Caddies usually work as independent contractors for one big company like Caddiemaster, or multiple small courses. They are paid only for services rendered, so they get a loop (18 holes) and they get paid a small base fee and then a tip from the group they play with in most cases. If a caddie is a great caddy, don’t be afraid to tip him a ton for helping you have a great time.
Benefits of a Caddie
There are a ton of benefits of taking a caddie with you. A caddie will always know the course well. Whether it is where you need to hit the ball or how to make putts. They are incredible at gauging the members of your group and knowing what to say when, and just adding a lot to the general atmosphere. The best caddies are incredibly personable, make great conversation, and know a lot of great jokes. A caddie will gauge how far you hit clubs and a good one will recommend clubs after a few holes once they understand your golf game. They will give you the line off the tee, how far to hit a ball, where the trouble is, what club to use around the greens and give you warnings about tricky shots when they come up. A great caddy can sometimes give swing advice as well when asked. A lot of caddies live the game of golf so they can give expert advice about the game itself. Personally, I love a caddie to come with me as they are great company, know the course way better than that GPS app you use, know the greens really well and they know how far shots actually play on their golf course. I suck at reading greens, so having a caddie that is great at reading greens makes all the difference for me.
One of the newer and more prevalent caddie types is a forecaddie. A forecaddie will tell you where to aim, then run out into the fairway near the landing zone and watch for your drives, come down and find them if you hit it sideways. A forecaddie is trained to find golf balls for their players when it's hit into the high grass. They are superb at watching the ball and having a line and distance about where the ball would be. I’ve had a couple of forecaddies that never lost a single ball I hit wayward, and anyone who has played with me knows I consider fairways to be suggestions and not always great ones. I like to play bomb and gauge golf, so a caddie that always finds my ball is invaluable to me personally. A forecaddie will also give everyone the yardage to the pin from where their ball is after they have found all the golf balls. For groups larger than 4, I always recommend two forecaddies. A forecaddie will then go find everyone’s ball again, rake traps after people hit out of the sand, and then they will go ahead and read the greens and help their players with putts. A great forecaddie will give you helpful lines, always have yardages when you get to the ball, and tell you where to hit your shots. A forecaddie can be used while you are walking and carrying your own bags or when you take a cart.
When you take a walking caddie, you can do a single-bag or a double-bag. A single-bag usually costs a little more per person and they only carry one bag. A double-bag is when you take one caddie for two players and they lug two bags around. A double-bag caddie usually costs more than a single-bag, but they carry two bags for a small increase in price. There is usually a difference in expectations when you take a single or a double.
When you take a single-bag caddie, that's your guy! A single-bag caddie is going to be your personal assistant when you go out and play. They are just like a tour caddie; they carry your bag; they give you a line off the tee; they help you find your ball, they can give you advice on your game, they give you distance; they pull the pin; they read your putts; they do everything you could possibly need. Most of my favorite experiences in golf have been when I have had a single-bag caddie. One of my favorite memories was playing Trinity Forest Golf Club years ago with a single-bag caddie. His name is Steve Theis and we remain good friends today. The first hole at Trinity Forest is a decently long par 5 with a bunker down the right side and fescue left and right. I hit a good drive, hit a decent second shot, but missed the green. I chipped on to about 12, maybe 15 feet and I went ahead and read the green. Steve told me the putt was a cup outside the left edge and it was fast. I told him there was no way the putt broke up the dang hill. Steve told me, “Nick, trust me here. Hit your putt right there and it will go in. Just trust me, I know what I’m doing.” I sighed, hit the putt there and made it. I proceeded to hit the ball pretty badly the rest of the day, but Steve read every putt and I had the best day putting I have ever had. I made every single putt I looked at. I mean, I made multiple 50 foot plus putts in one round. I hit the ball pretty bad that day, but thanks to Steve, finding my balls in the thick tall grass in the water hazards, telling me where to hit it, and reading the greens, I finished my round with a hard fought 75 on the day. Steve to this day is a good friend and the best caddie I have ever had.
A double-bag caddie has twice the load on his shoulders and thus just can’t do as much for each player. He is responsible for carrying the bags, giving people's lines to hit, giving his players distances and reading greens, but he doesn’t do much else. He has to take care of both of his players and that means he can’t spend as much time or attention on you personally. Taking a double-bag caddie is a great way to get a caddie for just a little cheaper between you and a buddy, though!
How much should you tip your caddie
The genuine answer here is it depends on the place you are playing and on the level of caddie you had. For a guy like Steve that just makes your group have a great round and a fun time going out, you should tip him well with $100 or more. Nothing is worse as a caddie than working your butt off and getting a handshake. The best practice I have for you is to ask the staff around about what the caddies get tipped. The course staff will usually say well you don’t have to tip them, but usually this much. Caddies get “taken care” of by the course but get a tip as well. The better your caddie, the more you should tip them. If the staff can’t tell you the caddie master at the course will be able to give you a pretty good number.
I hope that I have given you plenty of information on caddies. I would definitely recommend taking a caddie, especially if you have never played a course before. Yes, they are a little more expensive to play with, but they really really add to the experience. Every time I have an opportunity to play with a caddie, I take it, and I recommend you do as well. A caddie is there to enhance your experience. If you are a golf nut like me, they tend to know the history of the course. They understand how the holes are meant to be played and they are generally great company. If you have the chance, take a caddie out when you walk, it's a great time!