The Ultimate Caddie Experience
Photos by Gijs van der Most
The art of caddying is enjoying a kind of renaissance in the U.S., due in part to the love affair we're having with links golf and the belief shared by many that golf is best enjoyed on your own two feet. At the forefront of the movement is Streamsong, the award-winning new golf resort an hour east of Tampa, where the caddie concept is being taken to the next level. With a full-time crew of 70 expert loopers from world-renowned courses such as Merion, Bethpage and Oakmont, and a ready network of 140 strong, "Our caddie program is changing the way the resort golfer views golf in Florida," says Troy Tomlinson, director of caddie services at Streamsong.
Just as the resort has in a mere three years become a "bucket-list" destination for alpha golfers from points north (it set a record when both of its 18-hole layouts debuted in Golf Digest's ranking of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses in 2015; the Red Course as No. 18 and the Blue Course as No. 24), it's fast becoming a top destination for A-rank caddies as well. Known as "advisors" at Streamsong, only those with blue-chip résumés make the cut. In fact, there's now a 100-plus waiting list for the coveted positions. "I've got working relationships with top club pros from around the country who send me their number one and two guys when the courses up north are closed for the season," says Tomlinson.
Walking a round with a caddie at Streamsong, whose two links-style courses were designed specifically for walking golfers, will set you back between $80 and $100 a round on top of the green fee, but the return on investment is almost immediate. "A caddie will save you two to six or eight strokes a round just in putting," says Scott Wilson, Streamsong's Director of Golf. Although the Red and Blue courses are different, they're similar in that the sloped greens are fast and firm, unlike most golf courses in Florida, which have a slower, more spongy feel. "Most players who come here are not used to the speed, so a skilled caddie can really help line up putts and read the breaks," says Wilson. "Streamsong is not easy if you're playing it for the first time. Our caddies take the guesswork out of the round to put you in the best position possible."
For Tomlinson, though, what really makes taking a caddie special is the personalized attention they provide. "You're getting the pro tour experience. It's a true working partnership." He pairs caddie and player beforehand, when possible, matching up a guest with a caddie who might be from his or her home area. The same caddie is with each guest for his or her entire stay. "It's a lot about the companionship for four hours, the one-on-one interaction, not just yardages and cleaning clubs." Tomlinson trains his team to glean the most information possible from the player before the round, and the caddie is expected to know the golfer's game by the end of the second hole. "But it's subtle," says Tomlinson. "It's a friendly conversation."
Of course it's up to the players how much support they want during the round. Or even if they want to take a caddie, some prefer to walk on their own with a pull cart. A handful of golfers might just want help with reading breaks, whereas others opt for the full-on caddie experience, with help on club and shot selection, lining up putts and swing tips. No matter what, says Tomlinson, for Streamsong the bottom line is always to make sure the golfers have a great time, regardless of their score. And Wilson's never heard anyone say, "I wish I hadn't taken a caddie."
Note: Caddies are available year-round. The courses are walking-only from January 1st through April 15th.