Caddy Knows Best

Five key tips learned from a PGA Tour caddy

Caddy Knows Best As a golf instructor and PGA Tour caddy, I’ve seen my fair share of golf swings, ranging from the sweet rhythms of the best players in the world to the herky-jerky moves of the frustrated first-timer. Yet despite the huge gap in natural ability between the novice and the professional, I’ve learned it’s not uncommon for the world’s elite players to struggle with a few of the same mechanics and course-management issues that a casual 18-handicapper might face during a round. The swings of touring professionals may be more advanced, but nobody is ever really immune to the occasional swing flaw or mental mistake. We’re all human after all.

What mistakes do top players make, and how do they fix them? Let’s take a quick peek at five of the more common physical and mental mistakes I’ve seen the best and the worst golfers make, as well as a few tricks that may help you become a better player.

#1 Play To Your Strengths
Even though PGA Tour players can easily work the ball in any direction, in most cases, it’s usually best to stick with whatever shot comes naturally—no matter where the pin is on the green. In this case, the pin is at the back left part of the green. If I were caddying for a player who naturally hits a draw, I’d advise him to go right at the pin. If my player hits a fade, I’d most likely advise this player to hit the middle of the green and not try and force a draw. Secondly, I’d do my best to assess the slope of the green from the tee, and since this pin doesn’t favor a fade, I’d let my player know where the best spot on the green is for him to roll in a mid-range putt for birdie.

Lesson Learned: Playing great golf isn’t about shaping shots around the golf course. It’s about shaping shots to your strength.

#2 Don’t Neglect Your Routine
Guys like Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard have notorious pre-shot routines that are often scoffed at by the casual observer who doesn’t realize the pressure these players face during competition. Truth is, every great player has a systematic approach to each shot. A pre-shot routine is critical to ensure a proper setup, which, in turn, dictates how the body is positioned during the swing. Better players know that the setup begins with the clubface and works its way up through the body—not the other way around! Therefore, before you address your body to the ball, set the club square to the target, the shoulders parallel, then the feet either square with the shoulders or slightly open. Many amateurs make the mistake of setting the feet first, which leads to manipulating the clubface angle and shoulder positions.

Lesson Learned: Pre-shot routines are key if you want to be consistent. Develop a routine you’re comfortable with, and remember to set the club first before the body.

5 Caddy Tips From The Tour

By Todd Murphy, Caddie for PGA Tour Player Will MacKenzie
Stock Your Bag. My job is about being prepared. If I don’t have something that Will needs, whether it’s weather-related or not, then it could affect the way he plays. I check his bag daily to make sure a lot of the key items are in there.

I count his clubs (a maximum of 14, obviously), and make sure he has nine to 12 new balls every day, five or six gloves, Sharpies, two towels, a yardage finder, a yardage book, bug spray, sunscreen, two rain suits, an umbrella and a medical kit.

Don’t Be Afraid To Back Away. Because playing conditions change quickly, I don’t have any fear of stopping Will mid-swing. Heck, I’ll tackle him mid-swing if I think we don’t have the right club. A little breeze might not feel like a lot, but the difference between hitting it five feet and 10 feet is significant.

Stay Positive. There’s a lot to keeping Will pumped. I’m constantly talking to him, pulling stuff from movies. You know that movie Cinderella Man—the part where the trainer is keeping Russell Crowe’s spirits up? I’ll get right in Will’s face and say, “Is there any place you’d rather be, Willie Mac?” He’ll just look at me and say, “No way, Murph dog!” You know it’s easy to be inspired when you’re playing great, but when it’s going poorly, you’ve got to keep believing in yourself.

Know Your Yardages. The yardage book is my Bible. I’m very methodical in practice rounds, measuring how far Will’s 3-wood goes, etc. But one of the things people don’t realize is that yardage isn’t just numbers. It involves a lot of other factors like lie, weather conditions and energy. Out here on Tour, we play on firm, fast greens, so it’s important to take that into consideration, too.

Be Your Own “Johnny on the Spot.” I’m constantly Johnny on the spot. If it rains, I keep him dry; if it’s hot, I keep him cool. It’s my job to anticipate what he needs, when he needs it. That’s something everybody should do. Especially if you’ve got your bag on a cart, there’s no excuse for not being as prepared to battle the elements as you can be.


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