Trump National Westchester
photo by John Fortunato
We are very fortunate in Westchester that nearly all of the private clubs have active, effective caddie programs that not only give employment to hundreds of deserving guys and gals, but raise the level of play in numerous ways. That’s not the case everywhere in the country, so we should count our blessings!
What’s a caddie for? Sure, they’ll tote your bag and find your ball and rake the sand trap after you messed it up, but they’ll also help you read your putts, choose the right club, and guide you around a course if you’ve never played it before. Their local knowledge is indispensable, whether it’s the unseen prevailing break on the greens or the fact that a given shot is uphill even though it looks flat. The caddie, who walks the course as many as ten times every week, knows things about it you’ll never know.
Nearly all of Westchester’s caddies get started with an intense MGA training program held every spring for newbies to the game. They then serve an apprenticeship of sorts (depending on the club policies and needs) where they work under the watchful eye of an experienced looper and the caddie master. Most clubs also enlist helpful, knowledgeable members to mentor the beginners until they’re ready to solo. The caddies get a solid grounding in the game and how to best assist their player.
If you’ve never played with a caddie on your bag, it can be a bit confusing at first. After the introductions, the caddie will count and arrange the clubs in your bag. He may watch you hit a few on the range to get a feel for your game, but don’t be intimidated—he’s definitely seen swings worse than yours!
When you get on the course, don’t be surprised if the caddie gives you a target line, hands you a club, and heads on down the fairway before you tee off. He’s going to a place where he can make sure the coast is clear and he can see where your ball lands. Normally, the caddie will walk ahead of you so he can check your ball’s lie, the distance for the next shot, and be ready with the info you need when you arrive.
On the green, the caddie will also usually get there before you. He’ll mark and clean your ball and be ready to offer advice on the line and speed of the putt. Some players slavishly follow the caddie’s instructions, others prefer to heed their own counsel. Guess what? You’re the boss, so follow the routine that works for you! The caddie won’t mind.
After the round, the caddie will clean and again count your clubs. Now’s the time to pay him. Rates at most clubs in Westchester range from $60 to $100 per bag for 18 holes —plus a generous tip. A good practice is to ask the caddie master or starter before the round what the members usually pay. That should be your minimum--just consider how many strokes the caddie saved for you.
Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf