Golf Rules: (Updated) Why Tour Pros Should Have Multiple Caddies

Update August 10, 2013:  In the following post, we describe the opportunity for a golfer to use multiple caddies in a round, say a caddie for the greens and a caddie for everywhere else.  This is based on the rule that allows a golfer to change caddies mid-round, as long as he or she only has one caddie at a time.  It has been pointed out since the publication of this post that the USGA has rendered a decision that prohibits this.  In decision 8-1/26, the question is whether a golfer can change caddies temporarily for the purpose of getting advice from the new caddie.  The ruling is “No.  It would be contrary to the purpose and spirit of the Rules for a player to change caddies briefly for the purpose of circumventing Rule 8-1 (Advice). Therefore, in equity (Rule 1-4), the player would incur a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play for each hole at which the action occurred.”  In other words, while you may change caddies during the round, if you do so for the sole purpose of getting advice for difference circumstances you would encounter in a round (as we suggested below), you would be subject to a penalty.  

We leave the original post below for reference, but note that multiple caddies used as described below would be against the rules of golf.

 

On a prior post we talked about the golf rule that came into play when Jessica Korda fired her caddie mid-round at the 2013 Women’s US Open.  You can read that post here.  But in thinking more about it, it raised the following possibilities:

Pro golfers should have specialist caddies

The rules of golf are clear in that a golfer may have a caddie but he or she may only have one caddie at a time.  However, a caddie can be replaced at any time.  With so much money being thrown at golfers for winning a tournament, and even more sponsorship money sloshing around for golfers who win big tournaments, it is time for golfers to hire specialists.  What am I talking about?

Greens Caddies, Weather Caddies, Psychologist Caddies and Managing Caddies

Eighteen times a round a golfer is in a putting situation.  If a golfer had a “Greens Caddie”, that caddie could specialize in reading greens.  Perhaps the caddie is a local one from the club hosting the tournament, or maybe the caddie is just gifted at greens-reading.  Regardless, if you were a golfer who wanted to shave one to two stokes off each round, picking up four to eight in a tournament, that could take you from missing the cut to making it, or from the middle of the pack to Top 10, or from Top 10 to Top 1 or 2.

In windy or rainy conditions, a caddie needs to help a player make a smart call about which club to hit and where to aim in order to get the best result possible.  Not all caddies are equal at interpreting these conditions, but a “Weather Caddie” could specialize in just these circumstances.  Being wrong once means the player is in the water instead of the green, or in the trees instead of the fairway.  That one mistake could cost two (or more) strokes, and that’s the difference between winning and losing most weeks.

If a player is having a difficult time on the course, a “Psychologist Caddie” could take the bag and help the player with a mental adjustment.   It’s easy to mentally play oneself out of a game, and keeping a player on the right mental road is critical to success.

Finally, in this scenario a player would need to have a managing caddie, the one caddie that handles all the other caddies and keeps them on the right side of the rules of golf.  This would be the person who finds the other caddies and who handles all the details of having multiple caddies.  All of the caddies need to be capable caddies in general but each one has a specialty.

An Example of Multiple Caddies

To my knowledge no one has intentionally had multiple caddies in a round, but golf rules certainly allow it (at least currently).  Let’s say it’s the US Open at Chambers Bay, a course that hasn’t previously hosted a PGA Tournament.    Phil Watson, a player ranked in the Top 20 in the world, decides to employ a multiple caddie scenario.  On the first tee, Psychologist Caddie is on the bag handing Phil his driver and reminding him about visualization and self-confidence.  As they walk up the fairway, the PC keeps it light and suggests that Phil take in the crowd, the day and the entirety of the US Open.   Phil hits his approach shot on the green and the PC carries the bag up to the green, says some words to Phil, takes off his caddie bib and heads toward the ropes.  He hands the bib to Greens Caddie who puts the bib on and gets busy reading the putt.  In fact, the Greens Caddie had been on the green already when Phil teed off.  He was able to watch the group ahead of Phil’s group putt out, gaining knowledge of the contour and breaks for today’s specific hole placement.  So when Phil’s approach shot came in, the GC was able to watch it carefully and have an advantage over every other caddie.  The Greens Caddie gives Phil a read (which Phil can agree with or disagree with) and once the hole is finished, the GC carries the bag to the next tee, takes off the bib and hands it to the PC (or perhaps the Weather Caddie), and the GC heads up to the next green to watch.

In this scenario, the player has the best person on the bag at any moment, and every moment is an opportunity for the player to have an advantage.

Why It Probably Won’t Happen

Although there is reason to have multiple caddies who specialize, in the same way that NASCAR pit crews are made up of specialists, I can think of several barriers:

*  First, a golfer would have to pay multiple caddies instead of just one.  That may not be a big burden for a player in the Top 5 who has a lot of endorsement income off the course, but for a player ranked 125 that extra expense is weighty.   One way to handle it would be to have a Greens Caddie who is local to the course hosting the tournament.  The best caddie at Chambers Bay, for example, should be able to read the greens there better than the average tour caddie.  The other consideration is that many players already have a contingent of trainers and sports psychologists and swing coaches that travel with them.  If they are already there, have them put a caddie bib on when necessary.

*  Second, the PGA Tour may disallow multiple caddies in the “Local Rules” for a tournament.   Every tournament has a list of rules for that tournament that are in addition to the USGA or R&A Rules, for example the opportunity to use a “drop zones” when a player hits into a hazard.

*  Third, a player has more risk of penalty in this scenario.   Every item of equipment, from ball marks to towels to the clubs themselves, can only be the responsibility of one caddie at a time.   So if there is a caddie exchange, but the departing caddie has a ball mark in his pocket, it’s a problem.  One way a player could minimize it would be to have the caddies wear clothes with no pockets, and therefore all the equipment items would either be in the caddie bib or the players golf bag.  If more than one caddie has the player’s equipment at any time, it is disqualification for the player.

Expect Someone To Try Multiple Caddies

I expect that at some point, some player will try at least a Greens Caddie (as this is the easiest advantage and the one least likely to create a DQ situation), in addition to their regular caddie.  It would probably be a player who is in the Top 20 but who can see his career winding down and is looking for one more big win — like at a major.   And it would likely need to be a course that the player or regular caddie is relatively unfamiliar with, one that the player hadn’t played much before.  If the player can pick up one to two stokes a round doing this it could be a great investment in prize money, in endorsement money and in legacy (if he wins).

 

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