In my years navigating the lush fairways and challenging greens, I’ve always wanted a caddy- a trusted partner by my side. They’re not just carrying clubs but are often unsung heroes offering advice, strategy, and even moral support during tough times.
But beyond our partnership on the course, a question I’m often asked is about their financial compensation. How much do caddies make?
Drawing from my personal experiences and broader industry knowledge, I’ll provide an insider’s perspective on the earnings of these essential contributors to the game of golf.
- The 2 Basics of Caddy Compensation
- 3 Factors Affecting a Caddy’s Income
- Caddy Earnings from Tournaments vs. Regular Rounds
- The Top Earners
- Hidden Costs and Challenges
The 2 Basics of Caddy Compensation
There is a broad spectrum of compensation structures for caddies. Here’s a breakdown of the foundational aspects of caddy compensation:
#1: Standard Base Salaries or Day Rates
Most caddies operate on a standard base salary or a day rate, especially at private clubs and local courses. This rate can vary depending on the golf course’s prestige, the caddy’s experience, and the region.
For instance, a beginner caddy at a local golf course might earn between $50 to $100 for a round, while experienced caddies at high-end clubs could reach several hundred dollars a day. These rates often serve as a guaranteed minimum, ensuring the caddy earns a predictable income.
#2: Performance Bonuses and the 10-7-5 Rule
One of the intriguing aspects of caddying revolves around performance bonuses, especially in the professional realm. The better I perform in a tournament, the more my golf caddy earns. This rule is a general guideline followed by many professional golfers and their caddies:
- 10% of the golfer’s winnings if they win the tournament.
- 7% for a top-10 finish but not a win.
- 5% for making the cut but not finishing in the top 10.
This bonus structure motivates the caddies to be at the top of their game, ensuring they provide valuable insights and guidance throughout the tournament.
3 Factors Affecting a Caddy’s Income
Behind every successful golfer stands an astute caddy. With this camaraderie comes a question many fans and enthusiasts often ponder: “How much do professional caddies make on the PGA Tour?” Let’s shed light on this.
#1: The Direct Impact of a Golfer’s Success
While golfers often bask in the limelight on the PGA Tour, much of their success cascades down to their caddies’ pockets. Winning isn’t just good for the player; it’s fantastic for caddies.
A top-10 finish gives them 7%, and for other placements, it’s 5%. For a bit of perspective, in 2021, Justin Thomas’ caddy, Jimmy Johnson, pocketed around $270,000, largely thanks to these percentages.
#2: Base Rates
Beyond wondering, “How much do caddies make at The Masters?” it’s crucial to understand that each event has its financial nuances. Typically, a caddy can expect a base rate ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 for a tournament. But here’s the kicker: every golfer-caddy relationship is different, leading to varied contract details.
Despite paying for their travel and accommodation, some caddies have contracts that more than make up for these out-of-pocket expenses. As a ballpark, many top caddies in 2021, like Austin Johnson, started with a base close to $120,000.
#3 The Way Geography Affects How Much Caddies Make
While the PGA Tour is a massive deal, golf is played on an international stage, with each region offering its unique compensation structure for caddies. Regional economic conditions, the sport’s popularity, and the tournament’s prestige can all sway what a caddy takes home.
For example, during his time with Tiger Woods, Steve Williams, and Mike “Fluff,” Cowan’s early career showcased the broad spectrum of earnings in the caddy world. On a side note, here’s a list of 7 great tips you can learn from Tiger Woods to make your game better.
Caddy Earnings from Tournaments vs. Regular Rounds
Each setting provides different earning potentials, from high-stakes tournaments to daily rounds at the local club. Here’s how much do professional caddies make:
Major tournaments like The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship are the crown jewels in the golfing calendar. Not only do they offer significant media attention, but their prize pots are also substantial.
A golfer’s success at these events directly translates to a sizeable paycheck for the caddy. To give context, a win at such an event can ensure a caddy’s earnings for the entire year, if not more.
Other PGA Tournaments
Beyond the majors, the PGA Tour calendar is filled with numerous events. While these might not have the massive prize money of the big four, they still offer significant earning opportunities.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for how much caddies make regularly, the average is based on such tournaments. Regular finishes within the top ten or even making the cut can ensure consistent income for the caddy throughout the year.
Regular Rounds: The Day-to-Day Earnings
Away from the glitz and glamor of the tournament circuit, many caddies also earn their living accompanying members and guests at golf clubs. The earnings here might not match the grandeur of major championships, but they offer a steady, consistent income.
Depending on the prestige of the club and the clientele’s affluence, caddies can earn a decent wage, often with generous tips augmenting their day rate. If the caddies are too expensive, here’s how you can be your own.
Striking a Balance: Consistency vs. Big Wins
Much like golf itself, the caddy profession is a game of strategy. Some might prefer the consistent paycheck that regular rounds guarantee, while others might chase the dream of a big win at major tournaments.
It balances the allure of potential life-changing payouts and the comfort of a stable, predictable income. For many caddies, the optimal path involves a blend of both, ensuring financial security while still chasing the thrill of the big stages.
The Top Earners
In the realm of the PGA Tour, while the golfers often occupy center stage, there are moments when their caddies step into the limelight with their own tales of significant windfalls. One of the most celebrated stories is Phil Mickelson’s victory at the PGA Championship.
His trusty sidekick for this event was none other than his brother, Tim Mickelson. With Phil clinching a remarkable $2.16 million from the $12 million prize pool, Tim, in line with the usual caddie percentages, likely walked away with a staggering $216,000 from that single event, one of the highest-paid caddies.
But the tale of the Mickelson brothers isn’t solitary. There’s also the story of Jimmy Johnson, caddie to Justin Thomas. When Thomas secured big wins, Johnson’s take often soared into the six figures. Then we have Jonathan Jakovac, who caddies for Collin Morikawa. In 2021, Jakovac pocketed close to $486,825.
Hidden Costs and Challenges—How Much Do Caddies Make?
When I line up my shot, the focus is on the ball, the arc, and the target ahead, amongst many other things. But every stroke carries with it the shared experiences, challenges, and hopes of two people: the golfer and the caddy.
A Wallet Thinner Than Expected
It’s easy to look at prize money and think that life on tour is all luxury. Yet, beneath those earnings, caddies face sizable out-of-pocket expenses. Travel, from flights to car rentals, digs deep into their pockets.
And while the player might stay in sponsored accommodations, caddies often shoulder hotel costs. Meals, refreshments, a replacement for a worn-out umbrella or raincoat – these add up quicker than you might think.
The Tolls Beyond the Financial
Then there’s the emotional and physical dimension. The golf course is expansive, the bag heavy, and the weather unpredictable. The weight isn’t just on their shoulders but on their minds, too.
As I ponder a shot, my caddy is already two steps ahead, analyzing, strategizing, and sometimes second-guessing. Those decisions, especially when stakes are high, come with a weight of their own.
How Much Do Caddies Make: Key Takeaways
In the world of golf, caddies emerge not just as club carriers but as pivotal partners in a golfer’s journey.
Their earnings, while varying, encompass base salaries, performance bonuses, and potential windfalls from major tournaments. High-earning moments, like Tim Mickelson’s probable $216,000 from the PGA Championship, highlight the peaks.
Yet, they often grapple with out-of-pocket expenses and the unpredictable nature of the sport.
Beyond the glamour of major wins, many rely on regular rounds for consistent income. While their earnings can be substantial, it’s a blend of highs, lows, and constant effort that defines a caddy’s financial landscape.