How to Golf with a Caddie

You Did It!

You’ve finally secured a tee time at that fancy club you’ve always wanted to play or booked a bucket list trip to a great golf destination.  But now a little panic has set in because caddies are required.  You’ve never had a caddie before, and you’re not sure what to do.

Relax.  We’re here with some straightforward advice about how to enjoy the experience and shoot a great round.

Relax

The number one concern of people who have never used a caddie is, “What if I play badly?”  My answer is, “Don’t worry about it.”

Anyone who has been caddying for more than a month has seen some truly awful golf, so you’re unlikely to be the worst they’ve seen.  More importantly, they don’t care how you play.  Your caddie cares way more about your pace of play and your general demeanor than how well you score.  If you’re a good person, your caddie will be happy to loop for you again.

If “forget about it” doesn’t work for you, then be up front with your caddie.  Let them know you’re nervous so they can help you relax.  Part of caddying is managing your attitude, and they can do a better job if you’re honest about how you’re feeling.

Rule #1

Now that we’ve calmed your nerves, please pay attention to the most important rule: treat your caddie like your own son/daughter/friend.

Your caddie is there to carry your bag.  They are not there to absorb your frustration with how you’re playing and all the bad breaks you’re getting.  This may seem obvious, but unfortunately it needs to be said.

Lighten Your Load

If you typically carry your own bag when you play, you can probably skip this section.  However, if you always ride, pay special attention.

Get the extra junk out of your bag.  Try my advice about carrying fewer clubs (check it out HERE).  Switch from your staff bag to a lightweight carry bag.

At many courses, if you show up with looking like Al Czervik in Caddyshack, they’re going to put your clubs into a carry bag anyway.  Unload the three dozen extra balls, the eight tubes of sunscreen, and your eighteen favorite ball markers.

Follow Their Advice, Ask for More

Your caddie wants to help you play well.  Take their advice.

The biggest value that a caddie provides, in my opinion, is their knowledge of the course.  Especially if you’re at a new track, heed their advice.  Only a local will know that a certain hole plays more uphill than it looks or that you can’t be left of a certain pin.

Also, don’t wait for your caddie to throw out suggestions.  If you want to maximize their value to you, ask for help.  Once you’ve signaled that you want their knowledge, they’ll be more forthcoming with ideas about what shots to hit.

Go Beyond Golf

Dylan Thaemert offered a tremendous addition to this list: don’t limit your caddie interactions to golf.  When we went to Bandon Dunes (much content HERE), we had a tremendous caddie, Dane.  Dylan reminded me that the best part of having Dane with us wasn’t his reads or his yardages – though both were otherworldly – it was his collection of stories.  He educated us on the history and culture of the place and told us stories that I’ll be retelling for years.

Especially when you travel, let your caddie be your personal historian.  Your caddie may know the history of the place – both the written and unwritten – better than anyone.

Don’t Be Cheap

Finally, call ahead and find out what the expected caddie fee and gratuity is at the course you’re playing.  Make sure you have at least that amount in cash.

When you stop for snacks, make sure to offer something to your caddie.

Finally, if you’re not taking a caddie, don’t expect any service.  The guy who is constantly asking someone else’s caddie for yardages and reads is the worst.  It’s not only disrespectful to the caddie, it’s also rude to whoever is paying him or her.

What Did We Miss?

Do you regularly golf with a caddie?  What advice do you have for your fellow golfers?  Share it in the comments section below.

Matt Saternus
Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

33 Comments

  1. Golf is way too expensive as it is. Courses that require you to use a caddie need to go the way of the dodo.

  2. I rake my own bunkers and EVERY caddie appreciates it. I insist upon it. A caddie should not rake a bunker unless it’s speeding up play in my view.

    • Ryan Pizante

      I’ve never played with a caddie. Would like to believe I’d do this because I’m a decent guy but this was nice to read. I agree this would be how I’d like to be remembered when the caddies ended their day. “Yeah, didn’t have any douches make me take their bunker”.

  3. Matt- this is a great piece. I caddied decades ago for five years at Riverside Country Club west of Chicago and was fortunate to receive an Evans Scholarship. I agree with all your points but one-I always cared about how my member or guest played as I believed I was a partner who contributed to their success- I was happy when they had a good or great round and displeased when they had an off day . This was not only because tips were better with performance and gambling wins but it made the round more interesting and created a bond beyond employer- employee.

  4. charles sinacole

    if you belong to a golf club already and your not a normally cheap dude, and you tip the guy in the bag shack that has your clubs already on the cart for you prior your tee time, then tipping a caddie at another course wont be a foreign behavior to you. just treat him right, and not like a second class citizen, they are there to work and help you have a great day, not to be your slave.

  5. Excellent. Well said. As a caddie, I should have my guests read this on the way to the range.

  6. Brandon young kids and some young adults make a very good living doing a service like caddie ..so for you to say that is just plan ignorant..if its to expensive i suggest u play the courses that do not require to use a caddy..and hopefully my son NEVER GETS YOU..as i could imagine u stiffing him

  7. JIM BURKE

    Thanks for the tips. While the caddie knows the course, you should know your bag, meaning which club to hit. I’m always nervous for the first two holes, even when playing alone. As a senior, I’m also tired after 15 or so holes. let your caddie know what club you’re comfortable with, so you can both be COMMITTED to your shot! Good lick!

  8. Travis Sandvik

    Great article. I’ve only used a caddie twice and naturally already how I was.

  9. Keep in mind if you call me “caddie” and not by my first name, I can read the greens so well that I’ll make sure you miss your putts by 1 inch and you’ll think it’s YOUR fault.

  10. Brandon… I’ve played Pebble Beach, Chambers Bay and Bandon Dunes with a caddie (none require a caddie, you can carry or roll your bag). But a caddie is the only authentic way to go! Pass on the cheeseburgers for a month or so and hire a caddie. You’ll be better off for it in two ways…

  11. John W Lewis

    Any honest professional golfer will admit or should admit that they can’t Win without a caddie. (Period)
    I LOVE the game of golf so much and revere its traditions and history. Nothing gives me more personal satisfaction than knowing that I have been kind and respectful to others…All human beings. Caddies fall in there somewhere, I’m certain, and in my view should rank anywhere near the top just because they willing submit themselves to be Servants.

  12. Love the caddy experience. Jerry took my daughter and I around on our second time at Pebble. He is a fantastic gentleman, really helped our score, but most of all, as you said, he had so many amazing, humorous stories. We laughed and were so relaxed. The round ended too quickly.

  13. Sorry Brandon, your missing the point. I get as much pleasure from watching my guest golfer enjoy there round as much as they get from our services. Regardless of there final score, we provide local course knowledge, history and trivial tidbits to enhance there experience. With proof that return request for services from past guest is a statement of job well done. ( Tips are encouraged ) As a current caddie I look forward to many more life experience’s with golfers who look forward to playing golf the way it was meant to be.

  14. Phil Hunter

    I am curious as to what is considered an acceptable gratuity for a caddie. When my group goes to Bandon Dunes, the resort suggest a standard payment for a caddie is $100 a round plus gratuity. If you press them on how much is appropriate for gratuity they give you a very vague answer with no figure. Something like if you enjoyed your experience tip accordingly. How is that helpful. I don’t want to be considered cheep, but also don’t want to throw away hard earned money. Just tell me what is typical and I will pay that, adjusted up or down based on the quality of my experience.

    • Matt Saternus

      Phil,

      Not to increase your frustration, but I don’t think there’s a universal answer. It’s not unlike eating at a restaurant: you have to pay your bill (the prescribed caddie fee), the rest is up to you. I’m sure there are people, especially at Bandon, who tip 100%. I’m also sure there are people who pay the $100 and nothing more.

      If the service is excellent and enhances your experience, I’d have a hard time seeing a generous tip as a waste of money.

      -Matt

      • I’d like an answer to that question as well. To use your example of restaurants, there is a “universal” accepted percentage of around 20%, rounded up or down depending on service. I would assume any caddie who has worked a while would know, on average, what a typical tip percentages are. Of course there will be extremes, but there has to be some sort of guideline. Any caddies care to share their experience?

    • I would say if you had a very good caddie at Bandon Dunes, worked hard, great personality, carrying 2 bags, I would think $140 per bag would be standard. If that same quality caddie was carrying just 1 bag then $150 would be standard. Even more if he/she was exceptional. If your caddie was not very good, then fire them and get a new one!

  15. When you pay the recognized caddie fee at Pebble, Bandon, elsewhere you are paying for the caddie’s time, expertise and effort, like with any job. On top of that, if you had a good experience and especially if you had a good round you should throw in 40% to 70% as a tip. You only live once and you just had a once-in-a-life-time experience. Open the dang wallet wide… (and I’m not a caddie)

  16. Addendum: When you plan and budget a golf trip to a course where you’ll use a caddie factor in 100% for a tip. That way, if you only tip 70% you’ll be saving money and feel good about it. And always buy your caddie an adult beverage after the round if it’s his/her last loop of the day.

  17. Howard Sonstegard

    My son and I are headed to Bandon Dunes for a once in a lifetime golf experience. I have only had a caddie once and a friend was paying for the trip so I’m not sure what is appropriate as a tip. I still don’t know what is appropriate. 20-70-100% is a very wide range. This trip is a stretch to my budget so what would be fair?

  18. Think of it as an hourly wage. How much are you willing to pay to have someone carry 40 lbs. of your golf stuff for 5+ miles (assuming that you hit every shot straight down the middle on every hole) and provide you with advise on how to beat the course…$30/hr., $35/hr., $40/hr., $45/hr. x 4.5 hours = what you should pay your caddie.

    What would you charge me per hour to carry my bag? If it is less than the hourly rates recommended you should carry your own bag.

    No you don’t get count your buddies bag as part of the caddies hourly wage if he is carrying 2 bags!

  19. Cole Applegate

    What about drinking on the course. Is it ok to buy a few beers and throw them in the pocket of the bag or is it just buy one so the caddy doesnt have to pack more weight?

  20. David C Dagan

    Do the golf courses have push/ pull carts?

  21. Great communication and information. All I can say is you want to be our caddie!! We have a good time and appreciate the hard work and knowledge a caddie brings to the table. Regardless of our score, we always tip generously. Remember, the caddie probably needs that extra Benjamin a whole lot more than you do!!

  22. Just a dude

    I have hoofed more rounds on some of Americas greatest and not so greatest courses then I really care to recall. Even had a stint as a professional caddie. Had more than one Saturday morning hangovers and I am not sure how I survived 18 holes, in 85 degrees and 90% humidity playing military golf Left/Right/Left/Right with 0-14 GIR 0-18…… Yeah really had days like that as a looper, but they weren’t always the worst.

    During the past 10 years, life has also provided me the opportunity to take caddies when I have played.

    The 5 hours you spend with a caddie, is first a business partnership and potentially a friendship (if you want it and usually it’s a good idea. Then there are times I have not wanted either and that is a tough nut to swallow)

    There is a base level of skills and competency that one should expect from a caddie. Know the course, hole/shot routing, providing yardages and calling out unforeseen hazards , high level putt reading, keeping your clubs organized/clean and ball clean, tending pins and raking traps (as mentioned above)

    Higher level of service – In-depth putt reading, clubbing yardage, complete course maintenance(divots, traps, fetching your ball $5 Pro V from be behind the “danger do not enter” sign cause you only have 2 left and you just made the turn.)

    Highest level of service – caddying for a cheapskate dick!

    What if you are in foursome and other players have caddies and you don’t. That’s ok, some caddies will help you and others will not. For the ones that do help you, they tend your pins for you, give yardage or read a putt here or there, throw them a $20 or something worthy of the service at the end of the round. IF you have no intention of tipping, call them off the put read or yardage – telling the caddie ” I am good” before they offer , they will get the hint.

    There are all levels of caddies, young/old, new/experienced , PHDs and high school dropouts, scratch golfers/couldn’t break 100 to save their life.

    A bad caddy is a 5 hour walking golf cart and you play your game.
    A good caddy can save you few strokes and enhance the experience.
    A great caddy can help navigate you to the best/most enjoyable round of your life.

  23. Mediocre Golfer from Chicago

    I am relatively new to golf (about 10 years), have a middling game (11-13 index), and walk 95% of the times. Once I joined a membership golf club, I learned how to play with a caddie, which takes some learning curve IMO.

    If you haven’t done it and are going on a golf trip with your buddies, families, colleagues, etc., read up (or watch YouTube videos) on caddie etiquettes for 10-15 minutes. That will make you less stressed on the course. My first time playing with a caddie was at a well-known resort course, and the caddie barked at me for walking in and out of a bunker using two different paths, meaning he had to rake twice. Makes sense now, but I had no clue back then.

    I now take a caddie on many of my rounds at home and my buddies’ clubs. I have taken caddies in Scotland, Ireland, Bandon and other golf resorts. Like anything else, there are some great ones, some bad ones and mostly okay caddies. So, I walk in with low expectations of basic services like carrying my bag, pulling out the flag, and occasionally giving good local knowledge/shot selection advice, and am surprised by anything above that.

    The one I had at Carnoustie was so good that I was ready to adopt him as my long-lost uncle. One caddie I had on the New Course at St. Andrews was pretty bad and had a bad attitude. I got a new one for the next day at the Old Course, and had a great time with the new caddie who after the round invited me to his private golf association house near the course for drinks. He even gave me a caddie hat from St. Andrews. The one at one of the courses named after a certain politician was pretty mediocre, but was working me hard for extra tips throughout the round. I am a generous tipper – usually 100% — but this guy was a relentless hustler. I felt like an ATM.

    Bandon caddies are an interesting lot because of the remoteness of the resort and the relative dearth of high-paying jobs around the resort. Some are just regular local folks trying to earn a living. Some are former golfers. Others are people who dropped out of the society and are enjoying their way of life. I once had a former M&A partner of a major international law firm who gave up the rat race to hang out with his GF and just chill. Treat them with dignity and respect like you would treat anyone you care about.

  24. Most caddies are not PGA teaching professionals and should not be treated as such. Some will happily volunteer swing tips if you are open to it, but you shouldn’t ever expect it.

    You are paying them to carry your bag, assist with local strategy, maybe some stories and the occasional group moral boost if needed.

    You are not paying them enough to provide a 4 or 5 hour on course lesson, so it shouldn’t be expected.

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