Do you frequently take a caddie? I don’t. But on some occasions it is the natural thing to do. Like if you ever play the Old Course in St Andrews.
Going around the world’s oldest golf course without taking a caddie is something I would not recommend. One reason is that on such a sacred place, you will get all the stories and most of the history of the place from the caddie during the round.
Secondly, the greens at the Old Course are enormous because 16 of the holes share the green with another hole. Meaning that you in worst case may end up with putts over 70 yards or meters or whatever your measure is. Thirdly, there are so many blind tee shots and so many hidden bunkers on the Old Course that the caddie really will be the decisive factor whether your day at the links will be one of frustrations or one of joy.
Caddies may be mandatory
On other courses around the world it can be mandatory to have a caddie. Take a caddie and get out on the course. Or reject having a caddie and get lost.
If you don´t worry about your score (like you always should in casual golf), your caddie experience will always be great. If you do worry about your score, taking a caddie will most likely improve on your score.
I’ve had my shares of caddies over the years. And some times the experience have been not exactly mainstream
1) «What do you see here, Sir?»
The first time I played the Old Course (at St Andrews), I was teamed with John. A great, local guy that was a builder in the winter and caddied in the summer.
However, if I had an early tee time, John might not show. And if he did, the smell of his breath would tell you you were in Scotland (Johnnie Walker have their head office 15 minutes out of town).
So one early morning I had to take another caddie. I can’t remember his name. He told me he had caddied for 20 years. On the first green he told me the put was one ball left.
«Are you sure? To me it looks like one ball right?»
But the caddie insisted it was one ball left. And one thing I’ve learned (the hard way) is to always trust your local caddie. But, as it turned out, the putt was one ball right, not left. He had the same type of bad read on the second green. And on the third. On the fourth green, the caddie asked me:
«What do you see here, Sir?»
«I see a straight put.»
«Ai, Sir. A straight put it is. Be sure to hit it firmly!» I sank that put.
On the way over to the next tee, I asked my caddie:
«You told me you have caddied for 20 years. How come you don’t know the lines?»
«Ai, I have Sir. But never here. I’ve caddied all my years up at Carnoustie.»
2) «I need to sacrifice a goat.»
At Humewood, the club I’m a member of in South Africa, I was taken by this young man, Chris. He was a caddie there. A very proud person. Proud of his education. Proud of his family. Proud of his job. Which he was very good at.
On most occasions I took him as a caddie when I played with my wife. Chris would carry my wife’s bag, and help both of us with putting lines, lost balls, club selection and the wind factor.
One Sunday afternoon Chris told me he needed to be paid extra today because he had to buy a goat. I wondered why.
«Well, you see … my daughter is turning 13. And I am so afraid that she will get AIDS. So I need to sacrifice a goat to prevent that happening, Sir.»
«Come on, Chris. You’re an educated person. And you know that if you want your daughter not to get AIDS, there are certain things you need to talk to her about. I mean, other things than sacrificing a goat.»
Chris agreed (somewhat). But he was not assured. So we kept chatting about this over the next few holes. Finally, Chris gave in.
«Of course, Sir. You are right. I will speak to my daughter,» he promised.
And added: «Then sacrifice a goat just to be sure.»
3) «Thank you, Sir. But I’m not taking a tip.»
How likely is it that you will ever hear a caddie say that? It has happened to me. Once. I was playing Dundonald Links in Gailes on the West coast of Scotland, about 45 minutes South of Glasgow.
This is a golf course where you will be far better off taking a caddie. So I got Steve, a young guy (for a caddie). He seemed fit and turned out to be a golf nut. He spent every spare minute on golf, he told me. Playing the game. Or caddieing. He was full of stories about golfers and courses and master strokes, and we had a great time.
After completing my round, I got the wallet out to give him his tip.
«Thank you, Sir. But I’m not taking a tip. No offense.»
«Say that again?»
«Well, you see, Sir, I don’t take a tip because I reckon I’m much better off than you are, Sir. I play (soccer) for Glasgow Rangers.»
4) «Better to hit the ball, Sir.»
My wife and I where visiting friends in Bangladesh. Some people call the country «the armpit of Asia». If you take a look at the map, you’ll understand why from the way Bangladesh is tucked in between India and Burma.
As a former British colony, they do of course have golf there. Our friends had just picked up golf and where members of Kurmitola Golf Club in the capitol Dhaka. As for caddies, it was mandatory to have one caddie and one ball boy/forcaddie for every player. Meaning a fourball would be an entourage of twelve people walking down the fairway.
The caddies had learned to be polite, no matter how bad your golf was. Our friends being beginners at that time, didn’t exactly beat par.
«Better to hit the ball, Sir,» the caddie would comment an air stroke.
«Cutting grass, Madam,» he would acknowledge when the lady in the couple hit Planet Earth before the ball.
Kurimtola turned out to be a fantastic design with water (no shit, Sherlock!) coming into play on 17 of the 18 holes. That was when the ball boys came in handy. If you hit your ball into one of the ponds, the ball boy would dive in and retrieve your ball. And if he didn’t find it right away, he would stay in the water until he did.
My record in the two weeks we were there was playing down the 17th when my ball boy came running, screaming of joy, finally having retrieved the ball I’d hit into the lake on the 2nd hole.
5) The giggling caddie
I can’t remember the name of the caddie I had the first time I played The Links at Fancourt (the 2003 Presidents Cup venue) . He was a proud Zulu, and had too many x-es in his name for me to even pronounce it. Not to mention remember it. Anyway, this guy had just lost his card on The Sunshine Tour. Which is the South African professional tour.
The Sunshine Tour have co-sanctioned events with the European Tour every year. Meaning that the standard of the players, even the ones that loose their cards, is high. However, my guy didn’t give as many advices I would expect from an ex-tour player with the ambition of getting a good amount of tip. (This considering all the advices you’ll always get from those that are not on the tour.)
Instead, he giggled a lot. Especially when I hit a poor shot (which I do on a regular basis … the bad shots are probably the most consistent part of my game).
I asked him why he was giggling so much. Wasn’t his job to encourage the golfers. And is giggling really the best way to do that?
«I know Sir, I truly do. I’m sorry. But you’re such a bad golfer, Sir. I’m really sorry. I can’t avoid it.»
I don’t know if this guy ever made it back to the tour. I’ve been scanning the Sunshine Tour’s leader boards. But I haven’t seen his name. (Which is difficult since I don’t remember his name. But I haven’t seen any name with that many x-es.)
6) «At least it gave you a better grip, Sir.»
At Turnberry, where Tom Watson almost won The Open Championship a couple of years back, they have two courses. The Ailsa and The Kintyre.
I was invited to an event taking place on both courses with one round at each course. We flew in at night, checked in at the hotel and had the luggage brought to the room while the golf clubs were brought over to the Caddie Master.
The following morning I met my clubs and my caddie at the first tee on the Ailsa Course (in the events that I’m invited to, no-one warms up). On hole number 2, my caddie handed me the club I needed for my approach to the green. It was the most shockingly, gross golf club I’d ever held in my hands. On the grip, there where several spots coved in a slimy, utterly disgusting substance.
To me it looked like A) something someone had eaten the day before or B) some kind of substance that Hollywood present in C-movies to try to scare the audience out of the theater.
I asked my caddie what on earth had happened to my clubs over night and at the Caddie Master this morning. He had no idea. I didn’t believe him.
Most of my clubs had this slimy type of jelly on the grips. It was therefore very reluctantly that I accepted every time the caddie handed over a club after having wiped off the grip over and over again with the golf towel. However, I did notice that the grips themselves felt excellent. My clubs felt like they had new grips. Hadn’t it been for how gross the grips were and my thoughts about what someone (the caddie?) had done to my golf clubs overnight, I would have been very happy about my set.
After the round, I parted with the clubs and my caddie – who assured me he would investigate into the matter that evening. The next morning, I met my caddie and my clubs again at the first tee of the Kintyre Course. My caddie told me he had taken everything out of my golf bag. And that among the items he had removed were two rotten banana peals.
And suddenly it all came back to me. The two bananas I had placed on the top of the bag, driving to my golf club at home a couple of weeks ago. And never found when arriving. Assuming I must have left the bananas at home after all. I hadn’t. It was the sugar in the (decomposing) bananas that made the grips sticky.
«At least it gave you a better grip, Sir,» my caddie remarked. Knowing that he, after all, had a generous tip to look forward to.
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