(June 4, 2020) - Playing golf with a caddie is one of the game’s great traditions, and here in the Met Area we are lucky that caddieing and caddie programs have remained such an integral part of many clubs. During the heart of a typical golf season, more than 7,500 caddies provide service and add to the golf experience at nearly 200 Met Area clubs. For some older caddies, the money they earn is essential family income and for younger caddies, critical savings for a college education.
As clubs are allowed to gradually phase back their golf operations, we know club leaders are facing challenges and difficult choices, many of them for the first time. These tests come at a time when golf is expected to see a dramatic increase in walking and a focus on health and wellness. Restoring caddie programs remains a priority and we hope you will start to consider ways that caddieing can return in a safe and responsible way.
The MGA Foundation has prepared an outline of common-sense approaches that clubs can begin to think about. Every club is different, and the outline is provided simply as a resource for your consideration. Please feel free to contact the MGA office with questions or comments, or to share practices at your club that have been successful.
As of June 4, the use of forecaddies only is permitted in New Jersey and Connecticut. Caddies, working in their full traditional capacity, are not permitted in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. However, we expect this to change as government officials take steps to allow the phased reopening of businesses and allow more normal club golf operations. To be sure that your club is ready for this eventuality, please consider the following in your planning – it is not too early to start now.
As with everything that has to do with the COVID-19 virus, all decisions should be based on health and safety considerations for players, employees, and caddies. Clubs are urged to continuously check with state, county, and local authorities for the latest regulations, all of which should be carefully followed. Experience over the last several weeks makes it clear that guidelines can change on almost a daily basis.
- Better caddies mean better golf rounds. The MGA continues to provide complimentary online education to help all caddies learn new procedures and review best practices.
- As with all independent contractors doing work at the club, caddies should provide the club with their full contact information and coordinate visits to the club with the appropriate staff member. This will ensure that all club health and safety protocols are being followed.
- All caddie/member scheduling should be done in advance and coordinated with the Caddie Manger (or golf staff).
- Before accepting an assignment, caddies should confirm that they do not have any symptoms of the virus and/or that they are in good health.
- Caddies should arrive no more than 10 to 15 minutes before their assigned time. If they do arrive early, they should remain in the parking lot until the appropriate time.
- Caddies should come to the club with a mask or be provided with a mask (and/or gloves) to be worn at all times while on club property.
- Until guidelines allow or as noted below, players should handle their own equipment (golf bags, clubs, balls, tees, scorecard, etc.). Caddies should not be asked to clean golf balls and/or golf clubs.
- Until guidelines allow, bunker rakes should not be placed in bunkers but a caddie(s) in each of the roles listed below can be given a rake for use during the round. Rakes should be sanitized before and after the round and only the caddie given the rake should handle it during the round.
- No matter what role the caddie is playing, they should be encouraged to forecaddie as much as possible to limit the number of people on tees and greens.
- Players and caddies should not touch the flagstick at any time and players should retrieve their own golf balls from the hole.
- If possible, caddies should not be paid in cash or by club cash advance. ClubUp, a caddie management platform, provides the opportunity for electronic payment.
- Caddies should leave the club as soon as their round is finished.
- Other than preforming their duties as outlined below, caddies should not be asked to or perform any other tasks while on club grounds.
Expanded golf operations will happen in phases and until full operations are allowed, consider expanding the role caddies can play in phases as well. The points listed below are ordered in a way that might make the most sense: forecaddieing, followed by caddies driving carts or using pull carts, and then traditional caddieing where caddies carry the bag.
Social distancing should be practiced by caddies, club employees and players at all times while on club property and by all players and caddies in a group throughout the round, no matter what role the caddie is playing.
- Consider allowing forecaddies for any combination of golfers carrying their own bags, using pull carts or riding in golf carts while following social distancing rules. Forecaddies can be given a bunker rake and the number of caddies in each group can be coordinated by the Caddie Manager.
- Caddies should not be required to carry putters.
Use of Pull carts:
- If pull carts are allowed and available, caddies can pull a cart for an individual player following social distancing guidelines outlined below for caddies carrying bags. To minimize contact between the caddie and the bag/clubs the caddie should only touch the pull cart handle.
- Pull carts whether owned by the club or member should be thoroughly sanitized before and after every round.
Use of Golf Carts:
- Consider allowing caddies to drive golf carts for an individual player or players who are walking. Some clubs are even using carts designed or configured to hold up to four golf bags. The same social distancing rules apply especially when the cart is carrying multiple bags.
- Golf carts should be sanitized before and after every round. (All the major golf cart companies provide guidance on the best ways to sanitize their carts.)
- If carts are used by single players, (with or without a caddie) cart capacity will be an issue for some clubs and care should be taken not to reuse carts until they have been thoroughly sanitized. The same can be done with golf bags, should a caddie have carried a bag.
- Note: clubs that do not allow golf carts should check with ADA rules.
Traditional Caddieing – Carrying a Bag(s):
- Caddies carrying a bag(s) - to ensure social distancing caddies should only carry the bag(s) and avoid handing the player any clubs. To accomplish this: the caddie should place the bag on the teeing ground or at the ball and step at least 6 feet away while the player selects a club and returns it to the bag. This procedure is followed until the green is reached.
- Clubs can consider starting with allowing caddies to carry only one bag (this could be a great way to get more young caddies engaged).
This outline has been prepared for your club’s consideration. Clubs should consult with their legal counsel before adopting any polices relating to COVID-19 or regarding compliance with government regulations. However, we do hope all club leaders will make every effort to keep caddies, especially high school and college age caddies who are so important to the game’s future, engaged in an appropriate and safe manner as we move forward.