Caddies have been around for hundreds of years. A good looper will enhance the experience of playing any golf course. They will guide you through the course, and provide insights and local knowledge at every turn. Wisconsin stands out as one of the leading states in terms of Caddie availability. In this article, written by a caddie, we will discuss what you can expect when taking a caddie at one of these exceptional courses.
What we’ll cover:
- Arriving at the golf course
- What to bring (and not bring)
- What type of advice to expect from your caddie
- How to have a great time with you caddie
- Tipping your caddie
Arriving at the golf course
Every golfer is different. Some players like to show up 90 minutes early, grab a snack, take their time in the pro shop, and have a nice, long practice session before they tee off. Others like to show up five minutes before their tee time, hit a couple of putts, and head straight to the first tee.
If you’re planning on taking a caddie, try not to be the second guy. Throughout most of the golf season, golf courses that offer caddie services tend to be bustling, active places. It will take time to check in to the pro shop and meet your caddie before the round. With that being said, allow yourself some time - At least 30 minutes. Typically, a resort golf course will be rather large compared to standard public courses or country clubs. You may not know where to park, where the pro shop is, or where the driving range is. Sometimes you will even need to take a shuttle to one of the locations. In addition, the driving range and pro shop are often a long way from the first tee, and require you to be ready for your tee time 10 minutes early. For all of these reasons, get to the course at least 30 or 40 minutes before your tee time.
What to bring (And not bring)
Most of the time, resort caddies double bag (carry two bags), for 4-5 hours, frequently in tough conditions. If you want your caddie to like you, do not carry unnecessary items in your bag: EXS: More than 12 golf balls, 55 ball markers, ball retrievers, umbrellas and rain gear (unless necessary), speakers that won’t be used, beers or other drinks, or anything else that you won’t absolutely need. Lighten that bag up! All you need is 3 or 4 sleeves of balls, tees, one ball marker, a snack, and maybe some sunscreen. That’s it. Limit what is in your bag to the absolute essentials. When hikers and mountain climbers go on long treks, they talk about how important it is to only bring the most essential items so they don’t get too worn out from carrying all of it. Since your caddie will be carrying two bags, weight matters.
Switch out bags: Almost all golf courses that offer caddie services will have what we like to refer to as “switch out bags''. Switch out bags are stand bags that are designed to be carried by loopers - Nice, light bags, with a great stand on them. Typically these switch out bags are just one strap so the looper can put it on either shoulder (most two strap bags are not designed for the left shoulder). If your caddie thinks your bag is too heavy, too bulky, or just not a good carry bag, they may request to switch it out into one of these bags. I have seen players say no to this request, and that is not a great start to the 5 or 6 hour relationship with your caddie. If your looper requests to switch out your bag, you should say “Yea, that’s fine. Go for it.” It will make their day significantly easier, AND odds are you will receive better service if they’re not lugging around a 48 pound Ogio bag that is digging into their shoulder for 5 hours. If you have a stand bag, WITH A GOOD STRAP, that’s great. Lighten it up and you’ll be good to go. If you have a carry bag (sunday bag), go ahead and bring it. Just keep in mind, there is a chance your caddie will request to switch it out because it doesn’t have legs. If you have a cart bag, don’t worry. You won’t even need to lighten it up. Just know, there is a 100% chance your caddie will switch your clubs into a carry bag.
What type of advice to expect from your caddie
Loopers do a lot more than carry golf bags. Loopers provide the ultimate form of hospitality: When else will you spend 5-6 hours with a resort employee? Caddies will provide yardages, reads on putts, and local knowledge of the golf course. Believe me, at some courses like Whistling Straits, a good caddie will save you 10 or more shots. Listen to your caddie. Even if they look like Happy Gilmore’s caddie, they know the golf course like the back of their hand.
If you’re a weekend warrior with a handicap of 24, a good looper will recognize this pretty quickly. In fact, we can tell what type of player the guest is just by looking at their golf bag and clubs. 14 slot bags are never a good sign! If you’re not a good player, that is totally fine! Some loopers might even prefer that. Just play quickly and have a good attitude. Don’t spend 6 minutes looking for your 10th lost ball of the day. Don’t spend 2 minutes on a tap in. Just play quickly and have a good time. There is absolutely no shame in picking up your ball after a few bad shots - your caddie will respect that.
If you’re a great golfer, a good looper will know. After looping for 10+ years, I have learned to let good players ask me the questions, not the other way around: “How far is it to carry a bunker?”, “How far is it to the back edge of the green?”, “Where is the miss?, “What is the yardage to the pin?”, etc. I won’t even read a putt until my golfer asks my opinion. This way I can identify what the player wants from me. Every golfer is different, some players ask a lot of questions, some players just want the yardage. Establish what type of help you want from your caddie before the round even begins: “I like to read the greens myself, I just need yardages.” or “Give me everything you’ve got. Yardages, what the wind is doing, club selection, and reads.” This way your caddie will know exactly what their job is that day.
How to have a great time with your looper
When you take a caddie, be ready to spend a lot of time with them - 4 or 5 hours depending on the pace of play. All you have to do to have a great time with your caddie is be yourself and be nice.
Get to know your caddie. They are a human with a back story just like you, and oftentimes they will have some incredible stories from their time on the grass. They will reciprocate, and want to get to know you. Golf is a social game, and it’s great to make connections while you play.
Don’t question your caddies’ advice. Golf is not a game of perfect, the pros misread greens and hit the wrong club frequently. You can’t expect your caddie to be perfect - They certainly won’t expect you to be perfect. One of the best ways to frustrate your caddie is by passive aggressively blaming them for a bad shot or bad read. It is impossible to make perfect decisions for 5 hours on a golf course, but you, as the player, ultimately make the final decision before hitting a putt. If your caddie says left edge, and the putt ends up being straight, don’t blame them. You made the final decision to trust their advice and play it left edge. You could have played it straight if you wanted. Questioning your caddies advice will not only frustrate them, but it will make them second guess their reads or yardages.
Have a light bag. This is so important. We already discussed this, but it’s worth addressing again. If your bag is a tank - heavy or bulky - this will make your caddie’s day pretty tough. A great looper won’t express any bad feelings about a heavy bag, because they want you to have a great experience. But believe me, this will make their day significantly more difficult, and frankly, painful. Show up with a light stand bag, or let your looper switch your bag out. I promise, it will benefit all parties.
Tipping your caddie
Caddies work for tips. The tipping process will vary from course to course - Sometimes you’ll pay a “caddie fee” in the pro shop, and tip your caddie a smaller amount at the end of the round. Sometimes, caddies work entirely for tips. Make sure you figure this out in the pro shop before you play. Figure out the “recommended gratuity PER BAG” of that particular course. Sometimes it is $60, sometimes $100, sometimes $150. It just depends on which course you’re playing. You can find this information in the pro shop.
The tip should be based on service. Did you have a great time with your looper for FIVE HOURS? Did they go above and beyond, search for every ball, give you great numbers and great reads all day? Tip them a little extra on top of the recommended gratuity.
Cash (and Venmo) is king. Loopers only get paid when they work, it is not a salaried position. If you tip through the pro shop, it will take a couple weeks to get to your caddie. Additionally, the golf course or caddie program will often take a cut of the fee if you pay through the shop. Tipping through the pro shop is fine, but caddies certainly prefer cash or venmo.
A good looper will help you think your way around the golf course, keep your spirits high throughout a 5 hour round of golf, and if you plan on returning to that golf course, might become a friend for years to come. Caddies are a staple of golf, a tradition of the game, spanning centuries. If you’re planning on taking one, make sure you try to do what we’ve covered in this article: Show up early. Allow yourself at least 30 minutes between arriving at the course and teeing off. Lighten your bag up as much as possible. Only bring the necessities for a round of golf. If your looper wants to switch your bag out, remember this will benefit both parties. Establish what you need from your looper before the round even begins. “All I need is the number to the pin.”, or “I need a lot of help today - reads, yardages, club selection, and anything else you can help me with.”. Have a good attitude on the grass - don’t worry too much about your score or how you play. Don’t question your caddies advice, and keep your pace of play up. And finally, if your looper works his or her tail off for you, make sure that is reflected in the tip.