Dear Molly: My boss has invited me and my wife to play at her club with her and her husband. So what’s the problem? We have to take a caddie. I spray the ball like crazy, and my wife is intimidated by the idea of someone watching her every shot, so we need advice on how to make this fun rather than torture. Help?
Let’s get this straight: You think you’re not good enough golfers to have a caddie? The experts I talked to insist that the job of a caddie is to help you, not critique you. As the head pro at one esteemed private club said, no matter how terrible you think you are, the experienced caddie has seen someone worse! So count on the caddie to find your misdirected ball, or, if not, four others to replace it. Tell your wife the caddie will look the other way when she swings, if she just asks. The professional caddie will point out the restrooms, wipe down your clubs and happily answer any of your questions about the history of the course.
At Denver Country Club, says Head Professional Steve David, “Caddies provide a service and additional on-course experience.” They also, says Colorado Golf Club Director of Golf Graham Cliff, help pace of play and unburden your host. “So the member hosting you doesn’t have to tell you where to go, or read your putts, or find your balls,” Cliff says. “The member hosting you can talk to you about business and life, rather than guiding you around and worrying about all that stuff.”
But we in Colorado are fortunate to have access to an entirely different kind of caddie, a young person on the road to an Evans Scholarship. And when we golfers elect to take one of these student caddies, we are the ones providing a service! We are giving them hours they need to work to complete a two-year training program that qualifies them for a college scholarship, and to work at private clubs such as Denver, Colorado or Cherry Creek as an apprentice or “C” caddie.
“For the player who is new to having a caddie, either type is a great option,” says Emily Olson, the CGA’s Manager of Caddie Development. “If you were to get a professional caddie, that is going to make your round so much better. They will tell you where you should line up, which way a putt’s going to break and where all the trouble is on a golf course. The student caddie, they’re working toward something completely different. They appreciate the golfer coming out there and taking a caddie so they can get their loops and work toward completing their program.”
That may be through the Solich Academy, which starts caddies off at CommonGround Golf Course. There, any player can take a caddie for about the price of a cart. Technically, it’s free, but a $20 tip is recommended. These caddies are paid a stipend of $600 a month and need 36 loops a summer. They also attend leadership classes and do volunteer work – but may know little or nothing about golf. It’s the same at The Broadmoor Caddie and Leadership Program, where director Mark Kelbel says, “We are servicing youth and providing an experience that introduces kids to golf, to work life, to people who can help them and want to help them.”
These students are not expected to read putts or pull clubs. Says Kelbel, “What I tell them is I need four things out of you on every loop: I need you to be helpful, hustle, be respectful and be good company. If you’re those four things, nobody will mind having you along.”
Unless they’re playing in a club championship or member-guest, Broadmoor members ask for these caddies, and so do members at Colorado and Cherry Creek. It adds meaning to their rounds, no matter how well or poorly they may play, to connect with young people who are trying to better themselves. When we played CommonGround a year ago, Mr. McMulligan initially hated the idea of having someone on his bag. But at the end of the day, he was so impressed with his caddie, who aspired to work in his company’s industry, that he took her info and connected her with his HR department for future internship possibilities. Mind you, we were showing our caddies how to read putts, not vice versa. It was a completely different experience than having an “A” caddie with a name like Bones or Fluff, yet, maybe more satisfying. Along with CommonGround and The Broadmoor, you can find Solich caddies at Meridian Golf Course, Lincoln Park Golf Course, Tiara Rado Golf Course, Black Canyon Golf Course, Fort Collins Country Club, Ptarmigan Golf Club, and Adobe Creek Golf Course.
For a win-win experience with any caddie, here’s what the experts suggest:
- Lighten your bag as much as possible and be open to the suggestion of changing out your bag for the day. “You don’t want to show up at the first tee with a heavy cart bag for a kid who just finished eighth grade and weighs about 100 pound to lug around for five hours,” says Olson.
- Never blame the caddie for your bad round or bad shot, even if the caddie put the wrong club in your hands or gave you a bad read. Says Olson, “The golfer is the one making the swing, and that’s all on you.”
- Take an interest in the human assigned to help you for the day, and ask them questions about their lives, experiences and goals. “Treat it not necessarily as an employer/employee relationship, but as a partnership,” says Sean Miller, whose members at Cherry Creek Country Club ask for student caddies for social rounds and A caddies for competitions. “Especially with the kids, be understanding and patient, and ask yourself how you can help this young person in life lessons.”
- End the day with a sincere thank you and the appropriate tip. The $20 expected at CommonGround may not fly at a fancy resort. “If you’re going somewhere nice,” suggests Cliff, “asks the caddie master or someone in the golf shop before you play what’s the appropriate tip. So then you’re not worrying about it all through your round.”
- If you enjoyed yourself, ask for that caddie again – whether at CommonGround or Bandon Dunes. “That way you can develop a rapport,” Kelbel says. “Familiarity breeds confidence, and confident kids will do a better job caddying for anyone.”
Molly McMulligan, created by golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff, is the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. She deeply appreciates the experiences and relationships golf has brought her as she’s played everywhere from famed Cypress Point to a remote Scottish nine that had an honors collection box at check-in. Trust us, you don’t want to take swing lessons from Molly. But if you’ve got a question about etiquette, relationships or the culture of golf in Colorado, Molly will find the answer. Send your questions along here.
CLICK HERE to learn how to take a caddie at CommonGround Golf Course!