Ever since I first watched Caddyshack, a seminal 1980’s golf movie about the caddies and members of Bushwood Country Club – a typical American Private golf club – I’ve loved the idea of having my bag carried by a wily local who knows the humps, hollows, nooks and crannies of the courses I’m playing.
Sadly I’m British and it’s a fact that the only time a British golfer is likely to have a caddie is if they are a European Tour player, or have bribed their best friend with the offer of a bacon sandwich and a few pints after the round.
Or, if they are lucky enough to be visiting one of the most exclusive golfing venues in the country, such as St Andrews Old Course, Turnberry, Kingsbarns or Gleneagles.
Caddies simply aren’t part of the culture at your average British golf club and I think it’s a crying shame.
As in Caddyshack, many golfing nations believe in the idea of young men and women learning about golf and making some money by carrying golf bags.
For many from humble origins it’s the only possible route into the sport open to them.
Some of the world’s greatest started as caddies
Lee Trevino, Miguel Angel Jimenez in Spain and Angel Cabrera in Argentina all started out lugging golf bags.
Trevino famously hustled his friends for money by hitting golf balls off the top of coke bottles while a caddie.
In Britain, caddies are for the elite playing at the elite courses – and usually it’s because these clubs attract discerning visitors from overseas (especially America and Japan) who expect the highest standards of customer care.
In golf that certainly includes having someone carry your clubs and tell you how far from the hole you are and where to hit your tee shot.
Kingsbarns Golf Links recently appointed a new caddie master whose job it is to train the other caddies and make sure that visitors are looked after better than anywhere else in Britain.
He learnt his trade at Turnberry and in the private clubs of Florida,U.S.A.
Caddies could be the answer to junior golf shortage
I often hear golf clubs moaning about the lack of junior members and the corresponding fact that they are needed because they will be the members of the future – paying large fees and spending money in the bar and restaurant.
Surely, a caddie program would solve that problem and help engage local youngsters who are turned off by golf’s stuffy reputation and older playing demographic?
Real cost of a caddyshack
What would it really take for a half decent golf club to put up a shed with a desk and a rota, water cooler, toilet and seats for 6-10 young people to come at weekends and during school holidays on the chance they might get a bag and could make some money.
Add in free golf on Mondays for caddies, a weekly caddy tournament and the possibility of learning a new sporting skill – wouldn’t you turn up – I know I would have done!
Having caddies might even give you the marketing edge over your rivals in the area.
So, lack of caddies at your everyday club is something you just have to put up with.
Bizarrely, while you can’t find normal everyday caddies at most British golf clubs, you can hire scantily dressed female caddies for a corporate golf day.
Pretty in Pink
Eye Candy Caddies are models – usually appealing to the eye – who have been trained in golf etiquette and can be hired to spice up your golf day.
The ladies, who wear tight fitting pink uniforms, were the subject of a controversy a few years ago when one golf course owner banned their service from four courses for demeaning the spirit of the game.
Well, between the elite and the petit in pink there seems to be a sad void of caddies in Britain.
At least I’ll always have my memories of caddies on my foreign travels, my most favourite being the chap at Nuwara Eliya Golf Club, Sri Lanka, who walked in bare feet and insisted on calling me “Master.”
Long live the noble Caddy!