We’ve gotten to the point where we need caddies in professional disc golf.
That’s a bold statement Streeter. Why do you think that?
Well let’s start with the fact that disc golf seems to be unique at the moment. Ball golf has caddies and swing coaches at the professional level. As well as their own masseuses, and nutritionists. The swing coach works with a golfer off the course, and a caddy takes care of them while they’re on the course.
In tennis there’s always a coach for a player. You can see them in the stands, “not giving help to their players.” I put that in quotes because often coaches do try to talk to their players during matches even though it’s against the rules. They coach them during practice and that’s the end of it.
Chess players (another solo sport) have teams behind them as they prepare to play matches. With coaches, other chess players to practice against, and people to help them analyze their games afterwards. When they go into the game it’s just them and their opponent, no caddies allowed.
Those 3 sports are all about playing solo, but they have support. Disc golfers for the most part seem to go in alone.
I’ve caddied for someone, and had a caddie. I can say that working with Uriyah Kelley as a caddie was rewarding, fun, and I’d definitely be interested in caddying again. When my friend Alex caddied for me at a tournament it was incredible how different I felt after the round. My body was ready to start another one right away!
Do caddies make you better? Yes. I know it’s a ball golf video I’m showing here. But it is true. If it didn’t work then golfers wouldn’t have caddies. The gentleman in this video who is caddying is Steve Brotherhood. He’s a veteran caddie of 16 years on the PGA tour. In this video (you don’t have to watch it all, I did) he takes a player who shot +4 and brings him to -2.
I made sure to emphasize professional in the first sentence of this blog. I don’t think that this needs to be done for casual rounds, or your local C-Tier. What I mean is that caddying for someone then would be nice, but really not necessary. This should be done for tournaments on the DGPT.
What duties would a caddy do that disc golfers aren’t already doing?
Caddies carrying the bag would reduce a golfer's strain significantly. Think about every time you’re picking your bag up and putting it down. For me that’s 55-60 times per round. At 10 pounds and 60 lifts that’s 600 pounds of workout you’ve done on top of your driving, upshots, and putting. It’s a lot of bending over when your job is to be precise. It’s why most people buy carts, so they don’t have to bend over as frequently. And although we have benches at every hole, not every course does. So it’s a nice spot to sit. We often tell people that disc golf is like hiking with a purpose.
Think of those times where you have a short hike, no extra weight on your back. Compare that to when you have a long hike with water and extra clothes for warmth. Those 10 pound bags get heavy after a couple of miles of hiking. We don’t have those long grassy fairways that ball golfers enjoy. There are lots of courses (especially in New England) that are hilly and rocky.
Coaching a player through a tough stretch. Sometimes we have a bad hole, or a couple of bad holes in a row. Think about what happens when a quarterback throws an interception. They go over and watch on a tablet while a coach speaks into their ear about what happened and how to fix it. Disc golfers right now take a bogey and move onto the next hole where they take another bogey and all of the sudden they’ve given 2-4 strokes to the card. Caddies can be coaches and help you out. My blog about gaining confidence in your game applies here, a caddy will be someone positive for you.
Keeping your discs clean. Some people go their whole lives without washing their disc golf discs. But I think that lots of competitive players will at some point wash them. Ball golf caddies are responsible for keeping grooves clean and grass off the head of the club. In disc golf if there’s dirt stuck to the rim of the disc it will affect the flight. Caddies can also keep your discs dry during a wet round. There’s nothing worse than getting a disc dry and then immediately having water hit your thumb so you have to go dry it again. Caddies with a few towels would help in those wet times.
Help the player with strategy. UDisc has literally changed everything. When I was the score holder for the 2016 USWDGC I wore the apron and held the sign for the lead card.
The gentleman in the orange sweatshirt was Madison Walker's caddie, and Paige Pierce had the gentleman in the orange hat as her caddie. Sara Hokom (not pictured) had a caddie at the event and won. The top 3 players at the event had caddies.
I wouldn’t have to be there anymore to count strokes and hold up the leaderboard because it’s all being done on UDisc! Now caddies can tell you “The person in 3rd just blew up and took a double on 16 so play this for par.”
Back in the day no one knew what other people shot until the end of the round. A caddie can check the scores for you, and do the math on what you need to shoot. Leaving the player to focus on other things
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a player from the chase card sneaks up and beats the lead card. Before UDisc we’d all find that out at the end of the round. Now you know when to run it mathematically.
Take care of the athlete. This seems silly but it’s not. When I caddied for Uriyah his dad instructed me to make sure he drinks water, because he’ll forget. With all the dollars spent on nutritionists by athletes, it would be silly to have them just forget. Now I’m not saying I’d tell Paul McBeth to drink some water. But on a long round I might remind him to apply sunscreen, or that he hasn’t eaten in 2 hours.
Rangefinder duties. I love that Bushnell has sponsored the DGPT and some players this year. And I think that they’re markedly better for using rangefinders. So I don’t want that relationship to end. In golf they aren’t allowed, so caddies do all of the measurements before the tournament and have their book with them. If a caddie can figure out the range, and knows the distance for all the discs, and how their player is throwing today. They’re going to help the player if they’re not sure which disc to use.
All of these things add up. The carrying weight, helping with rangefinding, strategizing, and other general duties of a caddy like cleaning discs.
Will a caddy help enough, what if it’s only a half stroke a round?
At the elite level it really does come down to a stroke or two at the end.
James and Catrina won Worlds by a stroke.
Eagle won by 1 at Portland.
Paige won by 1 at OTB.
Of the last 3 big events there’s been a 1 stroke winner. I’m not saying caddies for sure would have changed the results, but I think they’d make a difference.
Now we come to why we don't have caddies.
Is it because they can’t afford to be paid?
Is it because there aren’t enough good caddies out there?
Is it because this sport already struggles to get volunteers?
Maybe it’s all of these reasons.
Just kidding, it's probably going to be money.
The question will come up. Is it financially worth having a caddy? At the World Championships where the difference between 1st and 2nd was $6,500 for the purse.
Figure that Conrad will also make tens of thousands of dollars and MVP will make more selling their 1x James Conrad stamped discs and with people wanting to buy MVP discs. It may soon be financially responsible for companies to pay for the top 20 players in the world to have a caddie.
Caddying will take trust and time. It’s a relationship and just like any other one we’ve had we’re all a little hesitant at first. Imagine giving your favorite player their fairway driver when they ask what disc and they come up 30’ short. It’s going to happen, but good players and caddies will work through it.
Volunteers at each event are likely to be the catalyst of the caddying boom. Because few people could afford to travel the country with a touring pro. Eventually over time as the prizes, sponsorships, and contracts in disc golf start to increase. I think we’ll see some touring caddies, maybe not this year or next year. But in a few years the top players won’t be grabbing their own bags anymore.
Did I miss the mark with this blog? Do you think that caddies are just part of ball golf’s tradition and not useful in our sport? Or will we see caddies in the future? Not just bag holding and disc cleaning, but rangefinding and assisting the top players in the world as they compete.
Let me know what you think.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397
I think one of the biggest benefits of having a caddy is one you mentioned: players not having to carry their own bag. The wear and tear of hauling all the discs can add up over a stressful weekend so keeping players shoulders and backs rested would be huge. Also, as players become more comfortable and familiar with rangefinders, that’ll be a huge boost to the game of top-level players.