drain of players I’d suggest that is not addressing the key issue. Changing to shorter courses and ‘quicker’ mentality (ditch carts, beers etc) might help the US game maybe? Arresting the slide in this country is another question. Maybe more beers, jeans in the clubhouse and cutting down 18 holes to 12 or so for example, is needed to stay with sports that cost less and don’t take the whole day: football (soccer) tennis, running.

    • Jack

      Oct 10, 2014 at 8:29 am

      What could be great about caddies is golf courses maybe splitting the bill with golfers. The real benefits are a) better golfers and b) faster play. Faster play could mean more revenue. People tend to be less ridiculous about looking for balls with a caddy watching them. Or maybe just have one employee stationed at places where balls usually land. Basically more marshals that take the place of caddies, and can and will advise club selection and when to hit.

      • Mike Belkin

        Oct 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

        I respect your point, but disagree that marshalls could help with club selection or any of the nuanced services caddies provide.

  34. Mccance79

    Oct 9, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    I would prefer a caddie however you make a point about the increase cost in an already expensive industry. And as the cost to build a and maintain golf courses increases Golf courses need functions of profitability to maintain quality I unfortunately feel that caddies will continue to be a luxury item versus a norm

  35. Lincoln

    Oct 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Former caddy here through high school and college. Not only was it a great way to make spending money through school, I also got to play free golf once a week at a top 30 course, I got to meet many great really important people, who outside of their round may be in the spotlight, but when they are on the course you get to see who they really are. It makes you appreciate people in service roles, it makes you a better tipper, and I feel it helped me in the business world now as a graduate. Not only do I feel comfortable talking to the CEO/1% types, but I also can generally establish a pretty good connection from my time as a caddy. Our course was special, and so was our program, It won’t work at all courses, but the ones that make it work can really make a great impact.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 9, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      Wow, thanks so much for the commentary, Lincoln. My experience as a caddy mirros this.

      Amazing how people who caddy have such a great appreciation for the game.

  36. Chris

    Oct 9, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Great article. I have one thing to add: treat your caddy with respect. My wife hates golf and golfers because she caddied as a teenager. Attractive teenage female caddie + (dirty) old men = distorted view of the game people and the people who play it.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 9, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      Interesting. There were no women caddies at the place I caddied.

      It’s tough growing women’s golf in general and one might hope that caddying could play a role in it some day.

  37. Cormac

    Oct 9, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    The people I have met in the last few years caddying will be the greatest connections I ever make in my life. The opportunity for high school and college kids to form real relationships with executives from some of the biggest companies in the in the country can’t be duplicated. Not only do these relationships lead to career opportunities, but they provide many life lessons from very successful individuals. The benefits of caddying are endless and I hope young people for generations to come can reap those benefits.

  38. TR1PTIK

    Oct 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    I have never had a legitimate caddy to help me on the course, but I think it would be great and can certainly see how it might help speed up play. One time, my father-in-law (who doesn’t play golf) was nice enough to ride with me for 18 holes and help with getting me clubs and managing the cart. I played that round horribly, but still finished 18 holes in just under 2.5 hours! I can only imagine how much faster it might have been had he been able to offer advice that would help me get the ball in the hole a little sooner.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 9, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      There is no better golf experience than playing a morning round with your good friends and caddies. Seek it out and try it!

  39. acemandrake

    Oct 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Etiquette. This what is learned from caddying. Too many players who take up the game later in life never get the chance to learn it.

    The game would be more enjoyable for all if everyone practiced conscientious etiquette.

    It’s as if it has become a lost art form.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 9, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Yes, etiquette and how it ties into pace of play in particular are key things to learn to play properly!

      • paul

        Oct 9, 2014 at 10:33 pm

        I play half the time by myself and half with a group of friends and they all drive me crazy. Take forever to line up shots and humm and haw over club selection and miss the green 80% of the time. I have talked to them about planning ahead and thinking before arriving at the ball, they told me to screw off and they will play how and when they want. They play in 5.5 hours in carts and I play in 3.25 by myself. Its enough to make a guy quit playing with others.

        • Mike Belkin

          Oct 10, 2014 at 11:18 am

          I hear you. I used to play slowly and have picked up my pace and now play better because I think less.

        • Wally K

          Oct 11, 2014 at 8:35 am

          Playing in 3.25 hours alone? You are playing on a 7K+ yard course or walking at a snails pace. It should take you 2.5 hours.

    • Chuck

      Oct 11, 2014 at 12:08 am

      Acemandrake: “Etiquette. This what is learned from caddying. Too many players who take up the game later in life never get the chance to learn it.
      The game would be more enjoyable for all if everyone practiced conscientious etiquette.
      It’s as if it has become a lost art form.”

      Perfectly well-stated.

      I’ll add this… Anybody who is wondering about the decline in new golfers picking up the game; look no further than the decline of caddie programs. In the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, before carts became standard, caddies were everywhere at private clubs and whole generations of knowledgeable golfers were created. Not from the well-to-do kids who were members at the clubs, but from the caddie yards.

  40. Jeremy

    Oct 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Personally, I don’t prefer a caddie. Sure, at an unfamiliar course it’s nice to have someone who knows the layout, and can perhaps help me read the greens. But I only ever get them when I play at my friend’s private club, and I think the idea of paying someone $80 to carry my bag, clean my clubs, and hand me the wrong club (because they don’t know my distances) is ridiculous. I’ve got GPS or a rangefinder to give me distances, I’ve got a cart to carry my bag, and I can wipe my own club after a shot.

    I get that this article is mostly lamenting the loss of interaction between younger caddies and older, well-off adults and the opportunities that can come from it. But to me the caddy system is a relic of the older days of classism and elitism. These are traditions I’m perfectly happy to let fall by the wayside.

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Fair point. I was trying to make the point that caddying should be looked at as a grow-the-game initiative, I guess my point didn’t come across to you. Some caddies are not properly trained, it’s too bad you haven’t had a good one (yet).

      • Jeremy

        Oct 9, 2014 at 8:49 pm

        I suppose I didn’t get the grow-the-game part of the article, even after re-reading. It sounds like you and other commenters are talking more about the life-lessons and opportunities that caddy programs afford younger people, and I completely understand that. But when I’ve used a caddy I don’t find that it speeds the game up. While they can do things like rake my bunker to speed things up, overall the round takes longer because it just feels more serious. I take more time to get things right. I talk to the caddy about is it a 5 or a 6 iron, rather than just grab a club and swing with confidence. I wait for the caddy to read both sides of the putt, rather than just leave it close and two-putt like I would anyway.

        And for what it’s worth, I’ve had a few good caddies at my friend’s course. They’re not kids though, it’s what they do for a living. They’re friendly, they know the course and how to serve their client, and the best one I’ve had even caddied on tour for a couple seasons. I could tell he was a credit to his profession. But at the end of the day I still felt like it was $80 I really didn’t need to spend.

        I guess, in this day and age, I just don’t understand the point. Perhaps companionship when you’re playing alone? Someone to bounce shot ideas off of? Someone to blame when you hit a bad shot? All of these things are just not worth the cost to me, and I can’t imagine thinking different if my income were 10X what it is. Again, I can carry my own clubs. I can look at my wrist to get a yardage. I can fix my own divots, rake my own bunkers, and clean my own clubs.

        In the end, to me, caddies are the equivalent of the bathroom attendant at a bar. Turns on the faucet, squirts you with soap, hands you a towel, and then gets paid for doing all the things you do for yourself the other 99% of the time.

        • Mike Belkin

          Oct 9, 2014 at 10:34 pm

          You make perfect sense, Jeremy. At this point in my life, I feel the same.

          That said, outside the scope of this article, I envision a new style of lower-cost caddying that proactively helps promote a ready golf style of play at public & semi-private facilities that does not exist today. It’s a longer conversation than what I intend for this forum, but my goal here was to have gentleman like yourself really explain their view on the value of modern day caddying.

        • Steve

          Oct 9, 2014 at 10:46 pm

          Mike your too nice! Jeremy you sound like a complete squid. No looper wants to watch you shoot a million anyway!

          • Robert

            Oct 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm

            Nice response Steve. That’s typical of spoads like you that can’t handle reasonable criticism. Jeremy is dead on with his comments. Caddies aren’t economical, at any reasonable rate, for 99% of the people out there. The only value they could add, for me, is local course knowledge. What is that worth? A few bucks? The only time I’ve used a caddie is at a handful of courses like Harbour Town and The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. I’ve used both caddies and forecaddies and the forecaddie is more than enough. The only place in golf for caddies is high end private clubs and high end public courses. If I’m willing to drop $200-500 on a round of golf then I might be willing to pay extra for a caddie just to say that I did.

          • Jeremy

            Oct 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm

            Gosh, first time I’ve been called a squid. Way to form a coherent counterpoint to my well-reasoned opinions though, Steve.

            Wait, no, that’s not what I meant. Oh right; way to be what’s wrong with the internet, Steve. Name-calling and making (incorrect) assumptions about people you don’t know from behind the safety of your screen.

            FWIW, I’m an 8 handicap, and at least a couple of “loopers” (that means “caddies,” right? I don’t know, I only speak Squidish) have told me it IS fun to watch me “shoot a million” because I hit the ball a freaking mile. I wouldn’t normally brag about this because it certainly doesn’t always translate to low scores, but since you felt the need to call me out, I thought I’d contend that my million is more fun to watch than yours.

            Tell me, Steve, since I don’t see you making any other points on this topic, what’s so great about caddies? Why isn’t it a waste of money for those who don’t have the money to waste? Honestly, I’ve seen so many posts on this site about how prohibitive the cost of this game is. Seems to me the first thing on the chopping block would be the redundant golf butlers who tend to cost nearly as much as the round itself.

        • Wally K

          Oct 11, 2014 at 8:58 am

          As much as I (PGA Member) hate to say it I have to agree agree with your views.

        • kevin

          Oct 14, 2014 at 8:29 am

          Jeremy, I am a looper and I have to agree that if a person does not want to take a caddy, then they shouldn’t. There is nothing more annoying as a looper at a high end country club on Long Island than being forced to go with a group that doesn’t want caddies, but wants to walk when the club rules state that you cannot carry your own bag until 3, which they should know when they join. I get why you don’t want to take a caddy, you would get the bottom of the barrel because all of the good caddies would be out already because they would be requested, and to be perfectly honest the people that I normally loop for pay me enough to not worry if certain people don’t want a caddy like yourself. I will say this though, you may fix your ballmarks, and divots, but our greenskeeper always says that he sees the groups without caddies leave ballmarks, and not sand fill or replace, and that after 3 is when his greens look the worst. I think public course caddy programs are economically unfeasible, however, if they remain a thing for the 1%, that is fine because at the end of the day it is a good paying job if you are in the right place, just ask the 13 year old Junior caddy that made 10 grand last summer.

          • Jeremy

            Oct 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

            Totally get your take on it Kevin. I have no doubt it’s a job that I would have enjoyed growing up. But then why not get paid to carry the rich kids’ books to school? The class dynamic is something that just rubs me the wrong way, I guess. But that turns into a much larger conversation.

            You do make a good point that, for maintenance reasons, it’s in the courses best interest to have caddies taking care of the little things in the wake of players who may not care as much about keeping the course in pristine condition.

            I think we’re in agreement that for public and municipal courses, it doesn’t make much sense. But yes, I get that there’s a market for caddies as a luxury item.

        • kevin

          Oct 14, 2014 at 4:35 pm

          Not gonna lie Jeremy, the class dynamic bothers me sometimes too when I am looping for a total hack, or a person that is just entitled when I worked my butt off growing up to get myself through school on a golf scholarship, and became a teacher. However, I am fortunate to have steady loops where the people that I go with are genuinely good people. Because of this, I have gotten to play Shinnecock, National, Friars and so on, where I otherwise would of had no chance in my life. Yes caddies are a luxury item, but in a sense they always have been, and will continue to be that way. I don’t see golf growing either, but I also don’t care because I mostly play country clubs that will maintain through the recessions now, or enjoy the fact that the local muni’s are less crowded. Golf will still always be there though.

    • JD

      Oct 10, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      I was going to write something until I came across this comment which is really spot on. Sure, I got a caddy when I went to bandon (no cart), played pebble and spyglass (cart path only), and even had to have mandatory caddies at other courses, recently shadow creek and cascata primarily for the experience but I felt I didn’t need it. For me, it wasn’t about shooting the lowest score possible, and really the relationship with the caddie (all nice guys who were not kids btw) were short and not meaningful (i’m there to play golf, not to develop a relationship with the caddie). If my club didn’t have carts and there were kids caddying, that would be different (and the club in that case should require every member to walk). I don’t see it as a big deal and there are alot of mentoring opportunities off the golf course.

  41. William

    Oct 9, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Im a current Caddie Master in Cleveland and agree that Caddie Programs need to grow more and more in every way! I’m in the process of strengthening my program as well. It’s not easy!

    • Mike Belkin

      Oct 9, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      What is the biggest challenge for you guys, getting people to pay for caddies or just finding people to come out and caddy?

    • Brandon

      Oct 9, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      What course are you at in Cleveland?

  42. Brandon

    Oct 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Caddies are one of the greatest things about playing golf. Rather older or younger caddies, they are very vital to the experience a member/guest or anyone has while playing a certain facility.

  43. Rob Rashell

    Oct 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Mike,

    Great stuff here, I went to the University of Washington on an Evans Scholarship, and still maintain some of the relationships I built caddying from middle school through high school. Just something great about walking and enjoying the day.

    Rob

  44. Gary

    Oct 9, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Caddies are essential to the pure game of golf

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Plenty to be thankful for

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golf course sand bunkers

This has always been my favorite week of the year, well, at least since I got old enough to understand that Christmas gifts do not just “appear” out of nowhere. I think that was about 60 years ago! This is the week of the year where, hopefully, we all take time to ponder the wonderful blessings of our lives.

No matter what 2022 might have brought you, I’m sure you can find at least a handful of blessings to be thankful for. My favorite holiday movie is a 1942 Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film called Holiday Inn. If you haven’t seen it and enjoy old movie musicals, you might make it a “must see” this season. Besides being the movie where the classic White Christmas was introduced, there is a wonderful song for Thanksgiving called Plenty To Be Thankful For. It’s also a favorite of mine.

As I ponder my own year and the 70 years before it, I realize I have so many wonderful things to be thankful for. That starts with my blessing of good health. I find it remarkable to be on the north side of 70 and still have no issues. No prescription drugs. Only one visit to the hospital in my life, the result of a motor scooter incident when I was 13. A fabulous Mom and Dad, small town upbringing. A lifetime of great friends and the blessing of living in a small town on the Texas coast. And most recently, the entry of a great lady into my life that makes it all so very much better.

I have the opportunity to run a fledgling custom wedge company, Edison Golf, which allows me to challenge the entire category with different thinking. And I love writing this column every week to share the many lessons learned and observations made in this 40-year career in the golf club industry.

There are just so many things I cannot list them all. But right there with them is the blessing of the strength and flexibility to still move the golf ball around pretty good. To be able to still play to a low single digit handicap from the regular tees (no ‘senior tees’ for me, thank you), and test courses from the back tees occasionally is fun.
That last blessing comes straight from God, of course, but I “help Him out” by making stretching and fitness a part of my daily regimen for over 30 years. And that is something anyone can do to improve their golf scores.

As we all face the “off season” (even here in South Texas it gets cold and rainy occasionally), you can make the decision to have lower golf scores to be thankful for this time next year. Just because you are cooped up inside for the next few months doesn’t mean you have to forego golf and preparation for next year can begin right now.
I believe flexibility is more crucial to stronger shots and lower scores than strength. A simple internet search can turn up dozens of good guides to stretching for a longer, fuller and stronger golf swing. If you add a bit of endurance and strength training to that, it’s amazing what will happen to your golf fortunes. Nothing more complex than a daily walk and swinging a weighted club daily or several times a week will pay off big dividends when you can get out on a winter golf vacation or next season starts.

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving, and I look forward to another year of being able to share my lessons from a lifetime in golf and over 40 years in the golf equipment industry. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Fortinet Australian PGA Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

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Is Cam Smith in Oz the Jon Rahm of the Spanish Open?

The recent, dominating T2/winner of the DP World Tour Championship went off at around 9/4 to beat Tommy Fleetwood, Min Woo Lee and company in Madrid in October, eventually sauntering home by six shots and delighting home fans supporting his third win at his home Open.

This week, Smith looks like going off at much bigger (at 7/2) to beat a slightly fuller depth of field, again including Min Woo, to win his third Australian PGA, after going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

There is little left to say about the winner of the 150th Open Championship in terms of class, summarised by the run of T2/T10/T3 at the three most recent Masters, as well as wins at the Sony Open, Tournament of Champions and The Players.

Of course, his career year has also been hot with controversy, denying a move to LIV and then vehemently defending his right to join the Greg Norman-led tour a couple of weeks later, but that’s not our concern as bettors. Indeed, look at the way his presence has been received back home.

Smith’s local Brisbane Times reports that the 29-year-old superstar was the first golfer to be awarded the ‘keys to the city’ and will also probably get his desire of a LIV event in Queensland.

He’s huge news back home, and if we are looking back at that Rahm comparison, looks pretty big at over 3/1.

Smith, though, is a grinder, no matter how good of one, and whilst wins have come in decent numbers under par, he tends to win when the short game simply outlasts everyone else in tough conditions. I’m not certain he gets that here, where the winning score was 22-under last time (in January 2022), and examining his impressive victories, it’s worth noting that none of his six PGA Tour victories have been by more than a single shot, with his second Oz PGA by just a stroke further.

You can count the LIV victory as better than I do if you like. No complaints on that score, but following that win he’s gone 42nd and 22nd on LIV – beaten by a lot less a player than he faces this week.

The filthy each-way doubles look certain to be popular, with Smith across the card from Joburg fancies Bezhuidenhout and Lawrence, but in a light betting heat, I’ll take a chance with just a couple of wagers.

Just one outright for me this week.

Golf form site, tour-tips.com  rates Ryan Fox the number one this week, a short-head over Smith, and whilst he isn’t quite that elite class, his form shows he is plenty good enough to beat the favourite on his day, and hasn’t that much to find in comparison to Adam Scott, MIn Woo and Cam Davis, all of whom are rightfully respected and popular.

Fox is easy to precis.

In what has been a stellar season for the always-promising Kiwi, the 35-year-old has improved from around 200th in the world rankings at gthe start of ’22, to a current ranking well inside the world’s top-30, and certain of invites to all the most desired events.

Fox waltzed home by five shots in the desert at Ras Al Khaimah and won again by a stroke at the Dunhill Links, an event including tournament stalwarts Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood. In between, Fox posted eight top-10 finishes including running-up in Belgium, at the Dutch Open, Irish Open and, just a couple of weeks ago, by a shot to Fleetwood and one of the latter’s favourite courses, the Gary Player GC.

Fox went into last week’s DP championship as a live contender for the title, which, given his commitment to the European Tour, would have been richly deserved. Perhaps that’s too political for here, though.

Either way, despite starting slowly in Dubai, he made his way up to 19th after four steadily improving rounds, enough to hold off Rahm from swapping places at the end-of-year rankings.

The silver medal is the least Fox should have got, and with a strong game on the sand-belt and a significant win in Queensland at the QLD PGA in 2018, challenging here should be a formality.

Fox has always had a strong driving game, and finding greens has rarely been an issue. However, he’s now gone from being one of the worst with the flat stick to ranking in the top-10 for putting average at even the toughest of courses.

I have the selection at the same price as Min Woo, who may have needed the run-out when a beaten 6/1 favourite here 11 months ago, so that 14/1 is simply too big to resist, especially as the latter has not won since July last year.

Fox can continue a big year for the Kiwis following Lydia Ko’s brilliant victory and subsequent crowning as this season’s LPGA queen.

The only other wager that appeals as a value pick is defending champion Jediah Morgan over Marc Leishman in a match bet.

Leish is a bit of a hero of mine, but it may sadly be time to give up on him as a serious potential winner in this class.

After a lucrative career, the 39-year-old came off a Covid slump to once again show up at Augusta over the last couple of years, but this has been a poor year.

There have been highlights – top-15 at the U.S Open, maybe – but he played poorly at River Highlands, in an event at which he historically does very well, and followed that with missed cuts at the Scottish Open and Open Championships, and midfield, don’t-write-home-about-it efforts at the first two FedEX play-off events.

Leishman is now at LIV, doing nicely ‘thank you’ and collecting $3 million for doing nothing much. In fact, his individual results gained him less ‘sole’ money than Pat Perez, another who caught onto the coat-tails of his teammates.

Respect to him, but Leishman isn’t going forwards these days, and will need the weather to turn bad if he is going to be able to live with some of these birdie machines.

Count Jediah Morgan as one of those birdie machines.

Although he produced a 100-1 shock in January when winning this event in just his fourth event as a professional, Morgan did it in some style.

The 22-year-old recorded three rounds of 65/63/65 to take a nine shot lead into Sunday, and simply went further clear, crossing the line 11 shots clear of Andrew Dodt, himself with plenty of previous in this grade at home, and a further shot clear of Min Woo.

In 2020 Morgan had won the Australian Amateur around this course, beating Tom McKibbin (see Joburg preview for his chances over there) by 5 & 3, an event that has thrown up Cam Smith amongst other multiple international winners, and whilst he hasn’t shown his best lately, returning to a venue he knows so well should be to his big advantage.

Morgan was one of the surprise signings to LIV Golf, although, as he admits, he “didn’t have much in my schedule,” given his exemption to the DP World Tour didn’t kick in till the 2023 season, plus it gave him the chance to compete at Centurion Club for LIV London – “The field is nice and strong so it’s a cool format to see how I shape up.”

Morgan has played every event since, although mixing it up with sporadic entries and invites onto the PGA, DP and Asian tours do not help a young golfer settle.

His Dunhill Links effort wasn’t bad – a 76 on that horrendous day two the cause of his eventual missed cut – but 25th and 13th at the last two events are as good as Leishman produced at the same events.

Leish has the back-form and the class but looks on the way down, and while the attention of being defending champ could overawe the younger man, he has put up with ‘Golf, but louder’ for a few months now.

I have these much closer than the prices suggest, so take the 8/5 in a match.

Recommended Bets:

  • Ryan Fox 14/1 Each -Way
  • Jediah Morgan to beat Marc Leishman -72 holes – 8/5 
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TourPutt – The secret of the pros?

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Driver vs. Putter: Your Choice?

If you were granted one golf-related superpower, which would you choose? The ability to hit 300-yard drives straight down the fairway all the time, or never 3-putt again?

Bobby Locke, one of the greatest putters in the game, said to ‘drive for show, but putt for dough’ And when you consider that the putter is the most used club in the bag, it seems like a no-brainer. But then again, according to Mark Brodie and his ‘strokes gained’ method, a long, straight driver may be more important to saving strokes. So what would you choose?

For me, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the putting skills as I am currently suffering from the worst case of yips I’ve ever experienced in over 30 years. Sure, it’d be nice to outdrive the guys in my regular foursome, but I don’t think I can live down the shame of missing inside of 3ft all day, every day. And with no genie in site, I have searched high and low for that perfect putter that can cure my woes.

After trying nearly 50 putters over the past two years and enduring numerous snide remarks to get putting lessons instead, I finally gave in. I bit the bullet and sought professional help from Jong-hwan Choi, Korea’s number one putting coach to the pros.

Choi’s resume includes LynnBlake Master Instructor certification, AimPoint LV3, PuttDoctor, MichaelHebron Neuro Learning for Golf, and many others.

Choi is an accomplished Tour putting coach who has made a name for himself through relentless research and dedication to master his chosen craft. Thus far, the pros and elite amateurs he helped have won a total of 350 tournaments, including KPGA, KLPGA, and LPGA wins. He is so popular that it can take up to a year to book a lesson with the man himself, but I was desperate. After pulling all the strings I can muster, I was able to get an interview with him in the hopes of getting some help
with my flat stick.

When the day finally came, I arrived at Choi’s academy armed with 3 of my current best-performing putters. I was eager to glean the secrets of the pros and to find out which of these best fit my stroke. I was greeted by Choi and briefly shown around the spacious academy, which had a large flat putting surface and some basic training aids that are common online. Upon chatting about Choi’s background and teaching philosophy, he reminded me of the motivational speaker Tony Robbins. He was constantly emphasizing positivity and proactive learning reinforced with hard work and dedication towards self-growth – that skills are built, not born. Sure, I get that.

But surely, preaching alone doesn’t improve (my) putting?

TourPutt: The Secret of the Pros?

When Choi offered (after some subtle arm twisting) to look at my putting, I was puzzled when he pulled out a tablet rather than some kind of putting trainer. I figured maybe he was going to film me first, then point out some flaws on the monitor. Nope.

We were going high-tech for this one. We were joined by his friend and business partner Chan-ki Kim, a software engineer who co-developed TourPutt, a state-of-the-art putting training system.

According to the dynamic duo, TourPutt was developed to accurately assess a player’s putting tendencies, habits, and skills utilizing big data and A.I. Rather than second-guessing and trying to identify the faults, Tour Putt acts like an MRI machine that shows the doctor where to problem lies. Once the diagnosis is made, Choi would bring to bear his extensive experiences to cure the ailing putter. Sounded simple to me. But how would it know what my problem was?

As Choi’s fingers danced over the tablet in his hand, the TourPutt sprang into action and a small circle the size of a hole-cup appeared on the artificial putting surface. As I surveyed the circle of light beamed from a ceiling projector, Choi asked me a question I hadn’t considered before. ‘Which breaks are you most comfortable with on short putts? What are the odds that you make them?’ Taking my blank look as his cue, Choi proceeded to explain the process of mapping my putting pattern to gauge my stren gths and weaknesses.

To begin, I was directed to putt a golf ball into a hole from 36 random locations ranging from 3 to 6 ft. A ball tracking camera with two projectors mounted on the ceiling rendered various crisp, clear images onto the putting surface. Prior to start, I was informed that the putting surface was sloped 3% from top to bottom. So if you were to imagine a clock face, the 12 o’clock location would be a 3° downhill straight putt, while 6 o’clock would be a 3° uphill straight putt.

As I am right-handed, all putts from the left side of the 3 o’clock would be a hook like, and the left side a slice lie, all to varying degrees. When I asked why it was fixed at 3%, Kim explained that tour regulation greens don’t allow for more than a 3 degree slope within 6ft of the hole. Also, most amateur golfers had a difficult time detecting such a small amount of slope, and thereby misjudge the breaks to a higher score.

Knowing Where to Tap

After the pattern test began, it took me a little over 20 minutes to complete a total of 36 putts at random locations. I was quite conscious of the many eyes on my performance and equally frustrated at how often I was missing putts despite my best efforts. After I was done, Choi pulled up my results, or key performing index (KPI), on a large screen TV where I was able to see exactly where I was effective in my short putts. In brief, I had a tough time with both hook and slice lie putts. I showed slightly better results with uphill straight and slice putts, but absolutely nothing to write home about.

Now, I’m sure many of you are familiar with the story of the plumber who was called to fix a steam pipe. After looking around the pipes and tapping a couple of valves, he charged $200 for his services. When the irate customer demanded to know why it cost so much and asked for a detailed breakdown of the services, the plumber replied, ‘$10 for tapping, $190 for knowing precisely where to tap.’

As such, my results from the pattern test were eye-opening. I’ve never known what lie I was more effective at, much less the percentage of probable success. For example, the more often I use TourPutt to practice or diagnose my putting, the more accurately it can diagnose my skills. Thus, I can pinpoint which area to improve through practice, as well as try to get the ball to an area I am more likely to save par.

Wow. This was tour pro stuff. Was this the secret of the pros?

The green area indicates a successful putt and the red is where I missed. The numbers show how long it took me to strike the putt after being instructed by a bell sound.

I was starting to get heady with the possibilities this digital marvel was able to provide. It took both of them to bring me down to earth again by informing me that knowing the areas of improvement is only half the battle.

For the actual tapping part, Choi and Kim then walked me through the many innovative features of TourPutt focused on helping me improve my putting. I was mesmerized by the detailed graphics that flashed all over the putting surface.

I was already impressed with the diagnostic aspects of TourPutt, but upon seeing the actual features to help me improve my putting, I was doubly blown away. From reading the green speed and breaks accurately to effective swing tempo and motion tracking, the system seemed straight out of the future.

Putting from variations of the 3% slope helps golfers to get a better feel the greens, a skill that can translate onto reading the breaks on actual greens.

Before TourPutt came into being, Choi was frustrated with the difficulty in collecting crucial data from an actual green as it was difficult to find a flat area to map his student’s patterns. When he discussed the matter with Kim back in 2019, Kim immediately became interested in ways to mesh modern technology and A.I. driven data to the art of putting. As an elite level golfer with extensive knowledge in the fields of VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality), Kim understood right away the issues faced by Choi and how he could help.

Delving deep into Choi’s experience and insights, Kim designed the TourPutt’s interface to yield accurate and reliable data that can be cross-checked, correlated, and compared across past and future performances. Best of all, TourPutt and its proprietary app feature the ability to keep track of all of my performance from any TourPutt system and access the data anywhere at any time. I could even replay all of my past putts and see the speed and the path it took, and compare them with other golfer’s data in the system. Mind. Blown.

Kim further explained that this feature of collecting real-world significant big data is one of the biggest advantages of TourPutt, and enables it to evolve further with every putt stored in its vast database.

The app can be used in both English and Korean, and can keep track of my performance and improvements.

The Student Becomes The Teacher

Once the flaws are identified, we moved on to the more traditional slow-motion video to see what I was doing wrong to miss the putts. For me, I kept too much weight on the back foot, and also needed more forward press to keep the putter head online through impact.

After several minutes of drill to correct the issues, I was holing the putts much better. The data from the second pattern test confirmed the improvement, and I was also shown the actual paths that my two putts took before and after the fix. All in all, being able to verify that the diagnosis was correct with immediate results, all backed by data was highly reassuring and enlightening. But what if these improvements were short-lived? That as soon as I walk out of Choi's presence, the magic evaporates and my crappy putting returns? I can’t tell you how often a club I thought was the answer to my prayers devolved into an ordinary stick as soon as I paid for it. It’s downright uncanny how often this happens.

To this end, Choi gave me a glimpse of hope. He assured me that since I was investing time into my skills and not money into more equipment, it will definitely last longer. Also, the coaching provided by Choi is reflected in each and every putt I had made since the lesson and recorded as part of my putting profile. So if I were to stray from the ‘good’ putts, the system can be used to bring me back on track. And if this cycle of improvement continues, I would be able to be my own teacher and
eventually practice effectively and independently on my own.

Honestly, I don’t know about this part. After all, I too know that the right diet and exercise will give me a six-pack; but knowing and doing it are two separate things. In the end, how effective any tool can depend on how well I make use of it, so it will have to remain to be seen. What I can say with certainty, however, is that TourPutt seems to work for a lot of people. Choi’s students continue to post wins on various tours with regularity, each crediting him with their improved putting performance. In turn, Choi credits his partner Kim and TourPutt’s growing database for accurate diagnosis and self-learning.

ToutPutt and its built-in sensors are capable of sensing where the lies have changed. The self-learning A.I. system actively adjusts for the changes to the putting surface, thereby eliminating the need for recalibration.

In Korea, the art of putting has found its poster child in Choi, with more and more golf academies and private studios installing TourPutt for its members. Several local tour pros and top amateurs have also installed the not-so-cheap system in their homes and have said to benefit from the move. Remember when Tiger showed up one day at the range with his own Trackman? I would imagine having a TourPutt in your basement is something like that, but I can only guess. I don’t have a personal Trackman either.

Choi attends seminars all over the world each year to continue his improvement in putting instruction.He is currently working on compiling his own training and certification program to impart to a new generation of would-be putting gurus.

Now that I know where I need to improve on, does this mean I will be taking money off my foursome buddies with alarming regularity? Well, let me see. I signed up for pilates a few months ago and found out exactly where I need to work on for more flexibility. But as I still creak all over when bending over to tie my shoes, I’d guess my putting won’t miraculously improve right away neither. But hey, that’s on me. I’ll just have to start working on the tapping part. Anyone looking to buy some used putters?

For more information on TourPutt from the man himself, check out the video below.

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