Not the professional toters that lug those huge, garish, logo covered bags of the world’s tour players on TV, but the loopers who once formed an integral part of weekly club golf.
Gone are the days when the double-digit handicap member would arrive at the club for an appointed Saturday tee time and have available the services of a caddie.
Mostly, their ranks were made up of junior members who, in return for a small fee, the occasional tip and access to the course at no charge, spent their Saturdays in the company of adults learning lessons about the game and life.
In the modern era, the motorised golf cart has replaced the caddie at many facilities and it has been, in almost every imaginable way, to the detriment of the game.
Firstly, golf is a walking game. At every level, golf is more enjoyable, and more rewarding, when played under one’s own steam.
Socially, and on the scorecard, walking is a winner and walking with a caddie is demonstrably better.
But perhaps more important for a game that is struggling to remain relevant and attract juniors is the lost golfers of the future.
Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson each started their golf lives as caddies, not because they were rich country club types but because they needed the income.
Blossoming from that initial financial need? Two of the greatest careers the game has ever known.
Caddies remain ever-present at all levels of the professional game.
In Australia, two of golf’s best known names were also introduced to the game not through any initial interest in the sport but for the monetary reward available.
1983 Australian Open champion and five-time European Senior Tour winner Peter Fowler and 1979 Australian Amateur winner and noted columnist and golf course architect Mike Clayton each started their golf lives as caddies.
Fowler toted bags at Pennant Hills Golf Club in Sydney on his way to forming a lifelong love of the game while for Clayton, having the Eastern Golf Club's old Doncaster site just over the back fence as a youngster in Melbourne was life-changing.
Many club golfers likely feel their game isn’t good enough to warrant the use of a caddie but nothing could be further from the truth.
For those of us who play recreationally, the game is supposed to be about fun and playing golf with a caddie is fun.
If you ever venture to the UK for a golf odyssey (a must for anyone who loves the game, by the way), one of the highlights at places like St Andrews and Carnoustie is the availability of local caddies.
To play these courses is a joy. To play them with a caddie is heaven.
On the flip side, caddieing is not only good for the golfer but the caddie, too. Caddieing is legitimate work and, for young people in particular, there are valuable lessons to be learned from that.
But it also affords the opportunity, again more especially for the young, to meet and mingle with all sorts of different people from a variety of walks of life.
It’s unlikely we’ll ever see the return of the caddie at the local golf club and that’s a shame.
It is a huge loss to a game that can ill afford it.
PETER FOWLER REFLECTS ON A LIFE IN GOLF:
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