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Red light, green light: My solution for dealing with golf bag boys

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
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Do I really want to spend $3-$5 to clean these golf clubs after a round? (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)

There was a popular themed social event during my college days, referred to as a "Traffic Light Party." Here was the deal: come to the party wearing red if you were deep into a relationship, yellow if you were thinking of leaving the poor sap, and green if you were single and desperate for attention.

The appeal of this was obvious. The last thing you want is spend the majority of a social event canoodling with a cute co-ed, only to discover her boyfriend is the school's starting middle linebacker, and what began as innocent flirting sends you home lonely with a shattered rib cage.

Talk about a genius idea formulated by our country's bright young minds. An adaptation of this widely successful system should be applied to how bag boys service your golf clubs after a round at upscale golf courses.

Sometimes I appreciate the attention. Other times, I'd rather take a rain check.

Like last week for example. I had six straight days of 36-hole rounds and most were at clubs that staffed bag attendants. After failing to steer clear of these persistent little buggers at most bag drops, I think I'm out about $60 in tipping.

A $2 here, a $5 there, that cash adds up for a twenty-something like myself. It could have paid for more tangible products: a tank of gas…my cable bill…lots of ring tones!

Instead, I'm repeatedly getting nickel-and-dimed for a service I half-heartedly want. Everything in my bag is about a decade old (the rotten banana in one of my pockets included). I have enough scratches and dents on them, a simple towel wipe down has the same effect as taking a Swiffer to a dumpster.

And frankly, I get a bit insulted when these kids think I'm too crippled to lift a dinky little golf bag into my trunk. I'm usually just a couple years older than these guys and half the time I can't make it out of the parking lot without some old codger whistling me over to the trunk of his Cadillac.

The next time a bag boy tries to put my bag in the trunk, I'll only let him if he beats me in an arm wrestling match.

But the last thing you want to do is stiff the poor kids. They rely on saps like us for their weekend beer money. I don't want to put them out of business. In fact, I was in their shoes at a country club during high school for two summers. It was a great gig. Small talk a little with some members and give their clubs a once over and you go home every night with cold hard cash.

So I understand it's their job and it's all part of the upscale golf culture, but I don't like being guilted into tipping either. Our society has gone overboard with gratuity. People tip when they buy their morning coffee now. How did this happen?

And the golfer/bag boy exchange gets downright uncomfortable when you don't have small change. When this happens, I try and think up little alibis on the spot to keep my $20, but you can only pretend to become violently ill and run hunched over into the clubhouse until the kid gives up on you so many times.

So here's what our "traffic light" signals for the bag boys could be:
1.) Leave the head covers off your metals if you want service.
2) If you're a bit impartial about the whole ordeal, stop your cart by the bag drop and fuddle with your keys for a few minutes.

3.) Lastly, if you burn rubber past the bag drop into the parking lot screaming ‘no mas!' over your shoulder as you whiz past, it means they'll have to get their $3 tip somewhere else. Should they come chasing after you into the parking lot despite your obvious signal you're a cheapo, the club must give you a free round for being unsettled and the kid is fired on the spot.

Of course, this may upset them a little and they'll probably start up a union over it. I foresee the future of the bag boy-golfer relationship as an increasingly oppugnant one.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Suck it Up!!

    Bee McDonald wrote on: Feb 26, 2012

    Come on Brandon...many of these "kids" you are talking about, are trying to pay their way through college (and/or support their families) and in today's economy...that is not easy! Also, you probably believe you deserve a great salary for writing and whatever else you do...even though not everybody in the world would agree.
    You should be ashamed...tipped employees in the U.S. are paid FAR below minimum wage (Federal minimum wage 2012 is only $2.13/hr)...and they do the menial grunt work that you would never want to do for a living. You should never write an article encouraging the rest of the world not to tip these hard-working stewards. I believe everybody should have to work a tipped position for a season -- Then they would learn to appreciate service and to treat other people right. The tongue is a sharp two-edged sword...so be careful of what you say...especially when you are writing it down.


  • Tipping

    Tom in Ormond wrote on: Dec 22, 2011

    I am fine with tipping on arrival as it saves time and gets you setup quickly.
    As for tipping post round, there is a club cleaner on the cart and I clean my club after every hit. Why do I need someone to clean my clean clubs?


  • Euro's

    Billy Baroo wrote on: Oct 19, 2008

    Whats the difference between a European and a canoe?
    Canoe's tip!!!


  • Golf Bag Boys

    Joe wrote on: Jul 4, 2007

    Chances are that if you are playing at a high-end golf course you either:
    A: are rich, in which case $5 is nothing to you.
    B: you are a client of someone else who is paying for your golf. IE you don't pay for your round---it is free! $5 is all you have to spend to play golf that day.
    Bottom line is if you want cheap golf then go to a public course. Cleaning clubs is part of the high level of service that private clubs take pride in.


  • Red Light, Green Light

    Joe Drinker wrote on: Jun 12, 2007

    It sounds like my bag of sticks resembles yours. Most of the time, I'd rather not have someone trying to clean them once I'm done - they'll be able to put together that I'm the one that tried to hit out of the lake, put a dent in their tree, chipped off the cart path and caused the fire on the seventh hole, etc.
    My tried and true method to get away? Pretend you're on the phone. That way, you can walk right past them, head held high, and give them a goodbye nod or a mouthed "no thanks", and walk to your car. They usually know enough to not disturb those on the phone, and you don't have to run through the parking lot carrying your bag.


  • Red Light - - Green Light

    mundy morning golfer wrote on: Jun 12, 2007

    Come on Brandon. Tip the guys when you get there and if it is good enough they'll try to clean your clubs, figuring you are a good tipper. If you aren't . . . suck it up and quit complaining!


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