Each country and every golf course I travel to in Asia has its own character, weather patterns and distinctive features. One week we will be located on the coast with sweeping views across the South China Sea and with refreshing winds, the following can be a course nestled into the forest with 95% humidity and no escape from the heat.
Of all the variable factors we encounter each week one thing remains the same are the teams of local caddies at each of the golf courses we play.
Caddies around the world come in all shapes and sizes. In China and Thailand most if not all of the local caddies are women. They are always perfectly presented in their uniforms which are usually brightly coloured and often include a hard hat with a bonnet to protect them from any wayward golf balls.
The women wear gloves to protect their hands and are so very SunSmart that only their face is left uncovered.
Whilst a strong command of English is not common amongst the local Asian caddies they are very attentive and highly skilful. Local caddies will confidently pull the right club for you to hit and give you accurate lines on the greens.
It is important to trust your caddies read on the greens in Asia. While you may see just the slope on the green the local caddies have a great knowledge of how the direction of the grain impacts the speed and amount of break required to hole a putt.
The level of respect shown by the local caddies to the players, guests and tour caddies is very humbling and certainly, unlike anything, we would see in other parts of the world or in New Zealand.
It is not uncommon in Asia to have a guard of honour made by the caddies and they applaud each person walking from the clubhouse to the first tee. These caddies have a great way of making each person coming to the course feel not just welcome but like a VIP.
Last month while working with Paige Stubbs at the India Women’s Open we had the fortune of having a local caddie in our group for two practice rounds. This particular caddie Manish had worked at DLF Golf and Country club for 18 of his 37 years.
Manish spoke perfect English had a great knowledge of his golf course. He was filled with a real sense of pride when we asked for his advice and he was very happy to oblige with the best line from the tee or in telling us where the pins were located in previous Open tournaments there.
I got to know Manish over those two days and learnt that he travels 50kms from his home to the golf course and works 6 days a week, two rounds per day. It is hot and hard conditions for caddies but Manish said he never complains because he has a good job and his wife and daughter benefit greatly from his employment.
Manish made sure that I understood the DLF Country Club was not only the best golf course in India but had the highest expectations of their staff. He informed me of the strict policies for caddies of short hair, clean-shaven, no smoking or swearing and uniform to be kept in perfect order.
Life is tough in India and good employment is no certainty. Manish said he had no issues complying with the strict rules and was proud to have worked there for so long.
What I enjoy most about the local caddies we meet is that while we may not speak each other’s language, the language of golf and happiness are universal.
Recently in China at the Orient Women’s Masters we played in the ProAm event the day prior to the tournament. We were teamed with three Chinese gentlemen who
were sponsors of the event.
Upon introducing myself to these men and their caddies it became evident that none of them spoke English and that Paige and I wouldn’t be doing much chatting with our team.
Both Paige and I make an effort each week to learn a few words relative to golf for the country we are in. Our very limited Mandarin golf jargon became the source of great humour within our group.
Our newly made Chinese friends and their local caddies thought we were hilarious and the more our team laughed the better we played, finishing 4th overall.
If you happen to be playing in Asia and have the option of taking a local caddie please do. At most courses caddies are compulsory and the cost is built into the green fee.
If you have a good time and appreciate the work of your caddie tip them a little extra. The fee you pay for the caddie normally goes directly to the club and the caddie gets only a portion.
These men and women work very hard in tough conditions to make sure you have the best experience at their golf course. A little extra in their pocket can make a massive difference to them and their families in low wage economies like Asia.
Matt Griffiths is a New Zealand based professional caddy. He calls Waihi Beach home, and when not on the bag you’ll find him surfing, spending time with family and planning his next international culinary and golf adventure. Find him on Instagram: @kiwilooper