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Are Caddies under Attack?

George Peper, the fine US golf writer, recently wrote a good column in LINKS MAGAZINE predicting the ending of the caddie tradition.  Overall I agree with George.  He’s not a curmudgeon, I enjoyed our games as members of the Thursday Club during my stay in St. Andrews.  George always toted his own clubs, often with a small leashed dog (but no dog on Thursdays).  His piece:

www.linksmagazine.com/best_of_golf/going-down

When I was an assistant at St. Georges GC in Toronto we had an excellent caddie program, mostly kids (we had a couple older guys too) who loved golf and wanted some extra lout (for smokes?).   Many of them have gone on to careers in business, or the  golf industry and at least two  became General Managers of golf operations.  Our program came under attack when a leftist newspaper writer did a story about how we did not pay these young workers and were using slave labour tactics.  This attack came just before we hosted the Canadian Open and the club had to phase the caddies out.  I enjoyed using a caddie in professional events, my favourite caddie was always a young person eager to carry my clubs and get an inside look at the competitive golf game.

But as George points out, the $10 to $20 rate has become crazy.  At La Gorce in Miami Beach, a good private club, two of the caddies were actually playing in the NFL during the football season.  Streamsong, a just opened 36 hole resort course in central Florida, a walking course of course, suggest a tip of $75.00 !  Same at Pinehurst, and at Abandon Dunes in Oregon.   Some caddies can be great, in my humble opinion most are a pain.  When Carolyn and I played new courses in Scotland we always took a caddie who would carry Carolyn’s bag.  Some were good (Carnoustie and Turnberry) but most were awkward, smelling and talking badly.  After four hours we were relived to provide the Tip and get to ourselves.  Often on the Old Course we’d play with visitors who felt obligated to take a caddie.  Often I had to apologize or interrupt when I heard the caddie talkin’ rubbish.    Which reminds me about Jamaica.

We had great character caddies in Jamaica.  They don’t cost an arm and a leg, and make the experience memorable, for all the right reasons.  One course, The White Witch, went the US resort route, hiring the caddie firm from North Carolina, buying into the white mechanic style jump suit uniform and providing a script.  Often nice people were hired, but by the time they were “trained” it became difficult to enjoy your game.  And the fact that all players were in carts didn’t give you any peace, Jamaican caddies can run faster than an EZGO, even uphill!   And they can use the money!

At least White Witch caddies know where Scotchies is located!

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Gary Slatter

Venerable Canadian golf pro Gary Slatter discusses his opinions on the state of golf, golf course design and construction, teaching and more, based on a lifetime in the business.

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