What Is It Like to Work as a Caddie?

Published on 04/15/2022 · 11 min readEver wondered what it's like to be a caddie at a golf course? Read through this guide by former caddie and Golf Expert Andrew Howard to get the full picture!
Andrew Howard, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Andrew Howard

Australia's Richard Green and his caddie read the 9th-hole green during round 3 of the French Golf Open at the Golf National in Saint Quentin en Yvelines, Saturday July 6th 2013. Photo by  Marie Lan-Nguyen

About 11 years ago, toward the start of high school, I was considering being a caddie because my older brother had caddied for a couple of years. I was familiar with the job, where you provide a paid service to your golfer to help them have the best golf experience. So around 2011, when I was just 13, I started the process and sent in my name for the lottery to be one of the lucky kids or adults to be picked for the caddie training.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. We needed to submit a copy of our birth certificate in order to enter a large lottery mixer of easily more than 100 names as the caddie master and assistant caddie master picked a couple dozen of our names. Before even 10 names were drawn, I heard my name called and was shocked! My mother and I exchanged smiles before I went up to get my information folder. It was happening; I was on my way to becoming a caddie!

Caddie training started a few weeks later, closer to the start of golf season. There, we learned how to forecaddie (position ourselves ahead of golfers to keep track of their shots), tend flags, clean golf balls, always stay ahead of the golfer, etc. There was a lot to it, however, it helped being a golfer and knowing the etiquette of raking a sand trap, fixing ball marks on the green, and replacing divots. Forecaddying is a little different than carrying a bag. In forecaddying you won’t carry a bag as you will always be running out to the fairway to see and mark each tee shot so the golf balls don’t get lost.

As a part of training, every day for a week, we would caddie one hole for the caddie master so he could assess how well you were doing while caddying. I was a bit nervous at the time because the caddie master came off as cold and intimidating. I made sure to do all the things that I would enjoy as a golfer, like helping them read their putts, replacing their divots, marking the golf ball, and cleaning it before the golfer got to their ball on the green.

As a caddie, it is always important to stay one step ahead of the golfer. The goal is to help the golfer have a great experience during their round and provide them the benefit of having someone knowledgeable on the bag. These factors could lead to the golfer shooting their best score! If you are falling behind, late to clean their golf balls, or unprepared, it will make for an unpleasant time. You may need to run or hustle because sometimes you need to fix a divot or rake a bunker to stay ahead of your golfer.

After the week of training, I was relieved to find out that I passed. In the following weeks, I went on to work with my brother. During the cool spring mornings, we had to wake up at 5 a.m. to arrive on time for the caddie lotteries. This involved three lotteries, which differed from the lottery I mentioned before. There was a “B” caddie lottery, an “A” caddie lottery, and an “honor” caddie lottery. Let’s break this down!

Caddie Rankings

Photo by Jonathan Palombo

A B caddie is either new or hasn’t yet proven their skills to move up in rank. Their base rate will be the lowest for a “carry,” someone who carries a golfer’s bag, and a “forecaddie,” someone who runs out to every hole (besides par 3s) about 200 to 300yds down the rough to spot tee shots. Typically, a forecaddie makes more than a carry because a forecaddie might assist two to four golfers at once (sometimes pay is split with another forecaddie who is also helping). You want to rank out of B caddie as quickly as possible because the members that choose you as their caddie will pay you less than they would an A or honor caddie.

An A caddie is at an intermediate level and has proven themselves as a B caddie. They’ve been promoted and gain an increase in their base rate and the opportunity to forecaddie for a group alone. B caddies seldom have the opportunity to forecaddie alone as it carries more responsibility.

An honor caddie has proven their excellence in their caddying abilities and provides the ultimate experience for golfers. This could include being proficient in reading greens, giving great advice, etc.

The Caddyshack

Photo by Wojciech Migda

When it comes to selecting caddies, golfers request caddies, ranging from B to honor, depending on their budget and the expertise they desire. So every day around 6 a.m., lotteries were held in the caddie shack for each caddie ranking. You always hoped to be one of the first names pulled because if you were at the bottom, you might not get out until 3 p.m. or at all depending on the day.

Some caddies would sell their spots to other caddies to make a little side money if they didn’t want to go out that day. However, it was risky to leave the shack for too long. There was always a chance you could get a request or your name would get called, and you would lose the opportunity if you weren’t present.

Because there were so many caddies at the country club I worked at, I started out as Andrew 411. A name tag with a number was given to each caddie as identification because of the sheer amount of caddies there were. On a given day, there might be 150 or so people in a small caddie shack and small outdoor patio area. Our caddie shack wasn’t very spacious either, only having some old couches and chairs, one TV, two bathrooms, a pair of vending machines, and a ping-pong table. The TV was generally controlled by the older caddies, who usually watched crime-related shows, or the caddie master, who watched Andy Griffith.

If you slept there, you always had to be on guard, because the caddie master or another caddie might pour water on you or shine a light on you. The caddyshack consisted of about 30% adult men, 20% college boys, 20% teenage boys, and about 10% teen girls and women. There was definitely a mix of characters inside this place, and nothing came as a surprise.

In our group of caddies, each person was walking a different path in their life. There were middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, and adults ranging in age from 20s to late 60s. Everyone was there for different reasons. Some full-time caddies were snowbirds who left Florida and traveled north for the summer and returned for winter. Others were from different countries trying to make a living, working six to seven days a week to start a new life or even support their family back home.

The upside was you could build good connections and friendships, which I still cherish today. You also had to roll with the punches from golfers, other caddies, and the caddie master. It was best just to mind your business and just be the best caddie you could be without drawing any extra attention to yourself.

I’m not sure if this is common amongst other big country clubs, but there was certainly a great deal of favoritism. If you could get into the caddie master’s circle, you could get better loops. Caddies call rounds “loops” and themselves “loopers” because they repeatedly walk the same loop around the golf course. Anyway, if you wanted to be in the caddie master’s circle, in my experience, you had to help him with chores around his house, like yard work and things of that nature outside of the job. Some would try to butter him up by bringing him breakfast. I’m not sure if anyone ever tried to pay him before a good loop, but nothing was out of the question!

You might be thinking that it must be tough to move up from B to honor caddie with all the funny business going on, but it was definitely possible if you put the work in. I received good loops as a B caddie, especially in golf outings, because the base pay was greatly increased and tips were good. My coolest golf outing was the Chicago Cubs outing, and I had the chance to meet Ernie Banks, one of the most famous Cubs baseball players of all time. I was even able to talk a little baseball with him! He was standing at one of the par 3s to greet each guest in the golf outing and take a picture with them.

Most of the college students were trying to offset college debt unless they were a Chick Evans Scholar. The Evans Scholar Foundation is an excellent program that helps send caddies to college, and I would recommend anyone to apply for it. It is available at many private golf courses and gives you the opportunity for free college and housing.

The Waiting Game

Pro golfer Stacy Lewis walks with her caddie. Photo by Keith Allison

The days could be tough if you were grinding it for several hours at the caddie shack. Patience is a huge part of this gig, but sometimes you wonder whether it’s worth all the time waiting for an afternoon loop. As a 13-year-old kid, waiting that long—sometimes six hours or more—is quite difficult to do. I’ll admit there were some days I hated waiting and would leave with my brother if he got out early that day.

I distinctly remember one day when I wanted to leave around noon because I was one of the last caddies to be picked in the loop lottery. I called my mom and told her that I wouldn’t be going out that day. On my 10-minute walk to the entrance gate, where she had to wait since she didn’t have a sticker to get in, something quite unexpected happened. There was a man driving a cart driving in my direction who looked familiar. At first, I couldn’t tell who it was—if it was a member or a guest that I had caddied for before—but it looked like he was in a hurry. As he got closer it was none other than Michael Jordan! I was shocked but wasn’t going to chase down his cart to try to talk to him or get his autograph because the man was on a mission going toward the course. I was within an arm’s length of Michael Jordan for a second of my life!

Getting the Call

Photo by Les Hull

The rounds themselves are always interesting. Typically, your name would be called for a loop over the intercom system. You would hurry from the caddie shack to the front desk, which was about a 30-second dash. Then, you would patiently wait for the caddie stub, which included information about the member you were caddying for and also your meal ticket for a hot dog and drink. Sometimes you would have to go straight to the first tee, and other times you still had an hour or so until your tee time. It depended on the day and how quickly the caddie master was filling out the caddie stub.

The rule of thumb is to always arrive at the first tee about 25 to 30 minutes early to prepare tees, ball markers, wet your towel, and find out who your golfer or golfers are before introducing yourself.

One thing to keep in mind while you are gaining experience as a caddie is that it is important to understand the personality of each golfer. You will meet a variety of different people that have differing expectations of what they want from their caddie. Some golfers may barely talk to you the whole round and only want you to clean their golf balls and clubs, give yardages, and rake bunkers. Other golfers might talk to you the whole round and may want you to read putts, tell them which club to hit, ask for advice, etc.

Usually, you can get a feel for what your golfer wants after a couple of holes and more experience caddying. If you are comfortable reading greens, I suggest practicing the process of reading their putts at the beginning of a round. If they ask you for your advice, give it to them.

This was part of my life being a caddie, which is certainly an awesome summer job if you are looking for some extra cash. In my experience, it was likely to average around $60 per round as a young B caddie with the possibility to earn a lot more. A caddies will likely make more than $80 per round with the potential for a lot more, while honor caddies will likely make $100 or more per round. I’m sure the pay has increased since a few years ago, but these rates might be the prices to expect from small country clubs. It all depends on the area in which you live. So do some asking around or a Google search to see what golf courses need caddies. It teaches you a lot of patience, since you are in the service industry, and a lot of understanding, since the golfer is in charge of a great deal of your pay. Plus you never know the people you might meet along the way that might be great connections or friends in your life! Give it a shot!

If you have questions about caddying or need help getting some new equipment in your bag feel free to contact me or my fellow Golf Experts here at Curated!

Andrew Howard, Golf Expert
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Andrew Howard
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