The art of caddy conversation

Caddies, like us all, have two ears and one mouth. As you build experience, you learn when to use them

During my very first tournament as a caddy on the European Tour in 2010, my boss at the time whispered to me on the tee, “If you ever say that to me, I’ll fire you on the spot.”

As he made very clear, he was not a fan of his caddie saying: “Put a good swing on it” like we’d just witnessed. To be fair, he had a point – it’s not like anyone out there is trying to put bad swings on it. “Good rhythm now” was another line he hated and in the three-and-a-half years that followed I managed to avoid both – he remained moderately grumpy and I remained employed.

In my 10 years on tour, I – like every other caddy – went through the full repertoire of caddy/player interactions – including the ones we see on TV followed by “apologies if you heard any bad language there”.

An old favourite to start with: “where exactly are you trying to hit this?” which actually means – you’ve pulled the wrong club, but it’s better if you see this for yourself. This happened to me in Crans Montana when (as Chris Simmons will testify as he was stood next to me) the Aussie guy I was caddying for pulled out his driver on the 12th, which would have left him through the fairway on a severe downslope with an approach over water to a raised green. One “where exactly are you trying to hit this?” later and we happily settled on four-iron, which finished on the flat part of the fairway with a clear view of the green. An easy par, rather than an eight, followed.

There is also: “well, depends how far over the green you want it to finish” when your player says something like “wedge, isn’t it?” I wisely never stooped as low as asking “does your mother play?” like a colleague did when his player (who later became one of the great Ryder Cup captains) pulled out a hybrid on a mid-length par three in Korea.

At some stage, every caddy has found the right words to say at the right time.

My best was forcibly handing my player a new bottle of water and saying “birdie water, drink”, which turned a horrific start into a half-decent final round and a top-10 finish. I still have no idea where that one came from.

Then there are times when you just state the bleeding obvious like “…and you can hit that” before getting a “love what you said there” as the ball sails over the water to the uphill green at the iconic 18th in Hong Kong – leaving him 4ft to take the lead into Sunday.

There are also times when you say something that’s somewhere in between these two, he tells his mates after the round he really liked it, but it has the totally opposite effect. These include the time a “reset, we can still make this cut” on the seventh tee at Wentworth was immediately followed by a trapped hybrid left into the hazard for another double-bogey, and a comfortably missed cut.

Finally, there are the times when as you just get it plain wrong – like the time I got: “I don’t know who’s the bigger idiot: you for saying that, or me for listening to you”.

To be fair, he had a point – and no, I won’t tell you what I said.

Sean Russell
Former tour caddy with major, DP World, Ladies European Tour, and Solheim Cup experience