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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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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: What’s your takeaway waggle?

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Two wonderful examples on the PGA Tour are Sung Jae Im and Justin Thomas. We explain how this takeaway waggle brings your awareness full circle to how your backswing matches the direction you want to start the ball on. With awareness and confirmation that the backswing fits and that you don’t have to rush through it. You get a sense of calm that you can accomplish the task you set out and your chances at consistency have increased exponentially.

 

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On Spec: A deep dive into iron specs and “loft jacking”

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With so many new iron releases being announced, host Ryan Barath gets deep into the world of iron design and specs—most specifically loft.

The topic also revolves around trying to fit an iron-based on handicap and why that is a flawed model.

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Opinion & Analysis

The death of the 3-iron and what it means for your bag setup

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The 3-iron is almost extinct. It sounds like an odd statement, but it’s very true. Don’t believe me? Go try and buy one in a set. They are not easily found.

As we evaluate this topic, I’ll refrain from specs from “players” clubs as these are not the irons normally purchased. Yeah, it might skew the data, but even the players capable of playing the long irons are opting out of the 3 iron. And let’s be honest, should any of us be playing a blade 3-iron?

Mizuno only offers 4-PW in the JPX line now. Titleist only offers a 3-iron in T100s, while the rest are void of 3-irons. TaylorMade provides 4-PW in the P790, P790Ti, and P770. Callaway has done the same, only offering a 3-iron in the “players line” of clubs, while the rest is again void of the-iron. Cobra golf has also followed suit.

So are 3-irons just too hard to hit? Is that why no one is buying them, thus causing the OEMs to stop making them? The only ones left to buy are the “players” 3 irons, and those aren’t even reasonable unless you’re a professional.

What if I told you we were being deceived? What if I told you the 3-iron is still very much alive in all the iron sets available but under the guise of a different number?

Let’s hop into the “wayback machine” and take a quick look at the history of iron lofts.

The year is 1970, and the vast majority of irons available are blades. You know, the razor-sharp leading edges that are ready to break your wrist with a deep divot.

The image above is an actual snippet from a catalog from the ’70s. At this point, the 1-iron was virtually extinct, and in 1975, Lee Trevino was immortalized by his joke about how God couldn’t hit a 1-iron, which typically fell in the 18-degree range at the time. 2-irons were standard issue in the set, and the lowest loft you might find is 20 degrees.

Then the ’80s came, and things started to progress. As you might expect, lofts started to decrease. It wasn’t because of flight windows, or launch numbers, because they didn’t have that kind of technology readily available to measure those attributes. It was simply a quest for distance.

Then in the ’90s, you’d pretty much see all iron sets with 21-degree 3-irons, down to 48-degree PW’s, and 21 degrees being the norm for the lowest lofted 3-iron. 2-irons at this time were typically 18 degrees and available by request only.

Then came the 2000’s, an era we all should be familiar with. This is where things started to get interesting. Not only because lofts continued to be strengthened, but because the hybrid became a new option to replace the long irons. Adams Golf made a killing as it perfected this golf club, creating the Idea line that was in the bags of most of the senior tour players and many of the PGA Tour players. These were a fan favorite at retail too. The hybrid was an easy long iron to hit and quickly started to replace 3-irons in golf bags across the country and even on tour.

By this time the pitching wedge lofts started to get pushed to 46 degrees, which was a big jump, to be honest. In the 1970s, MacGregor was making pitching wedges with 49 degrees of loft. So, for the 90’s to be around 48 degrees, it wasn’t too much of a shock. But in the 2000s, we now saw PW’s drop to 46 degrees; a half club stronger. This is where the downfall began, in my opinion.

The first decade of the 21st century needed the gap wedge, also known as the approach wedge or utility wedge or just plain old “wedge.” Now, keep in mind, this club wasn’t anything new. The gap wedge existed ever since the beginning because at 50-52 degrees it was simply a pitching wedge from the ’70s. But it became a necessary element for the bag since the lofts of every iron were starting to move farther and farther away from the sand wedge.

Now in 2020, the average loft of the PW is 43.5 degrees, and the average 4-iron loft is 20.6 degrees. Turns out, the 4-iron from 2020 is .3 degrees stronger than the average 2-iron (20.9 degrees) from 1970. We have come full circle! Instead of maintaining those classic numbers, of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW, the new sets are labeled 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, P, G.

I wonder how many golfers out there carry a 4-iron thinking it’s a club they can hit? Probably too many! Obviously, the 3-iron is dead at this point, since it would actually carry the loft of the elusive 1-iron Trevino claimed was unhittable!

Now, it’s time to discuss how we got to this point. You’ll hear a lot of companies talk about “flight windows” or “launch angles” and how it was changed by engineering, lowering CG’s, and increasing speed through thin faces. Some will talk about how the ball has changed, and it just launches higher, and it requires the lofts to be strengthened, or it will just go too high!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is all a bunch of baloney, and here is why: They started making gap wedges as part of the set. If the launch was too high or the window was too different, why make a matching gap wedge with the same technology and have the loft of a pitching wedge from the 1990s? Wouldn’t that launch or window then be too high for that club too? And yet you still need to buy another gap wedge to fit the 52-degree range. If the average golfer bought a 2020 game improvement set today, they would find the set make up to be 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW (43.5 degrees), Gap #1 (48.6 degrees), Gap #2 (52 degrees). That means if you happen to carry a 56 and a 60 degree, you now have the same amount of label wedges (5) as you do irons (5)!

Five wedges in the bag! Does anyone think this is weird?

Furthermore, when was a higher launching iron shot a bad thing? Wouldn’t average golfers benefit from a steeper angle of descent so the golf ball stops quicker on the green?

I conducted a study where I tested a Titleist 716 MB 8-iron with 39 degrees of loft to a TaylorMade P790 9-iron with 40 degrees of loft. All the data was captured on the Foresight GC2 launch monitor. It wasn’t a perfect test since they didn’t have the same shaft or loft, but my findings were surprising none the less. They went the same distance, almost down to the decimal. The Titleist went 165.2 yards, and the TaylorMade went 165.1 yards. Launch was only .6 degrees different while peak height was less than four feet different. So, unless you are Tiger Woods, you are not noticing a difference out on the golf course.

Some of you might think, “so, the label on the bottom of the club changed, it’s all going the same distance. So, what’s the big deal?” To me, it’s the confusion it creates more than anything. By decreasing the lofts, you’re just making the numbered iron go farther, and you are creating even bigger problems by having large gaps with the sand wedge when all amateurs need those clubs. It’s also putting clubs into the hands of golfers when they have no business hitting, like the 4-iron with 20 degrees of loft. Titleist has already made a T400 5-iron with 20 degrees of loft, and that’s just silly.

There also is the argument that golfers love distance, and when they start playing and can hit a 7-iron relatively far, it helps grow the game. Growing the game isn’t a bad thing, but if they are new to the game, they shouldn’t have any preconceived notions of how far to hit a 7-iron, and that means loft at that point becomes irrelevant.

I will not refute that a 40-degree lofted game improvement iron will be slightly longer than an identical lofted players club, but I think you’d be surprised to see the actual difference is a maximum of about three yards longer. The technology works, but by no means is it so substantial that we need to change the label on the bottom of the golf club.

The bottom line is that loft is king, regardless of the technology involved, and I have seen, but one equipment company make a change backwards! This is TaylorMade with their P770 irons. In comparison the P790, they increased the loft by one degree in the short irons and up to two degrees in the long irons, to add height and spin to the irons to improve performance. Imagine that, more spin and height are an advantage! And that was backed by their testing and their data.

Now to even further nail down my point, it is worth noting that TaylorMade Golf offers the highest lofted Pitching Wedge in the industry at 49 degree, which are in the Tiger lofts of the P7TW irons. That same iron set has a 22.5-degree 3-iron. At 22.5 degrees, it is typically the lowest-lofted iron in the golf bag of the best iron player on the PGA Tour in 2019. Of course, he has the skill to play an iron with lower loft, but the point that history reveals to us is that the effective loft of playability for an iron is about 22 degrees and higher. Anything lower lofted than that is typically replaced with a hybrid. This is not just a trend for the amateur golfer either, and it is even happening on tour with the best players in the world.

We will probably never see the lofts rolled back, but the least we can do is update Lee Trevino’s quote, “if you ever find yourself in a thunderstorm, lift up your 4-iron, because not even God can hit a 4-iron.”

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