Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor:
I am an American member of the R&A and am a life-long golf enthusiast. I have a deep respect for the history of the game that has brought me to St. Andrews over a period of 25 years. I have played the Old Course many times and my wife and I have been playing the Old course four rounds each July for six straight years. We always take a caddie each. I am a former senior staff member of the USGA and am a contributing editor to Golf Digest magazine in the USA. Also, I caddied as a boy and I even caddied once for a US PGA Tour player at a Tour event 30 years ago just for the experience.
I have been reading the recent articles in your newspaper about the St. Andrews caddies and I would like to comment with my observations.
My greatest golfing experience and to many other foreign golfers, as well, is to play the Old Course. There is really nothing quite like this experience in the world. A big part of the experience is to have a seasoned Scottish caddie. A local caddie that knows the course well helps a player significantly in scoring. He also helps immensely in the enjoyment of the round. Unfortunately, it is becoming much harder to find one. I think that it is a great disappointment to be assigned a foreign caddie who doesn’t know the course well, doesn’t speak much English and certainly doesn’t have the great Scottish brogue. Instead, today the odds are in favor of getting either a foreign caddie, or a trainee who doesn’t have enough experience to keep track of the balls, or to avoid onward approaching golfers, or to give you a good club selection and a true read of the putts.
Some of the greatest Scottish caddies, such as Tip Anderson and John Sorley, have passed away and now there seems to be very few great Scottish caddies left. You can find them in Dave Hutchinson, Bruce Sorley, Jimmy Reid, Willie Stewart, John Cochran, Nick Finley and Jim Bowman. Of the more than 200 Links caddies I think that there are less than 20 highly-experienced Scottish caddies—The ones you can truly trust on club selections and putts. A recent foreign trainee said that he simply had taken a one-week course and needed only 30 rounds to become a regular caddie. It takes years to learn the Old Course and it used to take that long at St. Andrews to be considered experienced. Years ago, the Scottish caddies who spent their careers working in St. Andrews even received a small pension when they retired. Not any longer.
Where have the Scottish caddies gone? Certainly, you can find that some have moved to Kingsbarns and St. Andrews Bay where they are treated especially well, as they should be. My impression of caddie treatment at the St. Andrews Links is not positive. The recent proposition of making them pay a five-pound tax to the Caddie master is an aggravation, but worse yet, there seems to be little priority in giving them a morning and afternoon round. Instead, it seems like young trainees get the double rounds and it requires up to a sixteen hour day, including waiting, to be assured of getting the extra loop. I have no standing at the Links, other than the privilege of playing the great Old Course, but if I had, I certainly would be giving assignment priority to the Scottish caddies who have ten or more years of experience. Furthermore, I would make the locals exempt from paying the five pound tax –After all, it is a privilege for players to have a Scottish caddie on our bag at the Old Course.
San Diego, California