Caddies – A Joy or Otherwise?

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.

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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.

Enjoy,

Golfnutter.

About golfnutter

Born in Wellington, New Zealand over 60 years ago. Introduced to golf - Thailand style - in 2004 and never recovered. I believe Thailand, Pattaya particularly, offers a unique and wonderful golfing experience for all golfers, whatever their handicap. If I can help embellish that experience, I will.
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8 Responses to Caddies – A Joy or Otherwise?

  1. John says:

    My first year of gofing in Thailand I found the caddies younger and more willing to interact and have fun with the golfers . Over the past 4 years I have noticed a dramatic change in the caddies being older and less willing to kibbitz and have a few laughs . I always take a cart , due to medical reasons , but am usually in a group of golfers walking and it has become a major hindrance waiting for the slow moving caddies to keep up . I often see caddies 50 to 60 yards behind their golfer . A golfer who is usually of retirement age so it’s not like they have to keep up with a youngster .
    Of course being in a cart I am not plagued by a turtle caddie but I do find myself waiting at my ball sitting in a cart with a caddie who can’t carry on the most simple conversation . I am a guest in the Kingdom but they are working at a job that requires them to service foreigners and they should make some effort to learn English . I know the golf terms , can count and can throw out the Thai phrases you learn on the golf course but that isn’t enough to fill up 4 to 5 hours of having someone sitting next to you staring off into space . Occasionally I still get a lady who makes an effort to communicate and it is a welcome change that makes the day more enjoyable. Unfortunately the more familair occurrence is a caddy who thinks her job is to drive the cart , read the green and pull the ball out of the hole . Well I don’t need to pay someone a healthy days wages to do that . That 500 baht should get me someone who is able to provide some entertainment in the way of non sexual companionship , some encouragement and some assistance .
    Our expectations are not very high for these people . Keep up , hand me my water bottle , don’t wait for me to tell you to pull out the umbrella to block the sun , tell me where the OB is before I hit the ball , where all the hazards are etc. etc.
    Fact is the caddie system in Thailand is a “make work project that drives up the price of golf and provides little to no benefit to golfers in most instances . The caddies seen to have become even more complacent knowing that most of us will still give them the 300 baht tip and we have to pay the caddy fee so there money is pretty much guaranteed just for showing up.
    Some courses claim to want caddy feed back . Well designate a few days as “caddy optional ” and I am sure you would get your answer .
    I greet the caddies with sawadhee kap , give the 50 baht for water , I don’t grab their asses , I know the Thai golfing terms and get a big smile and wave goodby at the end of the round but then why wouldn’t I . She’s had an easy day of rifding in a cart and doing very little for a good day’s pay .
    I basically view the caddy tip and fee as a mandatory charitable donation .
    Rant over (lol)

    • golfnutter says:

      Hello John,

      “Of course being in a cart I am not plagued by a turtle caddie but I do find myself waiting at my ball sitting in a cart with a caddie who can’t carry on the most simple conversation.” If this and other comments accurately reflect your attitude towards Thai caddies, then like those same caddies, I too would struggle to sit in your cart and converse with you, on any matter.

      As for finding yourself waiting at your ball sitting in your cart whilst caddies struggle to keep up with their walking golfers; try driving your cart back and offering them a lift. It’s done often times between green to tee. This and other little ruses can go a long way towards making the caddie’s lot easier.

      Their appreciation for little considerations shown will become apparent, unless of course they perceive their presence is not really wanted. Indeed, some caddies believe certain Farang view the caddie-fee and tip as nothing more than a “mandatory charitable donation”… and no one likes to have the value of their services equate to nothing more than charity.

      Maybe the real problem is that us Farang are not regarded as the VIPs some of us think we are.

      Cheers,

      Golfnutter

  2. John says:

    ” I too would struggle to sit in your cart and converse with you, on any matter” . With that attitude you wouldn’t be invited to share a cart with me which of course is not allowed at most golf courses here anyway . You ask for opinions then go on a personal attack when you get an opinion you don’t like .

    Employee “ruses” to make “the caddie’s lot easier” . You have to be joking .By Thai standards they are well paid for easy work , There are some ignorant golfers that make their life difficult but then you have to look at the behaviour that prompted the rudeness from the golfer . Caddy’s lagging way behind , giving wrong yardage , giving bad reads , walking on the putting line , moving when the golfer is putting , etc, etc, . . . There is no excuse for being rude to the caddies but then there is no excuse for the caddies to not know the basic skills of their job. Too many are not interested or just too lazy to learn their profession . Courses want to grab the caddy fee but don’t want to spend the time to properly train these caddies .. Then there are people like you that want to make their lot easier .

    Let’s agree to disagree .

    BTW you don’t drive back to pick up caddies walking you pick them up as you move forward . Generally nothing to do with the golfer as he is a passenger and the agreement is made between the caddies.

    • golfnutter says:

      Hello John,

      I had no intention of making comments that attacked you personally, but on reflection that is what I did. My apologies.

      As for the rest, I agree, lets agree to disagree.

      Cheers,

      Golfnutter

  3. John O says:

    golfnutter, just a comment on your interpretation of some of the terminology. “lohm” – down grain, “khung” – up grain”. Based on research I have conducted, as I’d never come across either term in 11 years of golfing in Thailand, both of your interpretations are incorrect. I have spoken with Thai amateur golfers, Thai caddies, 2 high profile professional Thai golfers and their Thai professional tour caddies, my Thai partner ( who is also a golfer) and they ALL say your interpretations are incorrect. According to them “lohm” means wind and has nothing to do with grain. They also say the correct terminology for up grain is “lng med” and down grain is “khaw”. “khung” means uphill not up grain and down hill is “long”. My caddy that I use every week has been caddying for over 40 years, and she used the term “long” for the first time with me on a putt I had this week. Now the thing is. I’m a retired tour caddy and I know how to read greens, including the grain. The putt was slightly down hill but it was a slow down hill putt because it was INTO the grain. I asked both my caddy and my Thai playing partner what the she meant when she told me the putt was “long” and they both said down hill.

    • golfnutter says:

      John,

      Yes, I understand that khung and lohm mean uphill and downhill respectively. The article attempts to provide newbies advice in how to interpret what caddies mean, rather than what they say. Caddies here in Chonburi will say khung when referring to a putting line that is into the grain, whether the putt is uphill or not. Similarly, a putt down-grain maybe referred to as lohm or long. A downhill putt that is into the grain would likely be described as tama-dah – spelt phonetically.

      Golfnutter

      • John O says:

        ok that explanation makes sense. Keep up the good articles. Perhaps one day when you’re in BKK, especially if it’s a Monday we could have a game together at the Thai Army course. Not landscaped as well as the courses the tourists and golf societies play on, but in 11 years of golf in Pattaya, Phuket, Bangkok & Chiang Mai, I’ve never lost as many golf balls in the water as I have on the East course. I used to be an 8 handicap in Australia, but struggle to play to 18 on the Army east course because I lose between 3 – 6 balls per round in the water. 18 holes of golf, 18 holes with water in play every hole, and almost every shot.

        John O

  4. Richard says:

    Thank you for your expertise, such valuable information for those of us golfers such as myself who plan to soon travel there with no such experience at all on the kingdom & it’s culture.

    ⛳️

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