Golfer’s man Friday has to reinvent himself to hold on to the turf

Tags: Opinion
It is a common sight to see the poor fellow having to bear the brunt of an errant putt stroked by a member. But he has learnt to stifle the smirk that comes from the belief that he would do a much better job with the clubs in hand than the person he is carrying the bag for. That, in essence, is the daily trial of a caddy in different golf courses around the world.

But in the times we are living in, with so much advances on all fronts, the caddy breed is fading away too quickly for comfort. Before the age of designer courses and the monopoly of golf carts on course, the caddy was the essential handy man. The task of a caddy is never limited to just carrying the bag. He becomes the tutor, the encouraging partner, and more often than not, the ideal punching bag.

The longer you have the same caddy on your bag, the closer you get to finding the complete balance in the game. My caddy at the Royal Calcutta has been with me for many years and also has now taken on the onus of being with me. Long gone are the days when they were looked as men required to do the running around for your errands. They are every bit as essential to the golf game as any other aspect on the course.

While those fortunate enough to be playing the courses live in an ideal world, the truth is that a working day for most of the caddies can often start at 4:30 in the morning at some places and can go on till late in the evening. Unfortunately, much like in other fields, the advent of technology has also resulted in the diminishing requirement for caddies. Golf clubs have cut down on the number of caddies they keep on their permanent roll.

The number of caddies employed on a full-time basis is a figure that committees have to grapple with in places where the courses tend to be away from the heart of the city. The pattern of players coming to the course is such that there might be absolutely no action during the weekdays while it becomes an epicentre of activity once the weekend dawns upon everyone.

So, do you end up hiring people who are not likely to be productive on the weekdays, or limit that number and absorb a lot of people as freelancers who come to your rescue on the weekends? Increasingly, more and more courses are choosing the latter option. The move might have fiscal prudence, but does make it a little unsettling for the caddy who does not know whether he will get any work in the coming week.

The caddies themselves are an enterprising lot, knowing how to make best use of their time. They have realised the reality that the requirement for their breed will continue to come down and they will have to reinvent themselves. A lot of them develop an in-depth understanding of the turf and get involved with maintenance work at the course.

There are, of course, those who dabble with the sport itself, put in long hours after the members are gone and develop an art, which gives them a viable option to take care of themselves. It would be interesting to see the association of caddies with courses in close to twenty years from now because I am certain you will be seeing dramatic changes in the landscape, and I am afraid it would not be favourable change for the caddies.

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