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.
"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.
"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.
"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!"