NCG's Golf Glossary: Why do golfers have a caddie?

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Don't know your dormies from your doglegs? NCG's Golf Glossary is here to help

Here at NCG we pride ourselves on being the publication for the everyday player, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to delve into the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.

Sometimes the most obvious terms have the most interesting story, so you might find yourself an interesting conversation starter…

Why do golfers have a caddie?

’A person hired to carry a player’s clubs, find the ball, etc.’

That’s about as dry a definition as you can get for a caddie.

Dave Musgrove put it another way. The caddie to Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle when they won the Open, he said: “Show up, keep up and shut up.”

But since then the role has evolved, to the point where a caddie must be an expert on the course, the weather, and their player’s game. Martin Rowley, European Caddies’ Association secretary, put it this way: “You’ve got to tell your player about the negatives of playing such and such a shot but not so much that you’re putting doubts in his mind. The best caddies do it brilliantly.”

While we’re at it, what is the correct spelling? Is it caddie or caddy?

Traditional Scottish usage has it as caddie, and that remains the preferred form in British and American golf writing, including the R&A and USGA’s own publication. However, caddy is also a correct Scottish form and continues to be used.

What are the origins?

The word derives from the French words ’le cadet’, meaning ’the boy’.

It became used to mean ’errand boy’ and this sense of an object used to aid carrying or storage became extended to include things like a luggage caddy or a tea caddie.

Golf assistants likely became known as caddies during the 1600s, when military cadets were used to carry the clubs for French royalty.

In Scotland, they tell a slightly different tale.

Myth has it that Mary Queen of Scots introduced the phrase ‘caddie’, but this is unlikely as she left the country in 1568 and caddie doesn’t come into use in Scotland until the 18th Century. Rather, during that period in Scotland, odd-job men and messengers formed themselves into mock guilds, complete with rules and captains.

Caddie came to be applied to any of these men who could be hired for odd jobs – including those hired to carry the bags of gentlemen golfers.

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