How Much Do Golf Caddies Make?: More Than You Might Think

Introduction

There are enormous sums of money sloshing around in golf these days and as with most other professional sports, this money tends to “trickle down”.

In golf, the most high-profile member of a golfers team is their caddie. A good caddie can be worth their weight in gold. With just one shot over 72 holes potentially being the difference between winning a tournament or finishing in the places. At the other end of the spectrum, one shot over the first 36 holes might mean the difference between making the cut or going home empty-handed! That’s the difference between earning some money for the week or going home with a bill for hotel and travel expenses

How Much Do PGA Tour Caddies Make?

Professional caddies on the PGA Tour receive a base salary of somewhere between $1000-$3000. Usually, they will also receive a percentage of the player’s winnings. The caddie might expect 5% of the winnings if a player finishes outside the top 10 and 7% if the player finishes inside the top 10. If he’s carrying the bag of the winner he could expect to earn around 10% of that check.

So in a typical PGA Tour event with a first prize of around $1 million, the caddie could expect to pick up around $100,000.

The US Masters prize money increased significantly in 2022 and so did the potential remuneration for Masters caddies.

Other Income Sources

in addition to their base salary and percentage, some of the leading caddies top up their income with sponsorships. Many players will have a club contract and as part of the deal will wear a hat with the manufacturer’s logo. You will often see the caddie wearing a similar hat and they may well receive some sponsorship money. Steve Williams famously negotiated a sponsorship deal with Valvoline.

How Much Do Caddies Make At Golf And Country Clubs?

Caddies are not as popular with amateur golfers due to the cost. However, caddies are still available at some of the more prestigious clubs or in certain parts of the world where labor is cheaper.

In St Andrews for example a caddie will cost you £55 ($75) for a round plus any tip.

St Andrews is the only place I’ve ever hired a professional caddie and the prices seem to have increased markedly! There appears to be only one rate for all caddies compared to a few years ago when there were three different levels of caddie. Each with their own different pay rates. The amount you paid was dependent on the experience and skill of the caddie.

To me, £55 seems a hell of a lot for carrying a bag and offering club selection and green reading advice. Especially if the caddie is not especially experienced. Certainly, it would be possible for someone to do two rounds per day so that’s £150 a day before tax (assuming the suggested minimum gratuity). That’s more than I ever earned as a computer programmer with 25 years of experience and a computer science degree behind me! Don’t see that that is great value for money!

Compared with somewhere like Pebble Beach these prices are pretty cheap though! If you want your own caddie it’s going to cost you $145 per round! That’s on top of the near $600 green fee! As a caddie, if you managed to do seven rounds a week that would be $50,000 per annum. Not bad work if you can get it!

How much do golf caddies make - thai caddies
Thai caddies

In Thailand for example, caddies are mandatory but will cost you around $10 plus any gratuity. When playing golf in Thailand it is highly likely that the only thing you’ll do is hit the ball. The caddies will take care of everything else:

  • Place your ball on the tee and pick up the tee after you’ve hit your shot.
  • Mark and clean your ball once you’re on the green and even lineup any marking on the correct putting line.
  • They will retrieve the ball from the hole.
  • They probably won’t let you touch the pain
  • They will drive the cart.

What Do Professional Caddies Do?

If you don’t follow golf too closely then you might be wondering what caddies do to justify earning up to 10% of a golfer’s prize money.

There is an old saying in golf that a caddie should “turn up, keep up and shut up”. A modern tour caddie has to do much more than just carrier a player’s clubs during the tournament.

Some players will expect their caddie to have completed a survey of the course to get a feel for where they should and shouldn’t be going. It’s not unheard of for some caddies to go round the course using a measuring wheel before detailed maps and GPS/rangefinders were available.

The caddie will then accompany the pro during his/her practice rounds and they will plot a strategy for how to play the course. They will try to account for the likely weather conditions and pin positions that will be employed in the tournament.

On tournament days they will arrive before the pro and collect any pin position sheets or other information regarding temporary course conditions.

They will head over to the practice area to help the golfer warm up and work on their short game and putting before the round. Before heading to the first tee they should make sure the player doesn’t have more than 14 clubs in the bag.

Ian Woosnam famously missed out on a great chance at the 2001 Open Championship after taking 15 clubs to the course.

Ian Woosnam – 15 Clubs!

During the round, their responsibilities include:

Keeping the club heads and grips clean. The clubs need to be in tip-top shape so their player can perform at their best.

Calculating yardages. This might seem simple. A good caddie needs to take into account elevation changes, direction and strength of the wind and the type of lie that the golfer faces.

Club selection. Once the caddie has worked out the yardage they have to recommend the club to the player based on the experience of how far the player hits each club.

Looking after the course. Caddies will repair divots made by their player and also rake bunkers. In major championships, there is often a specific bunker raker following each group so they get to take a week off from having to rake the bunkers! The players tend to take care of their own pitch marks.

Tending the pin. Although rule changes in the last couple of years mean it is now possible to putt with the pin in many professionals still prefer to have the flag out. It’s the caddie’s job to attend to the pin and make sure they don’t damage the hole in the process. Amateurs would do well to take note of the way professional caddies attend the pin to try and avoid causing too much wear and tear near the hole.

Watching the ball. Probably, not as important for a professional caddie given there are usually plenty of spectators around. The player will expect them to know where their ball is.

Not getting in the way. They need to observe the same etiquette as other golfers would while players are hitting. So they should be standing out of the way and not making any noise that might put off their player or a fellow competitor.

Keeping the clubs and players dry. If it starts to rain then this is where a caddie can become invaluable. It’s their job to keep the clubs as dry as possible and also try to prevent their player from becoming soaked as well. A good caddie will be ready with numerous dry towels and gloves when they know that inclement weather is on the cards.

The very best caddies will also be amateur sports psychologists. Knowing what to say and when to say it, is what separates great caddies from merely good caddies.

Famous Professional Caddies

The level of media coverage afforded to most professional sports means that modern caddies are almost as famous as the players.

Steve Williams

Most notably caddied for Tiger Woods for 12 years. During that period Steve Williams often earned more money than the highest-paid sportsman in his native New Zealand. Since parting ways with Woods Williams has been on the back of fellow Antipodean Adam Scott. The Australian gives some credit to Williams for his Masters win due to his steely, tenacious nature.

It’s been calculated that Williams received approximately $9-$12 million whilst working for Woods alone.

Jimmy Johnson

A former tour pro himself, Jimmy has garnered a reputation as a top bagman on the PGA Tour. His recent turn as a caddie for Justin Thomas has seen him load up a wheelbarrow full of cash as Thomas ascended the heights of the world rankings.

Austin Johnson

Brother of Dustin Johnson and a decent golfer in his own right. Austin has been on his brother’s bag since 2013 including both of his major championship triumphs. Dustin has earned around $55 million on the PGA Tour since 2013 so even if Austin was only picking up 5% that’s $2.75 million or more than $300,000 a year.

Fanny Sunneson

The Swede has worked for many top players including Sir Nick Faldo and Henrik Stenson. Compared with the riches on offer at the moment her peak years were mainly with Faldo in the 90s when prize funds weren’t at the same level.

Joe LaCava

Probably most famous for caddying for Woods and Fred Couples. LaCava has also carried the bags of Davis Love III, Justin Leonard and Dustin Johnson. A caddie respected by his peers, players and fans he has recently been inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame after a career spanning more than 30 years.

How Much Do Golf Caddies Make: Conclusion

If you happen to be working for one of the top players in the world and they happened to have a good season then you could make $1 million for your efforts. On the flip side if you’re looping for a guy who missed loads of cuts then you might be getting by on only your base salary of $1000 per week. This doesn’t stretch so far when you have to take into account travel and accommodation costs. Plus you aren’t going to work every week as your player will have some time off.

While being a caddie might seem a great way to earn some easy cash only a minuscule percentage of caddies make a very good living.

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