English Golf Courses

'Caddie factor' has impact on success reveals uni study

Relationship between player and caddie can improve performance

NEW research published by Loughborough University has shown that a good quality relationship between a golfer and their caddy can improve performance on the course by ‘30% or more’.

The report, titled ‘Understanding the Quality and Functions of the Golfer-Caddie Relationship’, was commissioned by HSBC ahead of this year’s Open Championship and revealed that there are four key aspects that define the quality of a player-caddie relationship: closeness, commitment, complementarity and co-orientation.

It also showed that the higher the level of golf being played, the stronger the relationship between player and caddie, while long-term partnerships tend to be more successful and desirable, and winning strengthens the bond between player and caddie.

Double Open champion Padraig Harrington said he is  in no doubt of the value of the right caddie and believes it was that relationship that won him the Claret Jug in 2007.

BELIEF

He said: “It’s simple. In 2007, my caddie Ronan Flood won me the Open. On the Sunday, I hit my tee shot in the water on 18 and was despondent. I then hit my third shot into the water again and  felt like I’d lost.

“I had to walk about 150 yards for my next shot and Ronan was talking to me, coming out with all the clichés about what to do next. For the first 50 yards, I wanted to strangle him. For the next 50 yards, I started listening to him. And for the last 50 yards, I believed him. I was in the zone and then out of it and then back in it again - that really doesn’t happen very often.

“In that moment of time, I do believe Ronan made the difference. With any other caddie, I would have thought I had lost the Open but my caddie believed in me. It’s all about creating your own reality when you’re on the golf course.

“The No.1 criterion is matching the personality. It’s about getting on the same wavelength and the caddie’s opinion is a moderation of your opinion. The ideal situation is that we are both thinking the same thing and we both think it should be the same club. If not, he has to say it. If you are in harmony, you know what the other guy is thinking and then everything is easy.”

EVIDENCE

Dr Sophia Jowett, director of research degrees at Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, conducted the research and she believes it was important to have scientific evidence to back up the people’s understanding of that relationship.

She said: “There is, of course, anecdotal evidence which highlights the importance of the player-caddie relationship but we wanted to scientifically evaluate the caddie contribution.

“Based on the feedback from our participants, the right caddie can improve a golfer’s performance by 30% or more and the relationship is critical to success - golfers highlighted how caddies energised, motivated and supported them. All participants agreed that the relationship is stronger and better at the highest level.

“The four ‘C’s are fundamental to a successful partnership. Closeness includes trust, appreciation and respect; commitment is about long-term orientations; complementarity is about responsiveness, openness and acceptance of roles; and co-orientation includes shared knowledge and understanding. Not surprisingly, communication is very important and most disagreements revolved around golf strategies.”

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