We take a look at 10 things caddies are currently talking about.
10 Things Caddies Are Talking About
What are the bag carriers chatting about when they unwind? We asked some of them…
1 The five-minute rule
Like any player (at any level) nobody wants to hear chapter and verse on the day’s 18 holes. Likewise the caddies. There is an unspoken rule where you are allowed five minutes to talk about what happened on the course that day and, after that, you don’t talk about golf unless it’s something really extraordinary. Like falling into a lake or making a 10.
Similarly on the course there is very little talk about the actual golf with things quickly turning to the usual topics of football, food, travel etc. “You can’t consume yourself with the game too much, you have to remove yourself and that means on the course too. You have to accept what’s happened and then switch off – it sounds dull but it’s a big part of the job. When you get to the ball it’s yardage, wind, club, shot, accept and start talking rubbish again.”
2 Logistics, logistics, logistics..
With the tour moving all over the place this is a banker when it comes to upcoming tournaments; where is everyone staying, how are you getting there, anyone looking for a room etc?
“There is always one guy who has found the cheapest way to get from A to B, who has found an unbelievable deal at an unbelievable hotel, and isn’t shy of telling everyone. Mainly because he has a big mouth and an inversely proportionate IQ.”
But often that can mean something that might not be quite as appealing as it sounds.
“It usually involves a flight at the time most people consider too early to go to the toilet. And that unbelievable deal is only unbelievable if you like the most basic accommodation which not many people do these days. Like a lot of things on tour these days, this is the old way. And not the way of the new generation of caddies. Which is a good thing.”
3 The new wave of caddies
This isn’t a new thing but it’s another banker with players turning to mates and other halves to pick up the bag to freshen things up, particularly in these times of bubbles and quarantining.
And, like any industry, that can lead to some resentment as the regular work dries up and the old guard feel like they are becoming less relevant. Cue the usual jokes – ‘he couldn’t club a seal’ – and so on and so forth.
But, as one older hand told us, the caddying world is changing.
“More guys are bringing their friends out. Because you can teach your friend to caddie but you can’t teach him to be your mate. It’s a growing trend. But there will always be room for the experienced guys as you can’t buy experience. And if you see a caddie over 45 on TV, you can bet your mortgage on them being one of the best. But that won’t stop the ones who you don’t see on TV whingeing. While turning green with envy.”
4 Slow play on the back burner
This was going to be the year, among many things, of winning the war on slow play. But, with there being fewer staff out on tour and there being other priorities, we might have to get the stop watch out when the world takes a turn for the better.
The perception, though, remains the same with the older players and caddies being ready and knowing what they’re doing before they get to the ball with the younger guard being a little slower.
“It can be so slow and we still get five-and-a-half-hour rounds but they’ve let it go a little bit with everything that is going on. With the size of some of the cuts we’ve had to play in three-balls which slows it all down, in twos you feel like you’re flying around.
"In Dubai some of the early groups were getting round in under four hours and there was never any waiting. They still come out and say you’re out of position and monitor things but not to the strict levels that they said were going to. But we’re not back to PGA Tour levels where you can do what you want.”
5 The buttered chicken in Dubai..
It wasn’t always the way but these days the caddies are looked after a lot better at tournaments, thanks to the work of the European Tour Caddies Association, and that includes the on-site food. There is the odd bleat about what’s served up but one caddie, who has been doing this for 20 years, explains that things are ‘stunning’ these days.
“There didn’t used to be a caddie lounge so I’m over the moon to get free food. How many other industries do you get that? At the Rolex events they pour a lot of money into it, at Wentworth the food is magnificent and in Saudi they pulled out all the stops to create an impression, the variety was spectacular. But I have to say that the buttered chicken at the Dubai Desert Classic is the best that I’ve had anywhere, it’s incredible.”
6 Sponsorship one for another day
A year ago the European Tour announced a ground-breaking deal to allow caddies to benefit for sponsorship opportunities through branded clothing. There was also talk of an airline partner, access to pension and financial advice and massage after a round.
But, again, this is one for another day, hopefully 2021.
“This year put a stop to any of that sort of stuff, they’ve been struggling to get sponsors for tournaments. The first lockdown was horrible, not knowing if we’re going to work again and what the world would look like, so we’re just happy to get out there. There are complaints about prize funds or the condition of the course but we’re doing what we love and it won’t be forever.”
7 ‘The best-kept secret’
While there is talk of some potential ways of supplementing the off-course incomes the on-course business remains the same with no contracts and players and caddies going about their relationship on a week-to-week basis – ‘sometimes it can be hole by hole or even shot by shot!’
The old adage of a basic of £1,000 per tournament, five per cent for making the cut, seven for a top 10 and 10 for a win means that earnings can be pretty low and getting a good bag is everything.
“I’m sure the players talk about caddies the same way we talk about players. There’s no security whatsoever and it stresses out our other halves. The same names come up of the hard players to work with but they’re not as horrible as they used to be, back in the day there were some nasty pieces of work and there’s nobody like that any more. I was once told that I must be the worst caddie out here and I used the old caddie line that that would be too much of a coincidence. He took it in the right spirit and we moved on. This job is still the best-kept secret in the world.”
8 We’re always learning..
A nice comment came from one caddie who said that he will talk about his on-course work with a fellow caddie in a bid to always try and improve at his trade.
“I will always listen to the stories where you could use it on your man. It’s the usual what to say and when to shut up but the tone of your voice and inflection can have a massive bearing in how they see a shot. If they’re hitting the driver badly on the range they’ll be desperate to hit another so you just have to slow them down and get them back to a normal rhythm. It also has to be a fluid communication and, for my part, it can be passive aggressive or being very direct or taking the Mickey – whatever works to get the best out of them.”
9 COVID. What else?
Like the rest of us there has been one constant when getting together, from a distance, over a pint and one caddie had an interesting take on some of his peers.
“There is reason why most caddies carry a golf bag for a living. But to hear them ‘discuss’ (more like shout their own wild theories) the likes of COVID, you wonder why more haven’t put down the bag and gone into fields like immunology etc?
“If only the scientists and politicians headed straight over to the Irish Bar in whichever town the tour is visiting and gave these guys a good listening to, the whole COVID thing would be sorted inside a month, and the circus could continue as usual without pesky things like tournament bubbles, distancing, trying to stay alive etc.”
10 And finally, Brexit
Likewise our old friend and one experienced caddie had this to say on how the next few months might play out.
“Most caddies are right wing. And like all good turkeys who voted for Xmas, many are not shy to say they voted for Brexit. Won’t affect us. They need us more than we need them. The list of statements straight out of the right wing (social) media is endless. But come the first queue at customs in Spain in 2021….
“And then there’s the small matter of countries like Spain, Germany etc possibly shutting their borders to UK citizens over the next few weeks for a number of months. No entry. No work. No money.”
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Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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