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Taking the intimidation factor out of playing with a caddie

Playing a round with a skilled caddie can be one of the more enjoyable experiences in golf. Unfortunately, many golfers today have rarely had this opportunity, and when it arises, the prospect can sometimes evoke a sense of intimidation. What it all boils down to, according to Sean Benz, caddie master of The Grand Golf Club at Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego,is to simply relax and enjoy the experience.

To help put players at ease,  Benz has answered a few of the more common questions or concerns:

Caddies make me nervous. What can I do about that?

The best approach is to simply introduce yourself to the caddie on the first tee box and give the caddie a brief rundown on your game – “I’m a 15 handicap and I don’t play with a caddie very often.” This will help set up the caddie with a good reference of what to expect, enabling the caddie to adjust to your playing level and concerns. Another good thing to remember is the caddie is nervous too. He or she wants to do the best job possible. Providing some basic information at the start will help the caddie do so.

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Can a caddie really save me strokes?

The caddies should know the greens better than anyone else, and they absolutely can save you strokes. Every good caddie knows this is where they make their money. I train my caddies to tell their players, “I am here to help you read the greens. If you would like my assistance, just ask.” This way players can read their own greens if they prefer or get help from the caddie when they feel they need it.

Should I really let my caddie tell me which club to hit?

The caddie will know the golf course better than almost anyone. The caddie will adjust his or her club suggestion by taking into account all the factors of a shot – wind, elevation change, distance, etc. I train my caddies to give players the actual distance to the pin and then the playing distance. You can help in this process by telling your caddie how far you typically hit a certain club. He or she can adjust from there. The more information you give your caddie, the better your experience will likely be.

What if I disagree with my caddie?

Disagreeing with your caddie’s advice is likely to happen at least once a round. A good thing for the player in this situation to say is, “I’m going to go with my instincts here.” The caddie shouldn’t get upset and will respect the decision, knowing players need to determine what to do on their own from time to time.

If I’m struggling, can I ask my caddie for swing tips or playing advice?

I wouldn’t go down the road of asking my caddie for instruction. Caddies are there to guide you around the course, not to help you fix your slice. That is where professional instructors come into play. Things can go downhill pretty quickly trying to fix your swing during a round. All caddies have a couple of simple swing fixes in their back pocket, but they should offer no more than that.

When, how and how much do I tip my caddie?

Before your round simply ask the caddie master or the golf shop attendant about the tipping procedure. Either will be able to tell you what the customary tip is for caddies at their club. Tips on the 18th green are always appreciated, or you can tip your caddie in the staging area after the round once he or she has finished cleaning your clubs.

What it all boils down to, according to Benz, is to simply relax and enjoy the experience. He said all caddies want to do a great job for their players. They’re on your side. Let them guide you.

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