Nervous about using a caddie for the first time? Do's and don'ts for an enjoyable round of golf

I thought inviting three friends to play a round of golf with a caddie on a prestigious private course would be a thrill.

Two friends loved the experience. The third admitted to me afterward that he was terrified. "Once the caddie showed up, I lost it (my composure)," he told me.

That friend played poorly because he was more worried about what the caddie was thinking rather than focusing on his own game. Caddies are supposed to be there to help your game not hinder it.

For golfers who have never experienced the joys of hiring a caddie, I'm sure they have plenty of questions. Using a caddie doesn't have to be terrifying first-time experience. The caddies aren't watching you on the range to judge how good you are. They're there to get a better understanding of the distance your clubs fly, key information that will help them give you good advice during the round.

This check list of do's and don'ts should help caddie newbies feel more at ease and enjoy the whole experience.

Don't: Forget to empty your bag of excess stuff (balls, tees, etc.) before the round.

Most golfers treat their bags like purses. They are stuffed with way too much stuff. Do your caddie a favor and lighten the load.

Do: Listen to instructions on the tee.

Any good caddie will get up on the tee box and tell the foursome where to aim. Listen up the first time, so they don't have to repeat themselves again and again.

"Our caddy was friendly and invaluable, especially in determining the line for tee shots," wrote this golfer in his review at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

Don't: Treat your caddie like a servant.

Don't treat caddies rudely or act demeaning toward them. If you are friendly, they will reward you with loyal service.

Do: Almost always let the caddie handle the flagstick.

Handling the flagstick is a caddie's domain. Don't mess with it. The caddie could catch some grief if his/her boss saw a golfer holding it.

Don't: Force the caddie to read every putt.

Good caddies will only read the putt if asked. Only ask for help if it's a key putt or a tricky putt.

Do: Talk during the walk.

Caddies hate the silent treatment. Some banter will make the round more fun for everybody.

Golf Advisor user Howellbk praised his forecaddie at the famous Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C., writing:

"It's always fun to play a course you know well from watching it on TV. It was made even better by perfect weather and our fore-caddie, Shea. He was knowledgeable and made the day more enjoyable by his attitude and sense of humor."

Don't: Be shy about telling your caddie to quit talking or to remind them not to offer swing advice.

Nobody likes a know-it-all, telling you how you should play golf. Golf Advisor user andre9302604 suffered through a caddie who talked too much at Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas. He wrote:

"Our caddie was a problem, wouldn't stop talking, constantly giving unsolicited swing advice and critique. Often didn't even bother to watch shots to see where they went and we were just a twosome. Too bad. He told us we could tell him to shut up, we didn't but we should have."

Don't: Blame your caddie for a bad shot/missed putt.

Caddies are used to taking abuse if their player does something wrong. Just don't be the guy who's a jerk about it.

Do: Ask for advice on a shot if you are uncertain of a yardage or a strategy.

Let's say your caddie is raking a fairway bunker 50 yards behind your ball. It's okay to wait for them if you are unsure of the next shot, even if it means delaying play for a minute. An uncertain swing that leads to a bad shot -- and maybe snowballs into a bad stretch of holes -- is more of a problem than waiting to make the right play.

Don't: Require your caddie to put his/her life on the line for a lost ball.

I've watched caddies go bounding into the desert (where rattlesnakes lurk) just to find my stupid golf ball. My philosophy is simple: If I don't feel safe looking for my ball, I shouldn't expect my caddie to risk his or her safety, either.

Do: Allow the caddie to drive or ride on the back of your cart.

Most forecaddies will want to ride on the back of your cart on holes with long distances between tees and greens. Caddies are also quite useful driving the cart if you want to walk parts of the course. Don't be shy about letting them do it, either.

Don't: Worry about how you are playing.

Don't throw clubs or throw a mini-tantrum if you are stinking up the joint. Smile and laugh it off. Your caddie has seen worse players.

Do: Offer to buy the caddie a drink and/or snack during the round.

Caddies spend more than four hours serving you. Any human would get thirsty (or hungry) during that time frame. It's only polite to offer to purchase something from the beverage cart or the halfway house for them. If it's lunchtime, buying a sandwich or hotdog is a gallant gesture.

Don't: Ask the caddie to hit a shot.

Many caddies are good sticks, but don't ask them to show you. Most just want to finish the round and head home. Plus, they could get in trouble. One Golf Advisor user thought he was being kind by letting his caddie play a few holes with him, but when they got back to the clubhouse, the caddie was charged for a full round of golf.

Do: Recommend your caddie to friends.

Caddies only get paid if they loop. The more loops, the better. If you like your caddie, recommend them to your friends. That's even better than a good tip. You've guaranteed them a steady stream of income.

Golf Advisor user BTownBorn revealed a great recommendation in his five-star review of Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky, noting "My caddie saved me at least 3-4 shots and had some great stories about the club."

In the Player Tip section on Golf Advisor, he added: "Listen to the caddies on every single shot. They know what they're doing. And ask for Mike, great green reader."

Don't: Ask the caddie what you should tip them.

It's an awkward situation for both you and the caddie if you ask about tipping expectations. The best policy is to find out beforehand -- by asking a member, the head professional/director of golf or caddie master -- what's expected at that particular club. If you have a great time, add extra to the final tally.

Do: Have a good time.

Good caddies are one of the great joys of golf. They can add a higher level of service and enjoyment to any foursome if their personality meshes with the group. Don't worry what you shoot. Just have fun. Share stories. Listen to jokes. A good caddie makes for a great day no matter how you play.

Golf Advisor user u581145927 didn't let his poor play ruin his bucket-list round at Harbour Town, writing in his five-star review:

"I had some great conversations with my caddie, Rick, who was truly top notch. I actually played really badly that day, but he truly made the experience enjoyable despite that fact. Thanks again Rick, you're first class all the way!

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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I was invited to play at a friend's exclusive country club that requires caddies. We usually do 2 players per caddie. Here's my question: Is it okay if I carry my own bag to speed up play and only use the caddy for general advice off the tee and around the green? The last time I played here, someone was waiting on almost every hole because the two players our caddie was carrying for were rarely near each other. We received multiple slow-play warnings and I'm generally a fast player. Also, I'm used to carrying my clubs and I'm okay paying the caddie fee and fully tipping but wasn't sure of the etiquette. Any thoughts on this? Thanks!

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Good article, one other thing. Do not feel you have to carry your bag if you hit an extremely errant shot. Take the couple clubs the caddie offers. Not only can the caddie get in trouble, where i work players are strictly prohibited from carry own bag, you do not need all 14 clubs to decide what shot to hit in 2 ft fescue or off the rocks!

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Was a caddy 60 years ago at a nearby private course, and vividly still remember those members that treated me well...and those who did not.  A young kid carrying your clubs needs all the respect you can give him - he'll remember you for your kindness, trust me!  js

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Our caddie at Cypress Point five years ago told me to hit a putt about two feet left of the hole.  I looked and looked but I simply could never see that left to right break.  I trusted his advice and barely missed the putt.  Left to my own devices I would have putted it completely off the green!

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Some good tips here. I worked as a caddie all through school--it was a great job.

I understand players feeling nervous around caddies (and it's part of our job to put them at ease). You should remember that no matter how bad you think your game is, we've almost certainly seen worse. Don't worry about impressing us, just have a good time, keep up a nice pace, and don't take yourself too seriously. We likely have some good tips about the course, and maybe a funny story or two we can share along the way to keep the mood light.

The best players to work for are also straightforward. If you want us to read every putt, then just tell us that as we start. Otherwise, I'll make a read for myself but won't say anything unless you ask for help. One thing your caddie is not is a golf instructor, it's only awkward when you ask for swing advice (and counter-productive for your game).

One pointer I would add is that other players in the group (who are on a cart or carrying their own bag) should tip a caddie $15 or $20 at the end of the round. The caddie is going to spot tee balls, rake bunkers, and tend the pin for the whole group and deserves a little extra for this hard work. They will also to provide help and tips to other players (so long as they're not in a heated match).

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This a touchy subject as my wife and I have used caddy service throughout the Caribbean.   If you are in a resort area, the caddies are lazy and only work for the extremely rich type of tourist.   The problem is that most tourist course in the Caribbean demand you take a caddy on top of the inflated price to play golf.   Some for a good reason, but mostly a cash grab.   We own a home in a central part of a Caribbean island which is not a tourist area with famed golf course and the caddies are much different.   Much like the article written.   They are not spoiled by the ignorant tourist golfer that expects servitude like service.   We have sponsored them in their tournaments and given various golf items as it is harder for them to acquire them locally.   

In saying that we have had for the most part great caddy service but if I had my choice I would not have one.   They do effect your handicap.   My wife is not a good reader of putts.  But with our caddies in Jamaica for 2 weeks she is putting like Jason Day or any other pro.  Back in N.A she is back to her 2.5 putts per hole via Garmin.   I tend to not ask for reads or only have my caddy verify what I am seeing.   

The last part of the article about bantering with the caddy is the best part.  We have our same caddies year in year out for our Caribbean vacation,  so a rivalry starts every time.   The golf rule book comes out for proper interpretations which does help to horn our golf skills.    As far as tipping which is a touchy subject.   I general take the total amount and work out a cost per hour.   You general already pay upfront $20 to $30 to course to get a caddy.   So I generally double that which brings the total up.   Generally at the end of the vacation,  I will give my caddies any spare golf balls or a particular golf item if I know that it can benefit them.   Believe it or not a large bag of golf tees goes further that a extra $10 tip as they could source those items locally.  

Richard  :  Toronto Canada

Commented on

Some good tips. I worked as a caddie for a while in school--one thing golfers need to remember is we've almost certainly seen someone who is worse than you, don't worry about playing well. The best golfers to work for are ones that are having fun, keeping a good pace, and not taking themselves too seriously.

Another tip, if there's a caddie in your group--even if he's not carrying your bag--it's polite to tip him $15 or $20 after the round for his help spotting balls, raking bunkers, and tending the flag. Most caddies are happy to help out other players in the group (unless they're in a heated match against their boss).

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Me and my friend went to Portugal we played golf at the Estoril golf and country club and we had two caddies that have been caddying for 18 years it was absolutely the most fun round of golf we have ever had simply because of the caddies.

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Amend that -  courses

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First is Bandon Trails, second is Pacific Dunes, 3rd is Nicklaus Pronghorn, 4th is Bethpage Black.

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What course is pictured at the top of the article ?  Looks awesome

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That is Bandon Trails' lovely par-3 17th hole.

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Nervous about using a caddie for the first time? Do's and don'ts for an enjoyable round of golf