To those new to golf in Thailand, and certain others including the type portrayed in last week’s column, be aware that much of your golfing day’s enjoyment can stem from how well you get on with your caddie. That’s not saying you need to go out of your way, far from it. Rather, there are certain actions that common courtesy suggests you should observe, and others that need be avoided – if you want to have a happy day.
Caddies – a joy or not? It’s up to you.
First up, realise what it is that brings the two of you together. You are participating in a voluntary recreational pursuit. She/he is caddying because it provides for their livelihood. Whatever she earns is fundamental to the welfare of her family. Whatever the day costs you is, generally speaking, neither here nor there.
Part of her wages will be a percentage of the caddie-fee you paid when settling your green-fee. A greater part will be the tip received from you at the end of the round. Your tip should be the same as that recommended by the society you are playing with – perhaps 300 baht. Other circumstances may warrant paying more, like an outstanding attitude, “twos” or winning your match. Be aware, regulars, like expats on fixed incomes, will not thank you for over-tipping.
If you limit your expectations of caddying to pulling your bag, fetching your clubs, tracking your ball through the air and providing the most basic of information, you are well on the way to avoiding disappointment. TIT – treat anything else as a bonus.
Remember, you are a guest in the Kingdom. This means she doesn’t have a language problem – you do. If her English is non-existent, use other caddies to help out but never at the cost of putting her down. Being the cause of a caddie losing face will not enhance your day.
You will assist yourself and your caddie by knowing the following:
- How to record the score, including par, stableford and medal competitions.
- How to gauge course distances and how far you hit each club.
- Basics of the Rules of Golf, your societies’ rules and local course rules.
- Key Thai words for the putting green: “sai” – left, “qua” – right, “lohm” – down grain, “khung” – up grain, “mak mak” – a great deal.
Some general tips:
- When emerging from the clubhouse and finding your golf-bag, greet her (or him) with a smile and the words “Sawadee khrup” or “Sawadee ka” if you’re female. Also inform her of your teeing order, ie. playing group number.
- Treating them with respect is a good start. Use “khrup” often. It’s an easy word to say. It means thank you but implies a lot more. It says you are respectful. It can also give your caddie face amongst her peers. Attach it on the end of a “yes” or “no” answer, or on to a request for a club. “Lek-ha, khrup,” or “five-iron, khrup,” doesn’t take much and may make her day more enjoyable, along with her company.
- Most drink stops provide liquid refreshment for caddies, free. When arriving at a drink stop you can offer them a drink, but many would prefer the money. Offer them either and let them choose. Personally, I make this offer once, at the first drink stop, by offering 50 baht and saying, “up to you.” This is not deducted from the tip paid at the end of the round.
- Thais are not comfortable with physical contact in public, especially with strangers. Hugging a caddie after a good shot is a no no. A high five, maybe. But a simple smile and nod of the head is well received, especially after sinking a putt that followed her recommended line.
- Many Thais are naturally shy. Ever noticed a Thai appear to laugh or snigger when something unfortunate befalls an individual? Maybe an accident where a Farang falls over and hurts themselves? They are “laughing” because they are embarrassed for you. They feel for your situation, and are actually empathising. Remember this the next time something bad befalls you or your golf, and your caddie appears to laugh.
- Never do or say anything that could cause your caddie to lose face in front of her peers. Nothing you could do would leave her feeling worse about herself, and you. Remember, she is there to pull your bag and give you advice if she thinks you want it. Whether you take that advice on-board is entirely up to you. The outcome is also your responsibility. No caddie ever made a poor club selection or played a bad shot, only golfers can do that!
The caddie experience is an integral part of Thai golf. Whether your experience is positive or otherwise is largely up to you.