Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tips On Taking a Caddie

"How 'bout a wee nip, my new friend?" inquired the ruddy faced caddie as he pulled up his sweater to reveal a flask of whisky to the American at the first tee of a world famous links course in Scotland.

Thanks to a frosty, late-November ocean breeze, the American was chilled with cold, stiff fingers that felt as flexible as popsicle sticks. He politely declined the offer. Not because he didn't need or want a liquid heater. Rather, he'd never utilized a caddie and didn't really know if bartender was one of the services he should expect.

In this age of sprawling, unwalkable layouts, golf cart-only courses, GPS systems and elaborate course guide software, a dwindling number of American golfers have ever played golf with a caddie. Often, many participate in the experience for the first time when they travel to the British Isles on a dream trip to golf's original playing grounds.

Luckily, Americans still have access to caddies at high-end resorts that have kept the service alive. Among the high profile courses that offer caddies are Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, Streamsong Resort in Florida, TPC The Players Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida, Harbour Town Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula in California.
(At the end of this post, see a list of other U.S. places where caddies are available.)

Golfers who venture to England, Scotland or Ireland can still acquire the services of a good, knowledgeable caddie. Yet, even there, Americans shouldn't be blinded by the romanticized notion of the all-knowing, wisecracking caddie so often stereotyped in golf literature. Major courses such as the Old Course in St. Andrews, Trump Turnberry and Gleneagles have strong caddie programs as do several other major courses in Scotland and Ireland.

Other popular resort locales that offer caddies are Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Two places where I had superb caddie experiences are Royal Isabela in northwest Puerto Rico and Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.

Unfortunately, in certain places around the world, some amateur caddies offer little more assistance than toting your bag and assuming the role as a personal cheerleader.

"A solid, professional caddie who knows his trade can make a difference of at least two shots in a round to a scratch golfer and more to higher handicap golfers," a veteran Old Course caddie once told me while we enjoyed frosty pints at the Dunvegan bar in St. Andrews. "Carrying the bag is probably the least important thing a caddie does."

Here is the appropriate behavior you should expect from a competent caddie:

* Prior to the start of a round, the caddie should clean clubs if needed and count clubs.

* A well-informed caddie should know the local rules of the layout and be familiar with the course designer. A thorough understanding of the history of the course is also helpful.

* A caddie should rake bunkers, replace divots and tend the pin.

* A caddie should not offer advice to a players until asked. He should never say, "I think." The only time a caddie should volunteer information is when reporting yardage to the green.

* If caddying for the first time with the golfers, the caddie should be able to club correctly after 4 or 5 holes.

* A caddie shold get to the ball first and study the shot before the player arrives--the lie, turf, wind and target. He should form an opinion quickly in the event the player requests advice.

From a player's viewpoint, a caddie is not a servant. The relationship between a player and a caddie is a subtle partnership where the ultimate goal is to maximize performance.

As a player, if you display poor golf etiquette, a futile skill level with little dedication to the game or boorish behavior, you can generally expect sarcastic responses, especially from veteran caddies in Scotland.

Finally, what about that wee nip? Should you indulge?

It's definitely a personal choice. Just like guys who knock down a six-pack of brewskis during a round--some can handle it, some can't.

On a recent visit to Scotland, one of my caddies summed it up best when he said: "If your golf game is so bad that you must take a drink before a round, it's predictable your consumption will greatly increase after the 18the hole."

Now, that's great advice you can only get from a caddie.

Other courses and resorts with caddie programs, include:

Bandon Dunes (Oregon)
Bethpage Black (New York)
The Broadmoor (Colorado)
Cabot Links (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Cordevalle Resort (California)
Erin Hills (Wisconsin)
Madden's on Gull Lake (Minnesota)
Nemacolin Resort (Pennsylvania)
Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort (South Carolina)
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando (Florida)
Whistling Straits (Wisconsin)
Chambers Bay Golf Club (Washington)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fun Things to Do in St. Andrews, Scotland

One of the great things about playing golf in St. Andrews is the wonderful, quaint village lifestyle. Beyond the phenomenal golf courses, there's a wealth of great activities to enjoy.

To extend your golf enjoyment away from the fairways, here are five activities to enhance your experience:

British Golf Museum-Conveniently located a 5-minute walk from the town center and across the street from The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, this well organized, recently renovated museum will immerse you in the history of golf. There are thousands of items detailing more than 500 years of history with exhibitions, hands on activities and extracts from the R&A’s film archive. You’ll see clubs, balls, clothing, trophies, medals, films, photographs, artwork and books on display. 
Himalayas Putting Course—Home to the St. Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club since 1867, this roller coaster-like course, adjacent to the Old Course, allows you to practice uphill, downhill and sidehill putts. All you need is a putter and a willingness to have fun. The course is open from April to the end of September (7 days a week) and there is a slight fee with discounts for senior citizens and under 16s.
Tom Morris Golf Shop—Originally opened in 1866, the Tom Morris Golf Shop, facing the Old Course, is the oldest golf shop in the world. In addition to a wide selection of golf clothing, there’s a display area that celebrates the shop’s namesake, Tom Morris, the legendary four-time Open champion who is widely regarded as the father of the modern game. Among the items on display are his original workbench where he made golf clubs and balls, his locker where he stored his clubs and the fireplace he used to heat and shape gutta percha balls.
Official Old Course Walking Tour—Staged from early April to late September, the 50-minute guided tour of the Old Course is the next best thing to playing the celebrated course. Walks are scheduled for everyday of the week except Monday during July and August. Tours start at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at. Longer tours start at 10 a.m.
Jigger Inn-It’s one of golf’s most famous 19th holes. Set adjacent to the Old Course Hotel in an historic building that dates back to the 1850s, this traditional Scottish pub is brimming with golf memorabilia. It’s a great place to grab a pint and sit near an open-hearth fire and listen to golf stories from other patrons or spin a few yourself. When it’s time to dine, a golfer’s favorite is the Jigger Burger with Mull Cheddar, Ayshire Bacon and Fries.