“Caddies are even crazier than golfers. You know why? Because we know golfers are crazy, and we still want to work for them!”
—Michael Collins, caddie to Tiger Woods
Not many golfers step up to the tee for the first time and aspire to be a caddie. They aspire to be a pro on the PGA tour, and take home the trophy and seven-figure purse by a landslide… or if they’re the more adventurous type, an awe-inspiring, highlight reel, come-from-behind victory. We hear and read all the chatter surrounding the victor—what was in their bag; what their winnings were; what their next stop is along the tour. But what no one really talks too much about is somewhat shocking… who their caddie was.
What is a caddie, really?
A pro’s caddie provides more than a body to carry the heavy bag of clubs throughout the day. He provides him invaluable insight, support, and much more. Dan Weigand, editor of the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology and co-author of “Caddy-Talk: Psychology of Being a Great Golf Caddy.” answers that very question. “What we found is a caddie is very much an on-course psychologist, biochemist, nutritionist, physiologist, counselor, friend. It really depends on the what the player needs from the caddie.”
What do the caddies make?
As independent contractors, caddies negotiate their pay with their player. On average, caddies make about $1,000 per week while on tour, plus a share of the winnings. Caddies generally earn 5 percent if their player makes the cut, 7 percent for a top-10 finish and 10 percent for a tournament win. For a great number of caddies, this translates into pretty decent seasonal work. For those who caddie for the top players, it’s life-changing money.
There is speculation that in 2015, Jordan Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, took home approximately $1,275,453 in just the last five events where Spieth made the cut. While not all caddies are bringing home that kind of cash, even the caddies for the pros finishing in the Top 10 are making some decent cash, at a typical 7% of their winnings, in addition to any non-standard tips they’d receive from their player. In 2014, ten PGA players’ caddies made over $600,000 in that season alone.
Caddies earn additional money from their own endorsement deals. While they must wear bibs with names and logos of the tournament sponsors, they can display their own logos on their hats or shirtsleeves, opening up opportunities for sponsorship deals with Nike, Titleist, Bridgestone, and other major players in the industry. Players outside the top 30 only earn $5,000 to $10,000 for this, but the caddies of the big three players can earn more than $200,000 annually from endorsements, and caddies of other top players can make $30,000 to $50,000 a year from sponsorships.
How much do they work?
Tournaments are usually six- or seven-day weeks. Caddies walk the course on Monday or Tuesday, confirming yardages. Tuesday is typically a full practice day, typically including a round of nine holes. Wednesday is often a professional-amateur round, and the four-day tournament starts on Thursday.
Caddies typically work 30 weeks out of the year, leaving them time for a seasonal job, travel, and, of course, golf.
Who WOULDN’T want to be a caddy?
While the benefits of caddying for the pros can be seemingly immeasurable, after covering their travel expenses, many caddies walk away with little to nothing at the end of a tournament… and of course not everyone can be as lucky at the end of a round as Carl Spackler.