Seeing things differently

From club selections to finding it impossible to bite his tongue when he’s in the clubhouse, Sean Russell’s years on tour have changed the way he looks at courses and golfers

Talk to any tour caddy and they’ll tell you that we see golf courses differently to the rest of the world.

For example, we know it’s not automatically driver off the tee on every par four. Take the opening hole at my home club, Gosforth, for instance. Here, wind direction and the firmness of the fairway determines the choice of club, not the 308 yards from tee to green. We also know where the best miss is on every hole, and that the wispy rough on the right of the second causes flyers, which brings the out of bounds behind the green into play. We also know how to craft a score when it’s ‘one of those days’, and hear ourselves saying ‘shot by shot’ when it’s the opposite kind of day.

Now I’m retired from caddying on tour, I get to use all that knowledge, which means – aged 59 – my handicap is lower than ever.

That’s not the end of the story though, because like every tour caddy, I see everything on the course.

I know what club you’ve hit on a par three, so don’t tell me you hit eight-iron when I know you hit a six. Don’t pinch an inch when marking your ball either because I’ll see that too.

It’s also best not to confuse the nearest and nicest points of relief, or tactically forget to time yourself when looking for a ball, or my bête noir – make a token effort to rake a bunker. You’ll also never see me playing with the golfer everyone suspects has a spare ball in their pocket!

It’s far from plain sailing off the course either, because some of the stuff I hear in clubhouses sets my eyes rolling so much that driving home is not an option.

It starts because I know the real reason for your bad score was that you hit the wrong club on almost every hole, meaning you kept coming up short. That’s not sensible with that chipping action!

It gets worse when I hear about your new driver, which looks nice and might go a bit further, but as you didn’t get fitted for it, it just goes further into the trees. I also know the reason you missed all those short putts was not the holes being crowned, it was that your putter face was wide open at impact.

The one that really stops me driving home is hearing that you carry your seven-iron 190 yards. If that was the case, your name would be on your bag! Or even worse, hearing about that fella in the Thursday night league team would beat every female tour pro. I’ve caddied in the Solheim Cup and on the Ladies European Tour and believe me, they wouldn’t.

Being a tour caddy was always my dream and I’ll still be talking about it in the rest home, but boy does it make playing golf for fun harder.