Can you explain why golf caddies earn big bucks?

Golf and caddies. I’ve read that when a top golfer wins a big chunk o’ prize money, his caddie gets a substantial percentage - possibly tens (or even hundreds?) of thousands of dollars. I’m a complete outsider, and know nothing about the game. Can someone please explain what caddies do that’s worth this much money, given that to my ignorant eyes they just seem to carry a heavy bag around all day.

I’ve often wondered about this, and I don’t want to make the same mistake as those people who think an orchestral conductor gets paid just to wave a stick around.

Top caddies are much more than just a guy who carries the bag. They advise and assist the golfer, on things like club selection, choosing a line, assessing the wind strength and direction etc. Generally acting as a second opinion on things. This is particularly the case if the caddie is older and has more experience of the golfing circuit’s courses.

Whether this worth so much money is a matter of opinion. You might want to question if a top golfer is worth as much as they can win during an average year. But obviously the golfers themselves think that a good caddie is worth it.

The caddy’s role in most cases isn’t just to carry the bag, but also act as confidant, cheerleader, whipping boy, the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Caddies help read the greens for putts, get to the course a day or two earlier to walk off yardages (every time you see the caddy or the player flip open a notebook, they are trying to ascertain the distance down to the foot), provide crowd control and suggest the club and type of shot the player should or should not attempt. Caddies were very important in the old days because most of them were local and had the knowledge of the greens and the course, it was rare for a pro to have a travelling caddy. When a pro picked a caddy from the local crop, it was usually X amount per day and/or expenses, with a cut of the purse depending on what place the pro finished. Standard was 7-10 percent for the win, 4 or 5 percent for second, etc.

These days most pros have a travelling caddy, one that they’ve established a trust with that really goes beyond just reading the greens and carrying the bag. Some of the bigger players treat their caddies just like an employee, with a yearly salary and everything. Of course the percentages they share in a win are smaller, but a steady paycheck and job security offset the occasional big payout.

Agree with Futile Gesture, plus the caddie also provides psychological support, calms the nervous golfer. The caddie is not exactly a coach (doesn’t teach the golfer how to golf) but is kind of like a baseball catcher to the pitcher.

It is also the caddie’s responsibility to take care of all the minutiae that go along with playing in a tournament. In that way, the golfer can concertrate on one thing - playing the round.

A few years ago Ian Woosnham (sp?) was trying out a new club on the driving range and at the end of the practice round he said to the caddie, “Make sure you take that club out of the bag before the round.” Golfers are limited to 14 clubs (IIRC) in the bag during a tournament. Long story short, the caddie forgot to take the extra club out, Woosnham was leading the tournament, got caught with the extra club and was disqualified. Probably not the best position to be in.

plnnr, clarification: It was Ian at last year’s British Open. He birdied the first hole to get in a tie for first, discovered the extra club on the tee of the second hole, took a two-stroke penalty, whiched turned the birdie into a bogey and dropped him into a tie for sixth, from which he never recovered.

At Pebble Beach during non-tournament play, they can make $500 to $600 for 18 holes. I saw the caddy shack
& it was pretty dirty. I never figured out how they can make so much but not put some decent
furniture in the shack.

Thanks for the correction - still not a good position for the caddie to be in.

{{Whiched? Where the hell did I come up with that.}} That should be which, not to be confused with be-whiched(sic). BTW, Ian did not fire his caddy for this incident, however, two weeks later the caddy was late to the tee at another tournament, and Ian canned him on the spot. (A golfer late to the tee in a pro tournament usually is dq’d)

Anyone have a clue how much Tiger’s caddy is making? He’s been with him from the start, hasn’t he? At least for 3 years now.

Tiger’s current caddie has not been with him from the start. Tiger fired Fluff Cowan as his caddie in 1999, for reasons that have never been clear to me.

Tigers caddy used to be a guy named Fluff. He quit and the last time i saw him he caddied for Jim Furyk(sp).

Oops, i stand corrected. Sorry.

Cool name, Futile. Is that an Animal House reference?

Word on the tour (in the caddies grapevine) was that Fluff was starting to overshadow Tiger. When they hit tour stops, Fluff was taking his new-found fame a little too seriously, where people were coming up to him and asking for his autograph. Of course this was distracting him from his assigned duties to nurture the young Woods, and some of the management didn’t take this very well. The final straw so-to-speak, was Fluff mentioning in a Golf Digest issue oh, about three years ago, what kind of financial deal he had with Woods. This broke an unwritten rule amongst caddies and players that you do not discuss who’s getting paid what, etc.

As noted from the previous post, Fluff at the time was a salaried employee making about $150K a year, plus expenses. His take on wins was about %5, lower than a normal arrangement but it was offset by the steady paycheck.

Tiger’s current caddy is a Kiwi. There’s an article about him in a recent NZ Reader’s Digest, or some such. He earns a very tidy sum indeed, but I can’t remember how much.

Steve Williams