When it comes to kids and golf there’s no better time to get them involved than at a young age. One way to get kids involved is to start them out caddying. It provides exercise, can serve as an introduction to the game and peak interest in learning to play.
Over the summer I took my 10-year old nephew Lee out to the golf course to caddie for me for the first time. We played Winding Creek Golf Course, a sporty little 9-hole executive golf course located just southeast of Rochester, New York. Lee has a small golf bag with a couple left-handed junior clubs courtesy of the USGA Foundation. He has been to the practice range near his house with me several times to learn how to hit his clubs and for putting contests. Now he was ready for his first time on a green grass golf course – in the role of caddie.
Over the years, Lee and I have watched many “major” golf championships together (on television) and we attended a few “majors” in person at Oak Hill Country Club and Locust Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. I can’t say that Lee always planned to watch golf but I invited him and he joined in with enthusiasm. It was fun talking about the strategy of professional golf, the shot-making and our impressions of different players. On a few occasions, a dramatic shift in the leaderboard would unfold making it all the more exciting. As a result, Lee knows the names of some of the top tour professionals, how the game is played, how scoring works, a little bit about the Rules of Golf and etiquette and that each player employs a caddie. So when the opportunity to caddie for me came up this summer, Lee jumped at the chance to get out on the course and give it a try firsthand.
The player-caddie relationship is unique in golf. Caddies play an integral part of a player’s success or failure, even though they aren’t responsible for executing shots. The overall responsibility of a caddie is to make the game of golf more enjoyable for the golfer. The most basic job of a caddie is to transport a golfer’s bag and hand the player clubs. There are also a number of other duties caddies have, such as tending the flagstick, cleaning clubs and golf ball for the player, taking care of the course, keeping track of the golf ball, providing advice such as helping read putts and determining yardages between the ball and the green.
Before Lee and I started our round we talked about safety on the course. As we walked down the first hole I pointed out the parts of the course (fairway, rough, putting green, bunker, teeing ground, etc.).
Throughout the round, I covered more safety and where to stand and walk, where to position the pull-cart, club selection, how and why to fix ball marks and replace divots, etc. Lee asked questions about the course and it was a great learning experience for him (and for me). He especially enjoyed taking the pull-cart over the bridges on the course and seeing the winding creeks (water hazards) that run throughout the course.
Lee went about his caddie assignment much like a professional caddie that he had watched on television. He was prepared, focused and thinking ahead at all times. He asked me what club I wanted to hit on each shot, then retrieved the club and replaced the club in the bag and got the driver ready in advance. He enjoyed recording my hole-by-hole score on the scorecard using the short golf pencil.
After some instruction on what to do, Lee took pride in caring for the golf course such as replacing divots and keeping the teeing areas free of broken tees. He also tended to the flagstick. He did well with the role of on-course coach encouraging me to do my best to make putts for birdie and par. I noticed one of the most intriguing tasks for Lee was using the ball washer which he deemed necessary on every hole. That was fine with me. It’s nice to have a clean golf ball to start every hole. He wanted me (his player) to have a successful and enjoyable round and he knew it was his job as caddie to assist in making that happen. He performed superbly and most certainly made my round of golf fun and enjoyable.
There are many benefits to getting kids out caddying. The environment is safe, it’s healthy and provides for quality time with family. Caddies develop good work habits and can improve their communication skills in the process. Lee’s pay, by the way, was a mutually agreed upon venti iced tea-lemonade (more commonly known as an Arnold Palmer) at Starbucks on the way home (with a free Gold Card refill…).
If you have a son, daughter or grands they may very well be “Awesome” caddies too. Some facilities require kids to be a certain age to be on the golf course so check your club/course policies.
Ann Guiberson is a golf administrator with more than 20-years of experience working with state and regional amateur golf associations and the United States Golf Association (USGA). She served as a USGA Regional Affairs Director for 14-years and USGA Championship Director for 9-years.
Ann attended the University of Nebraska on a golf scholarship. She has a Masters Degree in Athletic Administration.