Tour caddy Sean Russell shares his advice for making the best possible start to the season
The Christmas break is generally the longest holiday for caddies and gives us a chance to settle down at home – though we inevitably have to switch carrying golf bags for carrying shopping bags, decorations and anything else we’ve missed out on in the last few months.
Our first event back in January is traditionally in the Middle East on the DP World Tour.
With so long away from tournament golf, up to a couple of months for some players, this is a great time to get their equipment checked over. A few players will dabble in changing a grip or adjusting a lie angle, but the vast majority leave this to the specialist club fitters from their manufacturers, who travel the world with the tour. They can build any club to a player’s specification and then the players will work on the range to check, recheck and adjust as required. For us caddies, these sessions normally start off quite busy as the players don’t tend to keep their clubs very clean without us around. After that, we’ll just be there to watch and take it in – these can be long days in the sun if something isn’t working properly.
While we’re definitely not coaches or expected to be, we’re pretty observant and see immediately when something has moved or needs attention from a coach after a break. For many players, this will be their first in-person catch up with their coach for a couple of months. Primarily, this is a time for a check in and tune up. They work on the same basics we all should – alignment, posture, ball positions etc – ensuring they start the season as well as possible.
The first week back is also a busy time for the technicians from each of the manufacturers on tour. January is a busy time in equipment with new launches to try, and the brands are always keen to get players to put their latest stuff straight into play. This is all tested with launch monitors and while a few guys will put a lot of emphasis on feel, the vast majority will base a decision to change equipment purely on the TrackMan data. They really don’t leave anything to chance in these sessions, spending hours testing different setups if necessary, and will only make a switch when they know it’s worth it.
So, what can the amateur golfer learn from all this? Firstly, keep your clubs clean (I know I say this a lot, but it is so important!).
This is also the time of year to check everything is in good order – check your lofts and lies haven’t moved after a year of playing and practising, and check in with your coach to work on your fundamentals. It’s also a great time to test new equipment, not least because it’s exciting to try the latest kit in the pro shop. When testing, try to emulate what the pros do – test things out with an expert club fitter and use data to ensure new equipment works correctly for you. Picking a club off the shelf or mixing and matching driver heads and shafts sold in the locker room isn’t how the pros do it – and neither should you.
Take some time ahead of the new season to work on your fundamentals and equipment the way the pros do, I have no doubt it will improve your scores come April.