Money talks

Tour caddy Sean Russell shares an insight on caddies’ pay, bonuses, and the huge rewards on offer on alternative tours

It may just be the LIV Golf effect, but there seems to be a lot of talk about money in professional golf right now. I know many amateurs are fascinated by the caddy-player relationship, so I thought it would be a good time to share some inside information on how we get paid.

For starters, a little advice – don’t ask a caddy how much they earn… It’s a bit like going in to see your dentist and asking them the same question – they won’t tell you and it’ll be a really painful experience.

What I can tell you is that a caddy’s payments are not regulated, so it’s down to caddy and player to come to an agreement. I’ll also share that, apart from a few guys who are salaried, most caddies receive a fixed weekly fee – which covers travel, accommodation etc – and a bonus based on a percentage of how much your player earns each week. 

These percentages do vary, but typically it’s a minimum of 5% of any earnings and will rise up to 10% (or more) for a win.

If your player is walking away with a winner’s cheque two or three times a year, you’re doing very nicely as a caddy. Similarly – and I’ll let you do the maths on this one – if you’re with one of the 94 players on the PGA Tour who have earned more than $1m already this year, life isn’t too bad either.

But what happens when your player is out of form? Well, like any self-employed person, if the money isn’t coming in, you could be struggling and may well be earning less than the minimum wage once you’ve deducted your weekly costs for travel, accommodation etc.

Understanding the front-loaded pay structure, and the fact that you could be fired at any moment, it’s easy to see the benefits of the LIV Golf series for caddies. 

The last placed player in the opening LIV event at Centurion was paid $120,000, so every caddy going there knew that the minimum bonus they’d been walking away with on Saturday night was $6,000 – which is a hell of a difference to making €0 for a missed cut in Sweden on the DP World Tour and Ladies European Tour that week.

That amount of money flips caddying from a lifestyle into a job, and a seriously well paid one for those on the LIV side.

For those who aren’t signed up with LIV, sure it can be hard when your player is struggling, but that’s the risk every caddy understands as we know the rewards can be enormous – on every tour – if you find yourself on the right bag at the right time… Just ask Charl Schwartzel’s caddy !

So, do you still want to be a tour caddy? Although the climb to the top can be long, with no guarantee of success, if you stick with it and pay your dues, one day you might be lucky enough to earn a lot more than the minimum wage for carrying a very heavy bag around.