The golf course, it is said, is a good place to conduct business. After all, where else do you get to spend four-plus hours alone with prospective clients and business partners?
The same scenario applies to golf resorts that employ caddies and forecaddies. “A caddie gets to spend more time with guests than any other person on property,” said Mark Lammi, director of golf at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, GA, which has six golf courses and a total of 119 holes.
Caddies and forecaddies are available at each course at the resort community, which includes the country’s only Ritz-Carlton Lodge.
“We figure as long as we have a great set of caddies, we have no other opportunity throughout the property for guests to spend that amount of one-on-one time with a staff member,” said Lammi. “The majority of the Ritz-Carlton resorts each have a caddie program. They’ve found through surveys that the Number One experience is a caddy, whether it’s a walking caddie or a forecaddie.
He added, “We continue to believe that, as opposed to GPS or other experiences, the caddy experience for Ritz-Carlton guests is something we can’t do without.”
The almost symbiotic relationship between golfers and caddies goes as far back as the game of golf itself. For hard-core golfers and weekend players, teeing up with a caddy “on the bag” or even with a forecaddie out front, substantially adds to the golf experience.
And in these days of decreasing rounds played and player participation, golf resorts are looking for any edge to attract players and add to the golf experience.
The advantage of having a caddie program, said Brannen Veal, director of golf at Sea Island, GA, which has three courses, including the famed Seaside Course, is that it provides an additional level of service for the golf experience.
Like many resorts, Sea Island uses Caddie Master Enterprises (CME) to put together a top caddie program. CME is a worldwide company that specializes in building and running caddie programs for both private clubs
"A caddie program is a strong amenity,” Veal said. “There are those golf purists who want a true caddie experience and won't travel to a destination that does not offer caddies. But if a guest would rather not take a forecaddie, they can certainly choose not to do so.”
For Scott Wilson, director of golf at Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, FL, golf is a walking game, meaning the main advantage to a caddie program is that it allows people to get closer to nature and the land by walking the golf course.
“It is the way the game evolved and traditions like caddies are important to the game of golf,” said Wilson.
At Streamsong, which has two courses carved out of ancient phosphate pits (a third course is scheduled to open next year), guests get a choice to walk and carry or take a pull-cart anytime of the day or year. The only time a caddie is required to accompany a group, Wilson said, is with a cart during “riding” timeframes.
“The forecaddie helps guests enjoy their experience and guide new guests around the course and provide tips on how to play a hole,” Wilson said.
“I believe that having good golf land with layouts meant for walking is the starting point for a good caddie program. Employing good communicators will help with the overall guest experience, connecting arriving guests with their designated caddies so that all guests feel comfortable upon arrival.’’
And yes, Wilson said, caddies can and do drive business to a property. “Good caddies are ambassadors of the property, always speaking highly of the property and introducing guests to the variety of resort amenities available, such as restaurants, spa, sporting clays, fishing and golf,” Wilson said.
The forecaddies at the two Tom Fazio-designed oceanside golf courses at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach, CA, know the courses better than anyone and help golfers navigate each hole, “so guests can relax, take in the ocean views (spectacular at sunset) and enjoy the fun of the game,’’ said VP of Golf Steve Friedlander.
“As a public golf club, (attached to the Resort at Pelican Hill), Pelican Hill sets itself apart by offering forecaddie services, which tend to be available at country club golf courses. Our forecaddies build rapport with our guests, so they usually request the same forecaddie each time they golf with us,” Friedlander said.
“We recruit forecaddies who are passionate about creating the best possible golf experience for our guests. Our professional forecaddies participate in an excellent training program, and they spend more time on our two courses than any golfer. So, they're incredibly knowledgeable about every corner of our layouts, the coastal climate factors and all the nuances of playing a great game at Pelican Hill. Many of our forecaddies have been with Pelican Hill since our opening, as retaining our expert forecaddies is key to maintaining a consistently great program,” he concluded.
And the key to great golf experience for guests.