Unless your name is Stevie, Fluff, Bones, or Greller, most wouldn’t know your name—but the life of a caddie has left many a golf fan thinking about lugging the bag, holding the pin, and cleaning the golf clubs for the game’s elite players.
How cool would it be to get paid to spend your workdays on the golf course? Travel the globe? Strategize next to players like Tiger, Rory, or JT? Caddying on the PGA Tour CAN be luxurious, but it can also be absolute grunt work.
To help sort out some of the misconceptions about caddies, we hit up veteran PGA Tour caddie John Wood, who has carried the bag for Hunter Mahan, Kevin Sutherland, Mark Calcavecchia, and most recently Matt Kuchar—and has seen the highs and lows of the caddie lifestyle. Here are 5 myths about tour caddies.
In order to be a really good caddie, you must be a really good golfer
Yes, there are plenty of caddies who have played golf at an elite level—Division I college golf, mini tours, even a cup a coffee on the PGA Tour. Knowing the game is paramount, but from a playing standpoint, most caddies are just average hacks like you and me.
“The idea that you have to be a great player is simply not true,” says Wood, who himself played college golf and was at one time a scratch player. “You just have to be able to see the game in your mind like a great player.”
Case in point—the annual contest at The Players Championship where most caddies dump their tee shots into the water surrounding the island green at TPC Sawgrass.
Caddies get to play the best golf courses in the world
Indeed, caddies are privileged to walk some of golf’s finest fairways, but rarely do they actually play the courses where PGA Tour events are held. By the time caddies arrive at a tournament, it’s usually earmarked for pros play only. Occasionally the loopers will come in early and play after returning from an off week. but for the most part being on the golf course is another day at the office. And that’s okay for many of these guys.
“No kidding—I’ve probably played 36 holes of golf in the last eight years.” says Wood. “I just don’t play anymore. We’re on the golf course so much that when I get time off, I’m not looking to play. There are too many other things I enjoy.”
Caddies always tell their players the truth
PGA Tour players rely on their caddies for loads of information—precise yardages, wind factors, green speeds. But once in a while a little lie can be beneficial to both parties.
“If we feel like we know our player well, we will fudge the truth a bit to get them to hit the club we want them to hit.” says Wood, who admits that he’s lied to his player about a yardage to take a penalty area completely out of play.
In order to have the confidence to bend the truth to your boss, a caddie must be able to read the vibe in certain situations, especially if their player is amped up.
“The 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is a perfect example. With the crowd screaming and adrenaline flowing, that shot always plays short. I don’t think I’ve ever given a real yardage on that hole.”
Being a tour caddie is a nonstop traveling party
This may have held more truth years ago, when caddies were notorious for staying out late, enjoying a few beverages, and then racing to an early morning tee time—but these days, looping has turned into big business. With PGA Tour purses swelling to all-time highs, a chance at earning a cut of those huge pay days have turned caddying into an incredibly professional and lucrative industry. And with players eager to grab a piece of the prize and willing to make a change if things aren’t going well, the caddie’s job is on the line every week.
Caddies work long hours. They’re usually at the golf course well before their player, doing their homework and tournament preparation, which doesn’t leave much time for partying, Wood explains.
“We are trusted with incredibly important decisions, and the vast majority of guys out here take that responsibility very seriously.” says Wood. “I don’t know many guys anymore who go out every night.”
Caddies have to carry those huge staff bags
The idea that tour pros need those enormous staff golf bags simply because they have more stuff to carry is a fallacy. Rickie Fowler has proved that to be true by recently switching over to an ultra-light carry bag.
The staff bag is predominantly about status—it’s almost a rite of passage. Earning your tour card gives you the right to trade in your kickstand carryall and break out the big boy. Money is the underlying reason many pros opt for the bulkier option—with sponsorships dollars on the line, the staff bag provides opportunity.
“We could actually fit everything we really need into a carry bag,” says Wood. “The only reason we carry the big bag is because it’s a larger billboard for the various sponsors of the players.”