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Cream of the Caddies: Bandon Dunes

Call me biased because I looped there for three seasons, but the world’s best caddies can be found at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. First of all, the caddies at Bandon (one of many A-list places where I’ve shouldered bags for a living, including St. Andrews, Augusta National and Shinnecock Hills) are well trained. New caddies go out with veterans on training rounds—as many as it takes until they learn the courses and the craft. The resort also offers golf clinics for its caddies (and all of its other employees).

Another strength is the diversity in the caddie yard. Bandon’s caddies come from almost every age and background. There are grizzled lumberjacks and fresh-faced Evans scholars, ex-Tour bag men and country-club lifers, aspiring players and former teaching pros. There also are a bunch of women, more than you would expect. And personality? With loopers nicknamed the Baptist, Rodeo, Three Dog, Sheepdog, Crazy and Hollywood, you see more mischievous sparkles in the eyes here than anywhere else.

Most important, I’d say, the caddies are happy at Bandon Dunes, which was named the best resort for buddy trips in the West and Northwest. This is not some stuffy club where bag-toters are second-class citizens relegated to the cart barn as they wait for loops. Work is plentiful for the resort’s three hundred caddies, they’re paid top dollar and they can tee it up themselves every day of the week on at least one of the three fabulous courses: Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails. And they live in a beautiful and affordable corner of the country where thirty-foot waves meet three-hundred-foot redwoods, and where at low tide the surf-smoothed beach is ideal for cross-country golf with driftwood and sea-kelp bunkers serving as hazards and fast, hard-packed sand greens that break toward the ocean.

As more than a few readers pointed out, Bandon’s caddies manage to be knowledgeable and likable and yet low-key at the same time. They don’t mention their low-single-digit handicaps on the first tee or rub it in a golfer’s face if he runs afoul on a hole after failing to heed their advice. Simply put, they’re an essential part of the experience. The rock-hard, topsy-turvy links greens, the blind shots, the howling three- to five-club wind—a nine-iron from 180? a five from 130? Golfers at Bandon are best off with one of the resort’s caddies, who have seen it all countless times before.

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