What Caddies Might Say

A mic and a caddy: a recipe for disaster?

Trap Five LogoAt next week’s Shell Houston Open, the PGA Tour and NBC will experiment with putting microphones on caddies to capture the dialogues between caddies and players. The Tour and the network are interested in learning if the audio quality and, more importantly, the conversation quality are worth putting on the air.

You and I won’t hear any of it, most likely. It is just an experiment, after all. The Tour isn’t very comfortable with trying something in front of an audience. If it is a success, it will probably be a few weeks before we get to listen in. The Masters is not about to allow mics on the caddies. After McCord got banned from Augusta by saying that they used bikini wax on the greens, can you imagine what might happen if the caddies had mics?

If we went back in time and could mic some specific caddy-player moments, that would be fun. Ian Woosnam’s caddy asking, “Why are there two drivers in the bag?” Bones saying to Phil, “If I were you, I’d go ahead and hit the big dog again. One of these is going to go straight.”

OK, I made that last one up. The point is, the caddy-player exchange is likely only riveting (after the initial novelty wears off anyway) at a few points in a season. The rest of the time, the conversation is likely to be fairly banal.

And that’s why I suspect this experiment is either going to fail (ie., they never use it in a telecast) or it will generally be boring television. The problem is that if the caddies know they are wearing mics (and they will), they are not going to say much that is controversial or colorful (except for a few who might take the opportunity to audition for their own series). As a rule, when the boom mics are around caddies know to watch their mouths. That will probably carry over to when they are actually wearing the mics themselves.

Few of the caddies on tour seem to have a whole lot of input into their boss’ rounds. Jim “Bones” McKay seems to offer more opinions to Mickelson than most caddies do to their players. Of course, Mickelson doesn’t seem to heed his advice all that often. Steve Williams also seems to offer a few meaningful tidbits during a round, but they are usually in a creole of Kiwi and Kryptonian (presumably Tiger’s native language), which makes it difficult to follow.

Besides giving their guys yardages and the occasional brief pep talk, what do caddies and players talk about? I bet it’s not often golf. They spend enough time together during practice rounds, on the range, and in the two or four tournament rounds to discuss golf down to the level of minutiae.

No, I suspect players and caddies talk most about other sports, the economy, cars they’d like to drive, the restaurant they ate at last night, the latest episode of 24, what the kids have been up to, fly fishing, and how mad the wife was with them last night. In other words, pretty much what you talk about during your round. Oh, they might talk about “the hot chick in the yellow dress behind the green” for “the cart girl in tight shorts,” but other than that I bet it’s pretty much the same.

Hearing these conversations might be interesting at first, but it’s not going to make for great television in the long run. Still, it’s fun to imagine what caddies might say when the mics are on.

Number Five

Be the ball!
“Just be the ball, be the ball, be the ball. You’re not being the ball Justin.”

Number Four

Choo Choo Charlie
“Keep up, shut up, keep up, shut up… I shoulda been a railroad engineer like me mum wanted.”

Number Three

A little too close
“Thanks Boss! I hate when my drawers start sagging.”

Number Two

“Hey, Big Fella. I hope you don’t think I’m carrying this bag for the whole round.”

Number One

Patience? Nah!
“How about I go up there and put a sense of urgency in this tosser?”

Photo Credits: © The Sand Trap .com. All rights reserved.

12 thoughts on “What Caddies Might Say”

  1. It would be really interesting to hear a discussion about the shot the pro wants to hit, and then see what he does hit. It would add to the drama, in certain spots as pointed out, but it could also be a good teaching tool. If you know what he wants to do beforehand, and fails to do so, it may give you the opportunity to diagnose what went wrong before the guys in the booth do. Learning more about the golf swing can never be a bad thing for your own game.
    I think this concept has worked well in the NBA and NFL when audio is aired between coaches and players during timeouts and on the sidelines. Personally, I think being able to gain insight into the planning phase and then seeing the execution of that plan is the very essence of what makes someone better than another player.

  2. It would be really interesting to hear a discussion about the shot the pro wants to hit, and then see what he does hit.

    The problem with that is that caddies pretty much usually just give a yardage, let the player choose a club, and then – whether they like the club or not – say “okay, perfect club, now hit it.”

    There’s rarely any “discussion about the shot the pro wants to hit.” That discussion occurs, perhaps 95+% of the time, in the player’s head given the yardage.

    Most of the additional information about the shot – like where there’s a ridge on the green that might funnel the ball or need to be carried – the TV announcers already tell us.

    In other words, it’s not like the caddies are saying “Okay, so a high draw here to get to that back left pin and work it off the slope. I’d like to see you hit a 7-iron, play it up in your stance a bit to get the height, keep your weight back a little bit and release the club or toe it in at address to get the draw. Aim is right at the second ‘n’ in “Golf Channel” on the banner, and oh yeah, grip down a quarter inch because it’s only 162, not 164.” Instead, all you’re gonna hear “162 pin, 158 ridge.”

    That’s why George (and I) feel it might be pretty boring.

  3. I’d say they’ll need a hair-trigger on the bleeper when they mic up Steve Williams, especially if Mickelson is in the group ahead.

  4. I would think the PGA and networks would have enough sense to mic the caddies and players they know will interact in a dialogue. Additionally, as mentioned in the article, guys like Tiger and Phil do have these discussions with their respective caddies on occasion. These are the guys that have almost every one of their shots televised. If the dialogue on even six of their shots per round each was televised, I think that would be interesting and worth while. In reality, you are looking at probably less than two minutes out of three to four hours of coverage in which there is audio caddie commentary. I fail to see how that could be bad or boring.

  5. I still think it would be quite interesting to hear. Even if it is basic yardage, I’d still like to hear it. Just something new and different. If it is totally boring and doesn’t work then get rid of it. Are they worried that there will be lots of bad language and swearing? I guess caddies and pros would not want it, since they would constantly have to be on their guard and aware of saying something controversial. ]

    If they mic’d me up, I think I would be arrested with the stuff I come out with. Some times I get a little upset. Last round I smashed the handle off my new trolley with a pitching wedge. I hit a wedge fat and it just made me go mental. I hate golf sometimes.

  6. I suppose it’s the PGA’s way of trying to attract more viewers or, at the very least, some attention. The one thing that would attract my attention might be if a player is given incorrect yardage and over or under shoots his intended target. Aside from the usual glare that is directed at the caddie, it would be interesting to hear the words. Saying that, I’m sure there will be an on/off switch that can easily be accesible in order to prevent some unwanted conversation(s).

    In the end, just another gimmick in trying to attract a greater audience.

  7. We already hear it – and it is boring.

    “158, but give that sidewind some credit.”
    “I’m thinking stock 7”
    “I like that club—-at that flag above the guy in the red shirt?”
    “OK…..perfect……commit to it”

    And as was mentioned in the forum, once it Becomes self-conscious as I feel it already seems to be with Bones and Phil, it will be even worse.

  8. I feel this would be very interesting to hear. Yes most the information is coming from the announcers already but it is a different way of hearing information that can bring some excitement back to the game.

    The only problem I see with it is the people we want to be mic are the ones that won’t want to be mic.

  9. I am listening to the tour radio this moment.
    Besides hearing the clubs ratteling in the bag, you can hear every word of what the caddies are saying.

  10. Naturally it would be used selectively, subject to programming and editorial decisions. They are doing this all the time in telecasts anyway – selecting what to show and what we will listen to – this just expands the pallette a little.

    My guess is that they will have someone listening to the conversations, and when it’s interesting, we’ll hear it on a replay of the shot. One of the big challenges of golf telecasts is filling up dead space, and they can definitely employ this information in that regard. They already have us “listen in” on crucial shots, usually late in rounds or tournaments when there isn’t much else available to “cut” to, so this would just improve the audio quality on those exchanges.

    I’m sort of torn about the whole thing. In all sports, the cameras and mic’s have gotten much, much closer in the last 10 years. While this makes for some good entertainment, it also borders on invasion of the athletes’ privacy. It’s as if we are so interminably nosy that we can’t resist peeking through every available keyhole. I guess the next thing is to have cameras follow the players back to their hotel rooms and rented mansions, and watch them shower and put on their underwear.

    We don’t have to know everything.

  11. It will be interesting to see how this works and if it ever makes it to the viewers ear. I suspect unless there’s some conversation between shots that it won’t be any different than what we already hear on the course mics.

  12. I’ve had the pleasure of being there right inside the rope with my uncle Chi-Chi. His caddie(Rabbit) a 6 foot 8, 235lbs funny and interesting character. They would have the weirdest of conversations on the golf course. Granted, I am talking about 50years experience here and it was at the Legends of Golf Tournament in Savannah, GA in 2005. I do think the networks should monitor and edit them closely. This guys develop a relationship not experienced by many outside of family members.

    That was the last time I saw my uncle play live and I did enjoy it very much. It would be interesting to have those conversations aired.

    I know it would be impossible to air most of it but this will most definitely give you a more fun and human perspective of the game.

    I know it did to me. I always thought that caddie-player conversations were always serious and only talked about the game.

    I was wrong. That same tournament I was fortunate enough to meet most of the caddies at least the ones paired with my uncle’s group. They were all pretty much the same for the exception of Hale Irwin’s caddie. They were very serious and quiet all the time. We were not paired together but we had Hale behind us all day Saturday.

    Well, I will keep my ears open for this and I look forward to more of your comments.

    Thank you for the opportunity.

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