101 Golf Secrets

Golf Secrets 43 - 45: Social

Golf Digest

I meet golfers when they're on a pilgrimage. The first tee of the Old Course is just a few paces to their left. Yet they don't seem completely at ease. Out of the corner of my eye I catch them leaning into the window of the starter's shack, glancing over their shoulders, whispering to my boss, "How much do I pay the caddie?"

He tells them the rate and that a 10- to 15-pound tip (roughly 35 to 40 percent) is customary for good service. Why can't he just say 15!

People who've never taken a caddie are sometimes made uncomfortable by the relationship. They shouldn't be. A looper's No. 1 priority is to make your round more enjoyable, and getting on his good side is easy. Insist he call you by your first name. Tell him to stow the driver and putter covers in the bag. Offer to buy snacks at the turn.

Discuss each shot with him, no matter how briefly and regardless of your ability. These little exchanges put you in the routine of positively envisioning your shot.
Tremendous psychological benefit can be tapped from the mere gestures shared with a caddie. Imagine you're on the green, you mark your ball and toss it at his towel, he catches it, wipes it gleaming, then tosses it back. The success of this simple task prepares the mind-set for the putt.

Five things to look for in your caddie:

  • Knowledge of the course—good reads, helpful targets on blind shots, accurate yardages.
  • Equipment service—bag clean and organized, grips dry during inclement weather (let the caddie juggle the umbrella and towels; keep your hands in your waterproof pockets!).
  • Time management—he should get to the ball before you.
  • A high level of interest in your game—does he know how you stand in your match?
  • Knowledge of the rules and etiquette—I saw a caddie touch the flagstick to the green to point out the break. His golfer lost the hole. And back to the issue of payment, bills folded or rolled discreetly is the classy way.


44 -- HOW TO TIP
You don't have to pull out your wallet every time someone at a golf course or club does his or her job. That said, certain positions pay low because tipping is expected, like shoe-shine guys and bag-drop attendants. But don't feel pressure to tip other employees, like the caddiemaster, starter or locker-room attendant, every time you see them. That's an expensive road to go down. Some clubs even have policies against tipping certain employees, like the wait staff. Find out before you embarrass yourself. And never tip a manager or golf pro—they're the bosses.


I'm certainly no expert on marriage, but the novelist Kurt Vonnegut might be. I once heard him give a talk. At the end there were questions. One young man stuck his hand up and said: "Mr. Vonnegut, me and my wife here just got married, we're young, and we're just starting out in life. What advice do you have for us?"

The old fellow growled, furrowed his brow, then said to the couple: "For heaven's sake, make sure you both get lots of people in your lives. Because it may not seem like it now, but you're going to get so bored with each other." Not playing golf with your spouse might be good for your marriage (although it probably gives Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas something to talk about). If you must play golf with your spouse, do it only because you both want to. And the rule about space still applies. Let 'em play their own way, unburdened by your constant swing critiques, suggestions/commands about getting a move on, or remarks about the particular way the cart is being driven. Unsolicited advice is rarely appreciated, and sometimes solicited advice isn't either. Be unrelentingly positive, even if you don't mean it. Compromise. Give in. Apologize. A lot.