Chris BaldwinThis Week at Jan. 31, 2007

One caddie is worth 500 golf teachers

Caddies are for pros and rich golfers who throw their money away.

For the Average Joe golfer, the guys in white overalls are as much of a needless splurge as fluorescent golf pants and a swing aid that's an actual circle you step inside (thanks PGA Merchandise Show!).

At least, that's what my ignorant self used to think. One round with a caddie changed my beliefs faster than John Edwards spins his political views.

One round. A good dozen golf lessons from a host of uber qualified gutsy teachers still hasn't come close to convincing me that the whole field of golf instruction isn't largely smoke, mirrors and fancy gadget snake oil. But one walk improved with a caddie and there's no doubt in my mind these guys are legit difference-makers.

Spare me all the mumbo jumbo science analysis on the range. Give me a guy like PGA National Resort's Kevin McCaffrey, a 52-year-old former New York Sanitation Department worker from the Bronx who is not afraid to bark out, "Mr. Baldwin, I think you need the rescue club." Again and again.

A good caddie makes you feel like every club decision is yours and yours alone. Even as he inches out that 5-iron while you were thinking 7. Plus, no fancy GPS device that's just as powerful as the technology the British Secret Service uses is going to tell you how your ball's going to react in south Florida's winter winds.

Plus, walking with a caddie is just cool. When's the last time you felt cool taking a golf lesson - as they hunch you over and straighten out your back like their chiropractor brethren.

Contrast that with strolling down the fairways with nothing in your hands, your caddie at your side. Hit a decent shot and it suddenly feels like a great shot. You're charging ahead like Tiger Woods on Masters Sunday. Even those worn golf shoes suddenly seem lighter.

The only thing lighter after a golf lesson on the range is your wallet.

Golf instruction is a mammoth glitzy business where cash registers ring. Caddies are regular guys like McCaffrey who've often left hard 9-to-5s.

And one caddie is worth about 500 instructors. There's your golf justice.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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