What Is A Caddie In Golf?

Here we consider the golfing term caddie or caddy. Where does it come from and what does a caddy do in golf?

What is a caddie in golf
Famous caddy Jim "Bones" Mackay
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The golf term caddie or caddy derives from the French word cadet, historically meaning boy or youngest of the family. It began to be used in English in the 1600s and adapted to a point where Cady, Caddy, Cadie or Caddie became used for a general-purpose porter or errand boy in Scottish towns in the 18th Century.

One of the tasks caddies were noted as performing was carrying golf clubs. By the mid 19th century, dictionaries were defining a main job of caddies as carrying golf clubs.

What Does A Caddy Do In Golf?

What is a caddie in golf

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Today, a golf caddie or caddy is responsible for far more than simply carrying clubs – In those early days before golf bags they really were club carriers – Holding multiple clubs in their arms (there was also no restriction to 14 clubs in those days, so they often had a heavy load).

The modern caddie will manage a player’s equipment, yes carry their clubs, but also keep clubs and kit clean, organise the bag, make sure the player has enough balls, gloves, tees etc… They will carry food and drink, waterproofs, hats, towels and more – everything a player might require during 18 holes of golf.

A caddy is not a mere bag carrier though. They also advise their player on strategy, on yardages, on what club to select, on how the ground will affect the ball when it lands. They must have good knowledge of the weather and how much the wind will move the ball in the air. A caddy must know the course, the hazards and the opportunities.

Above all, a good caddy will understand their player’s game – their strengths and weaknesses and will provide sage encouragement and guidance on how they should best negotiate each hole.

They must watch the ball closely, find it in difficult situations and know its likely location if it’s disappeared from view.

Other jobs of the caddy include tending the flag, raking bunkers, replacing divots and repairing ball marks. It’s a tough job.

How Much Do Golf Caddies Make?

What is a caddie in golf

Joaquin Niemann and caddy Gary Matthews

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It very much depends on who they’re caddying for. A caddy on the professional tours can make millions if they work for one of the most successful players. Each caddy will have an agreement with their player in terms of remuneration but often it includes a percentage of winnings. If a top player wins an event and picks up a cheque for $1,000,000, the caddy might expect to see 10% of that - $100,000 for a week’s work… Not too shabby.

Caddies who work at clubs or golf courses and caddy for regular amateur golfers won’t be earning quite as much! They’ll likely receive a flat rate per round and then hope for decent tips from their clients if they do a good job… A good caddy with a generous golfer who has a good day could do quite nicely.

How Do You Become A Golf Caddy?

Caddies at Baltusrol 1900

Caddies at Baltusrol circa 1900

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Generally speaking, you have to know a bit about golf, so it helps if you’ve played, or play, yourself. If you do, then the first step is probably to find a club or course that offers caddies to members and visitors and try to get on the books. You’ll start at the bottom of the pile, maybe even as a bag carrier rather than caddy, and hope to work your way up by demonstrating your ability to read the course and the games of clients.

If you prove yourself to be a good and reliable caddy at club level, then you might earn a reputation that draws the attention of a professional golfer in need of a new man or woman on the bag.

If you’re a very knowledgeable golfer – a good player yourself, perhaps a pro even – you might be able to jump the queue. If you know people in the professional game, you might have the contacts to offer your services as caddy at a high level. 

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?