If the cart boy really spends a lot of time cleaning your clubs, you should reward him for his efforts. (Mike Bailey/GolfAdvisor) If they're double-teaming your cart after the round, chances are that the cart boys pool their tips.  (Mike Bailey/GolfAdvisor) If you take a caddie and don't know how much to tip, ask the pro or even caddie master. (Tom Bedell/GolfAdvisor)

Here's a tip on tipping at the golf course: When in doubt, be generous

So you've finished your round, and there they are: Those poor cart boys or gals, lying in wait, ready to intercept you and your clubs before you can make it to the parking lot (if you're even allowed to drive your cart out there). They're armed with dirty, wet towels, anxious to wipe off your clubs and deliver them to the bag drop.

Your biggest concern: How much do I have to tip these guys?

At some private clubs, believe it or not, nothing (those clubs typically don't take cash anywhere). It's part of the service, and some have no-tipping policies. At most clubs -- and especially resorts and high-end daily fees -- you need to be ready with some small bills. But just how many small bills?

To be safe, $3 to $5 per bag should do the trick. Heck, even $5 per cart really isn't bad. If you do the math -- that's $10 per foursome -- and considering how many carts go out on the course, I'm sure the cart staff would be happy if they averaged that much per bag.

But they don't. Incredibly, they do get stiffed, and more often than you think. I asked a couple of cart boys how often this happens. Their answer: At least half the time. Often one player looks to the other to take care of it, and none of them do. Or worse yet, they just don't know or care.

But you might also want to pay attention to how much work they do in cleaning your clubs. If it's just a cursory wipe here and there, I might tip $2 or $3. If they really do clean your clubs, thoroughly, certainly a little more.

Here's some other golf-course tipping questions that are a little more complicated.

Do I tip at bag drop and at the end, or just once?

Often, the person who takes your clubs at bag drop also takes care of bags at the end of the round, so you're probably okay just tipping at the end. At some courses, tips are actually pooled, so taking care of them once is okay there, too. There are certainly exceptions, though.

If you're dropping off an entire group or two, you should probably take care of them in the beginning and at the end, especially if they're running your bags to the golf carts as well.

How much and how often should I tip the drink-cart girls?

Yes, notice I didn't say cart person here. It's rare that person running around the golf course isn't a woman, and often they're fairly attractive.

I'm sure I don't have to tell the readers here that's by design. No doubt, attractive cart girls -- working a golf course with mostly middle-aged men -- sell more drinks and beer than the ho-hum kind do. And guess what? They also do better in the tip department.

One particular "cart girl of the month" told me on more than one occasion she received tips approaching the C-note. What exactly those customers expect is still a mystery to me, but I have little doubt they wouldn't have been so generous with a 60-year-old man peddling snacks and drinks on the course.

So what’s appropriate? That all depends on what you’re ordering and how much work they have to do for you. If they’re mixing four Bloody Marys, for example, that’s a lot different than just grabbing a bottle of pop. Generally, you can figure it like you would if you were at a restaurant. Putting together a six-pack of beer for you in a cooler might cost you $25, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to go 20 percent, which is $5. On the other hand, if you’re getting a soda and ask for a cup of ice to go with it, you should probably throw in an extra buck, or if it’s $2.25, at least give her $3 and let her keep the change. It’s really common sense.

How much should I tip a caddie?

This is a dilemma most golfers face when they take a caddie or forecaddie for the first time and, quite honestly, even the 20th time. I always ask the head pro or director of golf or maybe the caddie master what's customary at that club or facility, because they do tend to differ from place to place.

Who you don't want to ask is one of the caddies. You put them in an uncomfortable position, and it's been my experience that their input tends to be on the higher side. (Can you blame them?) I am, however, related to a caddie, so it is interesting to hear what he considers average to good tipping. By and large, caddies are kind of like servers at restaurants. The caddie fee barely covers their expenses -- they make their living on tips -- so keep that in mind. If they work hard for me (even if some of the reads aren't correct), I'll throw in an extra $10 or $20 off whatever the pro recommends as customary.

What is typically customary? For a forecaddie, about $20 to $25 per player. For a caddie toting just your bag -- around $40 to $50 -- a little less for a double bag because the other player should be tipping said caddie, too. But if you want to be safe, don't be afraid to ask the head pro or director of golf. You can ask the caddie master, too, but I prefer to ask a pro. They're a little more objective.

Some other tipping tips

At some courses, valeting your car is either complimentary or required or both. I think a couple of bucks here is plenty for retrieving your car, especially if you're forced to valet. Certainly, though, if you feel like giving them $5, that's not excessive, and at many facilities, those tips are supposed to be pooled.

Another tipping opportunity occurs in the locker room. I've heard stories of prominent tour pros who have no clue in this department, but if there's a locker room attendant, and he's really working for a you, $5 would certainly be appropriate. The same goes for a shoe service. If they change your spikes, clean and polish your shoes, $5 should be the minimum; $10 is certainly not out of the question.

Sep 30, 2014

Join the conversation

Post a comment 

PRO JOCK's avatar
PRO JOCK wrote at 2018-02-13 19:27:46+00:00:


Yours truly's avatar
Yours truly wrote at 2018-01-09 20:09:24+00:00:

As someone who has worked in the caddying industry for almost 10 years , your suggested caddie gratuities are a complete joke. We're talking about professional caddies here who make their income solely off of tips in most cases. Do you honestly think $80 to $100 at the end of a 5-hour round is good for an entire foursome? The standard at most high-end clubs is actually $40-50 per man for a forecaddie. I've even been at clubs where standard is $100/ person. For a walking caddie carrying bags $100 to $120 per bag is standard. How on Earth are you a golf writer?

u321936597's avatar
u321936597 wrote at 2015-08-21 13:42:56+00:00:

Good article, however your caddie section is a little off. How would you feel if you carried around someones bag for about 8 miles, while also improving their golf game, and they hand you $40 at the end of the round?? The standard should be $80 a golf bag minimum, and $100 if the caddie did a good job.

BrandonTuckerGA's avatar
BrandonTuckerGA Staff wrote at 2015-08-26 16:30:06+00:00:

I don't know man, $80-100 for a caddie would mean a lot fewer people willing to pay for caddies. Often times, caddies can double-bag it and up the hourly rate that way. 

Paul5069707's avatar
Paul5069707 wrote at 2016-08-01 17:42:43+00:00:

I think it depends greatly on the course you're playing. If you tip $40 to a professional caddie at a respected course, then you're insulting him. At the course I play, which is a top 100 national course, $120 is customary for a job well done. These aren't high school kids working for the summer, these are dedicated caddies working NY for the golf season and then Florida in the winter. They usually get one round in a day, sometimes two, and without a club caddie fee, they're making a living off of what you give them. $320 a week from $40 tips won't cut it.

ScottishGolfPodcast's avatar
ScottishGolfPodcast wrote at 2014-12-18 10:26:02+00:00:

Great article. It's worth adding that tipping is nothing to worry about if travelling to Scotland with the culture very different. Food & Drink bills usually come with a discretionary 10% tip charge and a good caddy can expect a tip of £20. Out with that you can keep your 20s for the pub. 

BrandonTuckerGA's avatar
BrandonTuckerGA Staff wrote at 2014-09-30 19:42:07+00:00:

I used to work as a bag boy at a private club in Ann Arbor (and also valeted at another). I was usually pretty happy with $2 a bag and $2 per car, and I at least appreciated the courtesy of a $1 tip over being stiffed, too. It's been about 15 years since then. So adjusted for inflation, I'd say $3 works these days. And at both jobs, we split tips with our shift mates. 

These days, now that I'm the golfer, it's not the tipping that bothers me, it's never having cash on me and either having to ask for change or find an ATM. I'm also generally more willing to tip while on the road versus my home courses, for whatever reason…maybe it's mood. 

Also, being a heathy person in my 30s, I do sometimes get a little offended when a bag boy wants to take my clubs all of 50 feet to the car or cart. I know it's their job, but I'm about to engage in four hours of athletic activity. I'd like to think I can handle it. 

MikeBaileyGA's avatar
MikeBaileyGA Staff wrote at 2014-10-03 17:39:06+00:00:

Good input, Brandon... I sometimes find myself with just $20 bills at the end, too, and have actually ask the cart guys to hang out for a minute or two while I get change. I usually try to make sure I've got all kinds of change, though, when I go to the golf course, not only for tipping, but for settling those wagers, too :)

Related Links

Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.