Golfers who have played in some tournaments or gone to a higher-end course to play may have encountered the option to use a forecaddie. Your local municipal course won’t prepare you for what this entails.
So, what is a forecaddie in golf?
A forecaddie is someone who walks the course ahead of the group to keep an eye on golf balls as they are hit to reduce the number of lost balls players have during a round. Forecaddies won’t carry your bag and suggest clubs to hit, but they are still invaluable on the course.
That’s a quick snapshot of what a forecaddie is, but throughout the rest of this article, we’ll dive deeper into how forecaddies and caddies differ, who can get a forecaddie, and more. So, stick around!
What Is a Forecaddie and What Do They Do?
Forecaddies will walk the course similar to a regular caddie. Unlike a regular caddie, they do not carry golf bags or advise on club selection. Forecaddies spend the round walking ahead of the group to see where shots land after the golfers hit.
For example, if the golfers and their caddies are on the tee box, the forecaddie would be down the fairway towards the hole, ideally where the drives are going to land once they’re hit. They also will be near the green to watch approach shots come in and keep an eye on the player’s shots to make sure they don’t lose the ball.
Golf fans who watch the PGA Tour may notice forecaddies on television more often than when they go play themselves. If you keep tabs on what happens after a PGA Tour player hits, there is a PGA Tour official who finds where the ball lands if it misses the fairway and will mark the ball with an orange flag if it is somewhere that is difficult for the player to find without help.
For every fan who has watched this and has muttered under their breath that they wish someone was out on the course to do that when they play, a forecaddie may be just what you’ve been looking for all this time.
A forecaddie will signal the player if the ball goes out of bounds or into a penalty area in real-time. This helps the player avoid having to walk up, look for the ball, realize it’s out of bounds, and go back to the tee all over again, saving time and hassle.
Does a Forecaddie Carry Your Bag?
The short answer is no. Generally, you have a regular caddie carry your bag, or some tournaments provide forecaddies when you are playing with a golf cart, so no one needs to carry your bag.
There are certain circumstances where a regular caddie will forecaddie for their group temporarily during a round. This really only happens when the course does not employ forecaddies specifically. Your caddie may give you a driver on a hole where the tee box is a bit out of the way, take your bag, and head to the landing area to see where your ball ends up.
Forecaddie vs Caddie
The job of a forecaddie and caddie can overlap and cause confusion, but they do serve different purposes for golfers during their rounds.
A caddie is someone who meets you on the first tee and carries your bag for you. They will walk with you to your ball and hand you the club you choose to hit. The caddie then will replace your divot, rake the bunker after you hit out of it, or fix your pitch mark on the green. Generally, the player can just focus on the game and the caddie will handle the other aspects of play.
A forecaddie generally is in front of the group and their job is to monitor where the golf ball goes after a player swings. The forecaddie helps players by making sure that their ball is in play and able to be located. Should the ball go out of play, the forecaddie will signal to the player that they need to hit a provisional.
It is worth noting that the caddie will still be expected to help players look for a lost ball. This is especially the case when there is no forecaddie. Good caddies will keep an eye on the ball when their player hits and try to keep track of where to go for the following swing.
Can Anyone Use a Forecaddie?
This is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. Having a forecaddie is by no means against the rules; however, they aren’t available on many courses and it would seemingly be unacceptable for players to bring their own on courses that do not have a caddie/forecaddie staff.
Assuming that there are caddies/forecaddies who work at the course, then yes anyone who is playing that course or in the tournament/event being put on is entitled to a forecaddie. It is expected that you pay the forecaddie after the round though, so please do not use either a caddie or a forecaddie ever and expect to not pay them for their time.
There are various reasons why the course has to have an established program for golfers to bring a caddie or forecaddie, but one major one is the liability of having more people out on the course who are not golfing. Additionally, many courses require everyone to have their own clubs, even if they are not playing.
That being said, some events will allow for a caddie, even if the course that is hosting the event does not have an established caddie program. Top-tier amateur golf events, especially at the state level and above, generally will allow players to bring a caddie with them when playing.
These events may allow a forecaddie as well; it is advised to study the rules should you be playing this level of amateur golf.
Additionally, there are times when a group will have both a caddie and a forecaddie. The two may also change who is staying with the group as a caddie and who is going to walk ahead to forecaddie. The rigidness is not consistent, nor is it that important. Regardless of the role, both your caddie and your forecaddie deserve to be compensated fairly.
Do Professionals Use Forecaddies?
Yes, there are people in most professional tournaments who have the job of walking in front of the group and literally flagging down where golf balls that go astray end up. These forecaddies are generally employed by the PGA Tour or whatever professional tour is putting on the event.
It is also worth noting that if you’ve watched the PGA Tour on television, you’ll see that the gallery of fans also acts as additional forecaddies sometimes. Hitting a ball into or over the gallery usually causes the gallery to walk towards the ball and circle around its location. This can help make the Tour’s forecaddie have a much easier day at work.
Even if the gallery finds the ball, it is still the job of the forecaddie with the group to locate it. They will then proceed to place an orange flag on the ground near where the ball is located. This helps the player and their caddie find the ball with minimal delay in play.
Interestingly, professional golfers hire a long-term caddie who travels with them to different tournaments. However, the forecaddie they get from the PGA Tour for a round is not someone who is employed by the professional golfer.
It could be argued that the incentive for a forecaddie who travels with the player would better align with the player’s goal of finding their golf ball and not losing strokes, tournament positioning, and pay to lost ball penalties.
How Much Does a Forecaddie Cost?
There is not a standard amount industry-wide as to what to pay your caddie or forecaddie. A multitude of factors should go into how much you pay.
First, does the course have a minimum requirement for a caddie or forecaddie? Some places implement a minimum rate to take a caddie or forecaddie with you for your round if there have been issues of golfers underpaying their caddie/forecaddie in the past.
There could even be an unspoken minimum. If you’re playing somewhere that you’re unfamiliar with, ask a course member.
There is also a standard established if your fellow golfers tip their caddie or the forecaddie first. Say that your fellow golfer gives his caddie $100 for a round. You don’t want to be the golfer who pays $50 to your caddie in that circumstance. Word gets around, especially if you belong to the course you’re playing.
Be sure to pay comparably to everyone else you’re playing with, assuming there isn’t an outlier who is paying well above the market rate for a caddie/forecaddie. Always carry cash to be safe, although in 2022 many caddies are okay with taking Venmo for their round. As long as they get paid, that is the important part.
Many people don’t know unless you’ve worked as a caddie/forecaddie, but these positions are typically not on the books for the golf course as a member of the golf staff. Caddies often do not have an hourly wage and exclusively work for tips, aka what their golfer pays them at the end of their round.
Always keep in mind that short of whatever you pay your caddie/forecaddie, they are working for free. The course doesn’t pay them. They don’t have health benefits. No 401K match. No paid time off. This is what they do. It is always good to consider doing something beyond the standard for a job well done from your caddie. They will appreciate it.
How Much Do You Tip a Forecaddie?
The amount that you tip your forecaddie should be a fair wage for what is usually around 4 or 5 hours of work, taking into account how well the forecaddie helped keep an eye on your golf ball and made the experience of playing the course better for you, compared to your usual Sunday round where you look for your own ball.
Generally, the caddie cost is higher than the forecaddie cost, just due to the difficulty in carrying the bag all day and providing yardages, reading greens, raking bunkers, and the other benefits of having a caddie.
If your forecaddie helped with some of these aspects of the round instead of just spending the whole day in front of your group, maybe a little extra in their pay is appropriate.
Please keep in mind that technically, the entirety of the pay that the caddie receives is in tips. There may be occasional exceptions, but most courses have caddies and forecaddies that exclusively work for tips. Do everything that you can to provide the caddie with cash or Venmo to recognize the efforts they made to your day and your course experience.
What Are Forecaddie Signals?
Since your forecaddie is often a bit down the hole, especially when you are teeing off, they need a way to communicate different outcomes to you from a long-distance away. Golf being the proper sport it is, there are some arm signals the forecaddie will use to alert their golfers of what’s going on without screaming across the course and causing disruption.
If your ball is hit either close to out-of-bounds or a penalty area, you will receive one of two signals. If your ball is in play, the forecaddie will give you a signal that looks similar to either field goal posts (arms both straight up in the air) or a “safe” signal that an umpire would use in baseball (crossed arms pulled apart from one another).
If your ball is in the out-of-bounds or the penalty area, you will see the forecaddie use their arms to make a motion towards the out-of-bounds area or penalty area. Often, this involves moving the arms left or right and using the hands to motion more towards the OB or penalty area.
These indicators allow players to take proper action without having to walk all the way to their golf ball and cause the pace of play to slow down.
Players in a tournament situation who take too much time to locate and identify their ball can be assessed with a slow-play penalty in addition to their lost ball penalty, which would require them to walk all the way back to the tee or wherever the previous shot was played.
Forecaddies provide immense value to the pace of play and the entire golf experience. Players who have had to walk back to the tee to hit again after already being down the fairway know that the process not only wastes time but affects their mental game as well.
Hitting a provisional because of a quality forecaddie can allow the player to move past their miss quickly and focus on getting their provisional into the hole.
If you have never had the experience of taking a caddie or a forecaddie out when you play a round of golf, it is a unique experience that can really add a lot to the day given the right people join your group. If the course you belong to has a program for caddies and forecaddies, be sure to support it and help make caddies at your club want to keep coming back and caddie for you.
Finally, remember that you can always show a caddie you appreciate their work by talking to the caddiemaster. The caddiemaster helps to organize and schedule the caddies at the course.
You are able to request your caddie come back and caddie for you the next time you play, which they gladly will if you had a great day on the course and paid them fairly for their work. Having a working relationship with the caddiemaster can help ensure you get a good caddie experience and support the program’s success in the future.