Golfnutter: Caddies breaching the Rules of Golf

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Most of us are aware the Rules of Golf make very clear that we are responsible for the actions of our caddies.  Any rules infringement they incur is our infringement.  Any penalty they sustain is our penalty.  This of course only applies to those who partake in competition golf.  Indeed, if you play a form of golf where the Rules do not apply, then read no further.  But if you are a golfer involved in competition golf in Thailand, as are the great majority, there is no escape from caddie indiscretions – or is there?

Consider any of the following events which are common occurrences when golfing in Thailand:

  • Your caddie uses the flag stick, her foot, or any other implement to touch the putting surface to indicate your line of putt.
  • Your caddie taps down a pitch-mark on the apron, positioned between your ball and the putting surface.  What would have been a chip can now be putted.
  • Your caddie repairs scuff marks on your line of putt.
  • Your caddie marks your ball on the green by placing the marker immediately on the side of your ball, because that is where she is standing.  When the ball is replaced, it is placed directly in front of the marker.
  • Your caddie, after replacing your ball, removes the marker and immediately smooths down the raised spike directly behind your ball – the one caused by removing the marker.
  • Your caddie constantly seeks advice from other caddies, especially on line of putt.  How do you know this happens when you don’t speak Thai?  You don’t, but your playing partner does, and he’s marking your card.
  • Your caddie has just finished caddying for Thais or Koreans who commonly concede gimmies.  She mistakenly picks up your 3-inch putt without marking it and walks off.  This can be excused in match play, but not when playing stroke.

And the list goes on, or it could do.  All involve a one or two shot penalty or perhaps a DQ, yet none of the situations outlined above are covered by any local rule, at least not one in print.  As a result you will likely return a scorecard that makes no allowance for such indiscretions – the penalty for signing a card that shows a better score than it should is DQ!

They can make or break your day.They can make or break your day.

Not one of the major golfing groups in Pattaya cover this situation in their Local Rules, for reasons of not wanting to be accused of agreeing to waiver the Rules of Golf – a heinous crime indeed.  Make no mistake, if you draw a marker from hell, these and related instances could ruin your day’s golf, through no fault of your own.

Yet golf in Thailand is different, very different:

  • It is compulsory to hire the services of a caddie when playing golf in Thailand.
  • The golfer, more often than not, doesn’t or can’t choose his/her caddie.
  • Very few caddies understand the Rules of Golf.
  • Few caddies speak or understand English.
  • Course presentation is often at odds with R&A/USGA guidelines, particularly the use of GUR markings.

Leaving aside the last issue, which can be caddie related (don’t believe her when she says “free drop”), the vast majority of this vexing issue would be resolved through either making the hiring of caddies non-mandatory, or through providing adequate training.  The latter would require caddies learning the Rules of Golf – fat chance.

A caddie is guided by unwritten rules – particularly the self-serving one where the more their golfer feels good, the more their tip.  Thus they err in their golfer’s favour.  This fundamental caddie logic encourages acts contrary to equity and does nothing to promote integrity towards the rest of the field of which the golfer is a part.

So, how to promote fairness yet retain the elements required for competitive golf?

Most mature societies will have an unwritten convention that allows for genuine caddie indiscretion.  Such convention may accept one mistake per event as non-penal, meaning, for example, she may touch your line of putt once, but not a second time.  The challenge for societies is to make this convention known amongst all its players, including their recent arrivals.  As previously stated, it won’t likely be found in written form.

The fact that the hiring of caddies is compulsory in Thailand should mean that golf courses provide caddies that are fit for purpose.  But for reasons that have escaped me for years, course management have shown little or no enthusiasm in bringing their caddies up to speed.  In short, caddies, on average, have minimal understanding of the Rules of Golf, such that their actions are constantly putting their golfers at risk of penalty.  Given the hiring of caddies is compulsory, I find this totally unacceptable.  The same can be said for paying the same caddie fee for a five-year caddie as one who has caddied for all of five days.  C’mon!

Courses often promote their caddies through their smiles – LOS – but give me attitude and knowledge of the Rules above those smiles anytime.  Competent caddies, like good greens, can be the decisive factor in Farang golf societies determining where they play their golf.

Now, here is a genuine offer to every golf course within one hour’s drive of Pattaya: the services of a stage-2 R&A qualified referee to provide on-site training for caddies serving Farang who play competitive golf; up to three sessions per course – free of charge.  Simply let me know via the Pattaya Mail.

This is a genuine offer.  It will be interesting to note the uptake.  Let’s make Pattaya golf different from the rest!

Golfnutter