Golf Lingo #12 (How Did “Caddie” Enter the Golf Lexicon?)

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Caddies have been a part of the game for centuries, the term caddie has been around even longer than golf, and the role of caddies has evolved considerably over the years. The term “caddie” is derived from the French word ‘le cadet’, that used to be commonly applied to describe ‘the boy’ or the youngest member of a family. The word ‘cadet’ appears in English from 1610 and the word ‘caddie’ or ‘cadie’ following shortly thereafter in 1634. Adopting French terms was not unusual for the Scots. For example they adopted the term “Gardez-vous!” as ‘gardyloo’.

A theory promoted by many is that French military cadets carried the golf clubs for French royalty, upon which the practice came to Scotland in the 1500s. The term “cadet” came with it, changing over to “caddy” in the Scottish sense. The first named caddie was Andrew Dickson, who later became an Edinburgh clubmaker, who caddied for the Duke of York as a boy in 1681 in the Duke’s golf match on Leith Links.

In 18th century Scotland, caddies were regarded as general-purpose errand boys looking for odd jobs in Scottish towns and villages, particularly for delivering water. It wasn’t until the mid 1800s that the role began to involve routinely carrying golf clubs. Back in those days, not all players had bags, thus the clubs were carried in bundles.

Caddying is no longer tailored to those looking for odd jobs, but rather, to those looking to make a living. A Caddie nowadays is not someone that just carries golf clubs, they offer advice on club selection and game strategy. For most PGA Tour caddies this is a full-time, and well paid, job on average they are on the tour 35 to 40 weeks per year, which does not allow much time for additional employment.

Steve Lee of the Professional Tour Caddies of America (PTCA) said he believes first and foremost the pros look for a compatible personality. “When the proper `chemistry’ exists, a good caddie can be a great asset to a professional golfer,” said Lee, the organization’s business and marketing manager. “This is why players in the top 50 or so do not often change their caddies.”