Caddies are rarely essential on Scottish golf courses. Their assistance can be helpful in reading local conditions, in assisting with the pace of play, or providing essential knowledge on a course with a lot of blind shots. For some they are an integral part of the experience of playing an iconic course.
But remember use of caddies quickly racks up the costs of your day's golf and they may upset the balance of your group's chemistry. With a caddie each you are likely to spend more time conversing with your caddie than your golfing companions.
The majority of Scottish courses do not offer caddies, but many of the mid and top tier courses most played by visitors will arrange caddies. Of those that do almost none, bar sometimes at the St Andrews Old course, will have caddies available for request on the day, without prior notice. Caddies MUST be requested in advance.
Costs for individual caddies are generally £40-£60 plus a gratuity. Costs for specific courses can be checked on our golf course listings.
Unless expressly stated otherwise by the course, caddies should be paid in cash at the end of the round, along with a gratuity. The standard gratuity tends to be £15-£25, perhaps more if the caddie was particularly good. Do not hesitate to tell the Caddiemaster at the end of your round if you did not have a good experience, they need to know this.
Be sure to have adequate cash in your bag to settle with your caddie at the end of the round.
A caddie in Scotland generally carries one bag. The term 'forecaddie' is becoming more common in Scotland at the busier courses and refers to one caddie providing guidance for all of the group - on club selection, yardage and reading greens.
Some courses, such as Kingsbarns, quote a specific fee for a forecaddie. At other courses a caddie shared amongst a group would expect a gratuity from each player in addition to their standard fee.
There are some courses that do not permit shared caddies. Carnoustie, for example, permits only one customer per caddie.
If using an individual caddie you may expect them to guide on direction and distance, read greens, tend the flag, rake bunkers and replace divots. If you are not comfortable with them making club selection for you, say so - but perhaps give it three or four holes to become used to each other.
A case in point : our own Joan relates, "On one of the few occasions I have had a caddie we had a minor disagreement over club selection on one hole on the front nine, as I was concerned about a bunker in the distance on the recommended line. I gave in to his advice, made perfect contact and hit an excellent shot, straight into said bunker. I gave the caddie my best death stare to which he, totally unfazed, replied with a shrug, 'Well, nothing you've done yet today gave me any reason to expect that result.' There was no arguing with his logic!"
They can be invaluable for reading tricky greens, thereby saving you valuable shots on the final score tally. (Just how competitive is your group?). They will highlight the bunker you hadn't even noticed was in play. If you're new to links golf, for example, a caddie may encourage and help you to identify when the bump and run approach putt will work out better than a lob shot, or how to navigate the tricky undulating fairways.
But also consider whether you are an experienced enough golfer to be able to follow the caddie's advice. Or do you simply want someone to carry your clubs for you? At clubs below the top tier they may be able to offer you a bag carrier, who may be a junior at the Club and should know the course. For obvious reasons this service is often available only during school holidays and weekends - the costs should be lower than a professional caddie, but the carrier should still be requested well in advance of play. Alternatively retired club members may offer caddie or bag carrying services.
The St Andrews Old course has restrictions on use of trolleys (pull carts) - they are only permitted after 12 noon between April and October. A caddie is therefore essential for many golfers who would not wish to carry their own clubs. The Old course only permits use of ride-on buggies to golfers with a permanent disability.
It is important to note that while caddies must be requested in advance there are rarely guaranteed. This is because they are freelance workers, not the employees of the course or golf club.
Don't be nervous about your caddie - he's there to help. And he's seen it all before. Your worst shot is unlikely to be the worst he has seen, and that peach of an approach shot on the 18th won't be the best he's seen either.