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|Thailand's relaxing caddies can help put a round in perspective for any golfer. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)|
In Thailand, female caddies are as much of a draw to golfers as the golf courses themselves.
They may not tell you colorful stories about the golf club, such as at the Old Course in St. Andrews, because their English probably isn't good enough.
And they probably won't give you exact pacing of the day's pin from the front of the green like at a major championship venue such as Whistling Straits.
But you're not that good anyways, right?
Thailand's female caddies are a big reason why the country is such a popular golf destination - one with a higher repeat-visitor rate than anywhere else in the region.
Your caddie experience in Thailand will be far different - and far less expensive - than anywhere in the Western world of golf. The round will come with a bushel full of foreign nuances you won't come close to enjoying back home, so enjoy the ride.
It starts by pulling up to the clubhouse before your tee time and seeing an army of women waiting for your golf group at the bag drop, all in head-to-toe caddie regalia and ready to pounce on your bags.
It's the first step in a day of spoils. This is how Thailand does golf, and it's tough to ever go back.
Say a brief hello to your assigned caddie and feel out how much English she speaks. Some speak very well, but most don't know much more than your necessary golf terms like "inside left" and "aim at third tree."
Some caddies are better at their reads and their aiming points than others. Golfers who get bent out of shape after one misread or mis-club are missing the point about what golf in Thailand is all about.
A big part of enjoying the Thai caddie service requires you to rethink what a caddie's job is. It's a far cry from the type you'd see on the PGA Tour or at most American or Scottish golf clubs who are there to try and help you score your best - and that's exactly the charm of it.
Once you're used to communication with a slight language barrier and understand they are there to make your round more peaceful - not shoot the course record or tell you about the history of every hole - they become indispensable.
They smile and do all the dirty work like raking traps and filling in divots that help keep the standard of Thai country clubs very high. They even keep score for you. (This is tricky, because sometimes they won't know your missed one-handed 2-foot putt was conceded by your playing partners, and the next thing you know your score is five shots higher than it's supposed to be).
They help keep pace-of-play moving by hunting for lost balls and help keep the courses in excellent shape. When there is a wait on the tee, sometimes they'll give you a quick shoulder rub while another caddie fans your neck.
Makes you wonder why more pros don't employ them, right?
It comes as no surprise I shot some of my best rounds of the year in Thailand, which I attest to my smooth, relaxed swing thanks to the atmosphere. Frankly, my first round back home in Texas without my trusty (and adorable) loopers felt empty - and dare I say it, a little lonely.
Most clubs require caddies, and the cost is added to the green fee. The common charge is 300 bhat (about $10 USD). It's good etiquette to offer them a drink a couple times a round at an on-course service station.
For post-round tipping, 300 bhat is expected for Westerners (locals usually get away with 200-250), while 500 is good for exceptional service and should be given directly to the caddie.
Any golfer has probably heard rumors or read internet posts about Thai caddies doubling as escorts at night. While this does happen from time to time, the vast majority of Thai caddies are caddies only, a profession they take pride in and may do for the majority of their life.
It's a prestigious job for a woman to hold, and it would be very disrespectful to ask if the caddie is available after hours.
Along those lines, it's best not to be too touchy-feely with a caddie. The occasional high-five or shoulder touch is okay, and at my round at Siam Country Club's Plantation Course in Pattaya, my caddie spanked me when I missed a 10-foot putt an inch short.
But that's about the extent of how flirtatious you should get.
November 19, 2009
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. 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.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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