How Much Does a Pro Golf Caddy Make?
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If you’re like most golf fans chances are you’re asked, “How much does a pro golf caddy make?”
It’s a good question because these guys are working hard, carrying a heavy bag, and trying to help their player win millions of dollars. A caddy wears a lot of hats from swing coach, sports psychologist, nutritionist, course strategist, and a voice of reason at times.
But is caddying a lucrative career choice? Can you make good money caddying? Do caddies get a percentage of winnings?
We’ll answer all these questions and more to learn more about the life of a professional caddy.
How Much Does a Pro Golf Caddy Make?
The life of a caddy is not always glamorous but for some it can become a very high-paying gig. How much they earn depends on their experience, player, and tour they’re competing on more than anything else.
Golfers on the PGA Tour and LIV Golf earn the most money by far. The smaller tours – like the Korn Ferry – is much more of a grind for professional caddies as the purses are much smaller.
Before getting into how much these guys earn, let’s first take a look at their biggest responsibilities.
What Does a Caddy Do?
Most people think of caddies as someone who primarily carries a golf bag. While that is part of their job description, there is a lot more to it.
Don’t forget the golf bag they tote around weighs significantly more than the everyday golf bag. Pro golfers use staff bags which are much heavier, not to mention the course is easily 6+ miles of walking.
Oftentimes in extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) which can make for a long day on the links. So yes, carrying the bag is their primary role but it’s far from a leisure walk on the golf course.
Caddies also play the role of a course strategist helping players manage their game from tee to green. Caddies can help with tee shots, approach shots, target selection, help their mental game and help players stay focused during the round.
They also clean clubs, keep equipment dry, rake bunkers, replace divots, and even fend off fans. Steve Williams, Tiger’s former caddy – even acted as a bodyguard with unruly fans and photographers.
The third main role of a caddy is to help with green reading. Since the PGA Tour has cracked down on green-reading books, caddies help players more than ever on the greens. They’ll sometimes read every putt (depending on the player/caddy relationship) or are asked for their opinion on more difficult putts.
So, how much do caddies earn?
There are three types of ways they earn including a salary, percentage of winnings, and endorsements.
Do Caddies Get a Salary?
Most people tend to think that caddies only earn a percentage of their players winnings but that’s not the case anymore. Because if players miss the cut, they earn nothing, thus their caddies earn nothing as well. This isn’t a great business model for caddies who only earn a fraction of the players to begin with.
Now, the majority of caddies earn a salary throughout the year for a more stable income. They get paid for tournament weeks which can range between $1,500 to $3,000 or more. While some higher profile players pay their caddy weekly (regardless of if it’s a tournament week) for more income and better job security.
As former PGA Tour caddy Michael Collins revealed in an ESPN+ show (America’s Caddie) on Insider, “Every caddie gets a weekly paycheck, no matter where his player finishes. If the player misses the cut, the caddie still has to get a paycheck because the caddie pays for all of his own expenses — airfare, hotel, car, food, all of it.”
It’s important to note that caddies pay for their own airfare, food, lodging, and other travel expenses. LIV Golf got a lot of publicity in 2022 as they took care of these fees for players and caddies thanks to their nearly unlimited budget. But it’s been noted that things have changed in 2023 as they look to cut costs and become more profitable.
Do Caddies Get a Percentage of Winnings?
The second way caddies earn an income is through a percentage of winnings. The better their golfer finishes, the more the caddy will earn.
When their player wins or makes the cut in an event, caddies receive a portion of that income. This is also similar to a Hollywood agent receiving a 10% commission for an actor booking a movie gig or a realtor selling a house.
How much they earn is something of speculation but it’s usually between 5-10% of the players winnings. For example, if a player wins $1,000,000 for winning an event, the caddy will typically receive $100,000. This gives caddies more incentive to do anything possible to help their player win as they’ll receive a hefty payday.
If a player doesn’t win but finishes inside the top 10 or top 20, they might get a smaller percentage in the 5-8% range. These payouts are negotiated with their player ahead of time but there is no “formal” expectation.
As Michael Collins elaborate in the same Insider article, “If the guy makes the cut, the standard is 10-7-5 — 10% for a win, 7% for a top 10, 5% for everything else.”
However, there was a recent example of a player paying his caddy poorly that made a lot of news in 2019 known as “caddy-gate.” That year Matt Kuchar hired a local caddy, David Giral Ortiz, to loop for him at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Kuchar ended up winning the event which included $1.296 million in earnings but he only paid his caddy $5,000! If we apply the 10% rule he should have earned $129,600.
Once the news broke this didn’t set with players, caddies, and the media. Kuchar was scrutinized heavily and did his best to make amends and upped his payment to $50,000. Needless to say, this caddy blunder didn’t do wonders for his reputation as a professional golfer.
Do Caddies Receive Endorsements?
The third way that caddies can earn money is through endorsement deals.
Like their players, they can wear logos on their hats or shirts to endorse a company. They might also have a promotional day and show up in a commercial or social media promotion too.
Or, they can even get stand-alone deals that have nothing to do with their player.
Recently four caddies got six-figure endorsement deals for an underwear company. As noted in Boardroom, “Thanks to SAXX Underwear, the real Ball Masters are finally getting their due. Four PGA Tour pro caddies, Geno Bonnalie (Joel Dahmen), Aaron Flener (J.T. Poston), John Limanti (Keith Mitchell), and Joel Stock (Will Zalatoris) have secured the sack with six-figure endorsement deals.”
That’s an impressive payday for these caddies!
However, it’s also important for caddies to check with their player before signing on the dotted line. Apparently Steve Williams signed a deal before checking with Tiger Woods once and it caused quite a rift in their relationship.
Caddies for Recreational Golfers
Most golf courses don’t have caddies but some bucket list courses and private country clubs do offer them. Or, at least a forecaddie – which helps you during the round with advice on the course and finding golf balls. Sometimes they’ll ride in a golf cart but it’s most common for them to walk 18 holes (even carrying two bags at times).
Like PGA Tour caddies, local caddies will help with cleaning your clubs, raking bunkers, reading greens, and providing strategies for certain shots. Some caddies have been looping the same course for years or decades so make sure to trust their advice as it can help your game a ton.
When it comes to paying a caddy there is usually a flat rate when you pay for your tee time. Then it’s best to tip your caddy 10-20% of the green fee (or more) – typically a cash payment.
If you’ve never hired a professional caddie before, do it!
I’ve used caddies several times (including Pebble Beach) and can’t recommend it enough. They’ve helped me a ton on the course, provided great knowledge of the history of the course, and overall made the day a much better experience.
If you hire a caddy and they make the round better, make sure to pay them well so you don’t get the reputation of Matt Kuchar.
Related: How Long Does 18 Holes of Golf Take?
Top Questions About Caddying
Continue reading through the top question and answers to learn more about the life of a professional caddy.
How much do PGA caddies get paid?
PGA Tour caddies get paid with a weekly tournament salary, percentage of earnings, and sponsorships. Both the weekly salary and percentage of earnings fluctuates greatly from player to player and is negotiated ahead of time.
Pro golfers who have had their caddies for years (or decades) tend to pay more than a new caddy relationship. Plus, some more well-known caddies can also earn additional income from sponsorship deals as well.
How much does Tiger Woods caddy get paid?
Tiger Woods has had three main caddies in his career including Mike “Fluff” Cowan, Steve Williams, and Joe LaCava. Steve Williams is arguably the most well known caddy of all time as he was on the bag for 13 of Tiger’s 15 major victories, not to mention the countless PGA Tour wins.
Steve Williams is very respected in the caddy community and acted as more than a friend for Tiger. He also caddied for Greg “The Shark” Norman before teaming up with Tiger.
It’s been estimated that Steve earned more than $12,000,000 caddying for arguably the best golfer of all time. Plus, it’s reported that Tiger also gave Steve 10 vehicles that he won from the tournament as well. He also had sponsorship during his illustrious career with Tiger too making him the highest paid caddy of all time.
Do caddies get 10% of winnings?
Yes, it’s a general rule that caddies receive 10% of the first place purse if their player wins an event.
Can you make a living being a caddy?
Yes, you can definitely make a living as a caddy but it’s not always easy, especially in the beginning. If you’re trying to become a pro caddy for the best players in the world it takes a lot of hard work and a little luck to find the right player.
Caddies that work at golf courses and country clubs usually don’t earn as much money but can still do pretty well. According to Zippia, the average golf caddie salary is $36,846 or about $17 per hour. This depends on the location, experience, and other factors.
Local caddies can also get free golf as well and other privileges like reduced lodging if it’s a seasonal job. There is usually a minimum number of “loops” (aka rounds) a caddy must do each week or month to stay in the rotation.
How much do PGA caddies make when their player wins?
When their player wins a caddy can earn up to 10% as an extra bonus. If a player makes the cut but doesn’t win and still has a good finish (inside the top 20) they can earn 5-8% of a player’s earnings. If a player makes the cut but doesn’t finish as good it might be less than 5%.
Do caddies pay their own expenses?
In most cases yes, the caddies are responsible for their own lodging and travel expenses.
As you can tell caddying has the potential to become a lucrative gig – but it’s far from a steady paycheck for a lot of guys. The caddies who work on the PGA Tour or LIV Golf have the most earning potential and a lot more job security. While the caddies on the smaller tours have a much more challenging job as the purses are much smaller.
To recap, caddies earn income in three different ways including flat-rate salary, percentage of earnings, and endorsements. Some caddies take fewer earnings and more of a salary for job security but it differs from caddy to caddy.
For the percentage of earnings the 10-7-5 rule is the most common. If their player wins they get 10%, if they finish inside the top 10 they get 7%, and 5% for anything else. They can also get endorsements which can add up quickly.
All caddies and players negotiate their deals individually and there is no set-rates. If you’ve never hired a caddy before, make sure to do so – especially at higher end golf courses. They can help your game a ton and make the round of golf even more enjoyable.
Have you hired a caddy before? What was your experience like?
Let us know in the comments below.