For a casual golfer, a caddie may just be someone who carries your clubs and perhaps offers a tip or two about the course, for which he earns a tip. At the professional level, a caddie is typically much more. A caddie is often a valued member of a professional player’s team, one who arrives at a tournament before the player to familiarize himself with the course and map its terrain into a yardage book. A successful pro golfer's caddie will be rewarded with a salary plus a percentage of the golfers’ winnings.
A caddie for a professional golfer typically earns 5 percent to 10 percent of the players’ winnings, on top of any salary he’s paid. Former PGA Tour caddie Alfred “Rabbit” Dyer says that caddies may earn salaries of $2,000 per week, while “Forbes” magazine reports that PGA Tour caddies typically receive about $1,000 each week. The magazine said in a 2007 article that Steve Williams, then caddying for Tiger Woods, earned $1.27 million in 2006.
The percentage of the player’s winnings paid to the caddie may depend on how well the golfer plays. According to a 2003 article in the “Sydney Morning Herald,” the caddie’s standard cut at that time was 10 percent if the player won a PGA Tour event, 8 percent if the player finished in second through 10th place, and about 6 percent for any other finish. In a 2007 article, “Forbes” put the percentages as 10 percent for a victory, 7 percent for a top 10 finish other than a victory, and 5 percent if the golfer finished 11th or lower.
Players who don’t make the cut in a tournament -- roughly half the field -- don’t receive any winnings, so there’s nothing to split with the caddie.
Caddies must cover their own travel expenses, Dennis Cone -- who in 2007 was president of the Professional Caddies Association -- told “Forbes” at the time. Cone estimated that 25 percent of a typical caddie’s pay went to travel and lodging expenses, although the “Morning Herald” stated that some caddies fly with their players on private jets and stay with the players in rented houses.
In addition to carrying clubs, caddies for professional golfers must know how far a player is from the green from any position on a course. Caddies frequently advise players on which club to play or on how a putt will break. Additionally, the “Morning Herald” explained that a caddie may be “part coach, part psychologist” for a tour player.