What is a Forecaddie

The Forecaddie: How are they Different from a Caddy

Caddies are one of the greatest parts of golf. They are an integral part of golf as there’s nothing like them in any other sport.

You don’t see an NFL quarterback with a guy by his side the entire game helping him out. Someone who acts as a sports psychologist, coach, and friend all rolled into one person. But that’s one of the things that makes golf great.

Today you’ll learn what is a forecaddie, how they differ from normal caddies, and even learn where the term “fore” came from in golf.

Forecaddie in Golf 

If you read our history of golf article, you know that caddies have been a big part of golf over the years. The Scott’s coined the term “caddie” (also spelled as cawdy) which referred to someone who did odd jobs. 

By the 19th century the definition changed to someone who carried golf clubs for players. The first caddies appeared in 1817 and have become a crucial part of professional tournaments. Even amateurs can hire caddies at certain bucket list courses to make the experience one of a kind. 

But there are two types of “cads” – caddies and forecaddies. Let’s differentiate the two so you can figure out the role of each and see which type you need for certain rounds of golf.  Learn more about becoming a caddy here.

Forecaddie vs. Caddie (Duties of a forecaddie)

So, what is the difference between a caddie and forecaddie anyway?

A caddy is someone that will carry golf bags the entire round and provide all sorts of other services including:

And all sorts of other roles.

Caddies for professional golfers will also walk the golf course before the round to develop strategies for each holes, study the pin sheet, pace off distances, and more. Caddies are a huge help in golf tournaments so players can focus on golf, not all the other stuff that comes with carrying your bag.

But a forecaddie is different. 

The main role of a forecaddie is to find your golf ball. They do not carry your golf clubs like a normal caddy either. 

A forecaddie signals back to the group to ensure they don’t need to hit again off the tee. It’s typical for two or four golfers to hire a forecaddie for the group and have them help locate golf balls. A lot of times forecaddies will drive a golf cart (with each golfer walking) vs. walk the course like a traditional caddy in golf. 

As someone who has caddied and forecaddied, I can say that forecaddying is much easier. Not only do you get to drive in a golf cart sometimes (to find the golf balls sooner), you don’t have as many responsibilities. This is why they tend to not make as much in tips but a good forecaddie still can help you out a ton. By finding your golf ball on every shot, they’ll save you strokes. 

What is a Forecaddie

Plus, a forecaddie will also help recreational golfers:

  • Rake bunkers
  • Help read greens
  • Provide local golf course insights 
  • Make sure you don’t lose any clubs
  • Help with tee shot aiming points and spots to avoid around the greens

Tournament Forecaddies

There are more than one type of forecaddies in some instances. I’ve forecaddied for tournaments (including Torrey Pines) and regularly interacted with the golfers. I drove ahead on each hole and found all players golf balls while maintaining conversion through the round like a regular caddie.

But other forecaddies might not engage with golfers and instead act as an outside entity in a match that are hired by tournament organizers. In this instance they will only find golf balls and mark them with a small flag next to them. 

This helps golfers spot their ball quickly and keep up pace of play. This happens on the PGA Tour with tournament volunteers but can happen at some golf courses too. On blind shots or potentially hard to navigate holes it’s not uncommon to have a forecaddie as well. 

When to Use a forecaddie 

So, when should you hire a caddy vs. forecaddie? 

A caddy is great when you haven’t played a golf course before. They can help with all aspects of the game and act like a personal assistant on the golf course.

But if you’ve played the course and want to make sure your group doesn’t lose any balls, hire a forecaddie. It also depends on if they get to ride in a cart vs. walk. If they use a cart they can take your clubs which makes it easier to walk the golf course too. 

Golf Carts vs. Walking

Depending on what golf course you’re playing, a forecaddie might walk ahead or ride a golf cart. The biggest difference vs. a normal caddy is that forecaddie sometimes ride in a golf cart vs. walk with the players. This gives them more time to ride ahead to locate all players’ golf balls off the tee. 

A forecaddie might work with two golfers or a second forecaddie might be hired for a foursome. Rarely would one go out with a single golfer. They’re typically lower cost to hire vs. a traditional caddy but if they do a great job, deserve a great tip too. 

History of Forecaddies 

Did you ever wonder where the golf term “fore” came from?

It’s a good question as we tend to wonder why we don’t say things like “Watch out” or “Get out of the way.” So, why do players around the world yell “fore” when their golf ball is heading towards others?

Because they used to yell “fore-caddie” as they were so common at the golf course. Since forecaddies would go ahead to locate golf balls, they would be in the landing zone of errant shots. 

To give them a warning, golfers would yell “fore-caddie”, which was eventually shortened to “fore.” This started in 1914 and is still a tradition today. 

After playing golf for 20+ years, I honestly had no idea about this crazy golf fact! Now you can share it with other players to enlighten them as well. 

What is a Forecaddie

FAQs About Caddies in Golf 

Do you have more questions about hiring caddies in golf? If so, keep reading to find out more now. 

How much do you tip a forecaddie?

A forecaddie fee is typically lower than a normal caddy fee.

A lot of golf courses charge a set fee per caddy (as the caddie employed by the golf course) and they usually get a percentage. Sometimes they’re independent contractors too but they make cash tips as well.

It’s good practice to tip caddies based on the green fee (usually 30-50%). The higher the green fees, the bigger the tip. Plus, caddies at these types of golf courses tend to provide incredible service and can make a great experience into an unbelievable one. 

Forecaddies tend to have a smaller fee as they’re not carrying golf clubs. But if they help with green reading, finding balls, and other responsibilities, it’s a good idea to tip them as well. It’s common to split the forecaddie tip among the group since everyone is benefiting from their services.

Like traditional caddies, they also have a forecaddie fee upfront as well. 

Bottom line, don’t be cheap!

What is a forecaddie fee?

A forecaddie fee is the amount you pay the golf course to reserve and hire a forecaddie for the round. It’s best to always tip them as well as their forecaddie fee is a very nominal amount in most cases. 

What are the forecaddie hand signals? 

It’s common for forecaddies to signal back to the group on the tee in case they need to hit a provisional. Here are the most common forecaddie hand signals:

Out of Bounds

One of the worst things that can happen off the tee is hitting it OB as it’s a two stroke penalty. This requires you to play the shot again with stroke and distance (if you hit your tee shot out of bounds, now you’re hitting your 3rd shot). 

If you go OB your forecaddie will either raise his arms above his head to the right side or wave both arms toward the OB. If you aren’t sure it’s always a good idea to hit a provisional so you don’t have to walk or run back to the tee box. 

Penalty Area 

If your ball is heading toward a penalty area (which used to be known as a water hazard or lateral hazard) a forecaddie will signal right hand in a downward direction. This signals to the player that their ball is unfortunately in the penalty area.

But having a forecaddie will help you take the best drop as they will see where the ball enters the hazard. 

Provisional

If a forecaddie crosses his arms over his torso, this means you should reload (aka hit a provisional) as they aren’t sure if it’s or out of bounds. For example, if you spray your tee shot right and they’re on the left side of the fairway and can’t see if it’s in or out, they’ll use this signal. 

Safe 

This is the forecaddie signal that all of us want to have! When a shot is safe, the forecaddie will move both hands in front of their body (as an umpire would do in baseball). This means you can breathe a sigh of relief and walk to your golf ball knowing it’s in play. 

Unable to Locate the Shot 

The main goal of forecaddies to find all golf balls in the group but they aren’t perfect. Weather and other factors can make it hard to spot tee shots and sometimes they’ll need help too.

If a forecaddie puts his hands over his eyes, this signals that they were unable to locate the shot. If you or your group didn’t see it either, it’s a good idea to hit a provisional. 

Wait 

If the fairway isn’t clear, a forecaddie will raise both hands with palms facing in your direction. This is a signal that you can’t hit yet and they’ll make the play away signal when the fairway is clear. 

Play Away

A forecaddie will rotate their hand to the right in a counterclockwise direction and point with his other hand to signal the fairway is clear. This means you and your group can now tee off. 

What happens if a forecaddie moves your golf ball?

If a forecaddie accidentally moves your golf ball you can replace it without any penalty. This ball will get replaced and play will go on as usual. 

But if your golf ball hits the forecaddie and bounces in a bad direction (for example, a penalty area), you do not get relief. This is why it’s a good idea to yell fore so they can get out of the way! 

Does a forecaddie carry golf clubs? 

No, this is the biggest difference between a caddy and forecaddie. A forecaddie is responsible for a lot of other caddy duties like reading greens or repairing ball marks but typically don’t clean clubs or carry the bags. 

Instead, their main goal is to locate golf balls for the group by walking or riding ahead of the group. By being near the landing zone for tee shots, they can spot (or use a rangefinder) to locate the balls in the group and signal back to the tee. 

Do pro golfers pay their caddies?

Everyone except Matt Kuchar (it’s a joke but read the full story here after his caddy incident). Yes, professional golfers hire their caddies and pay them a salary and bonuses. It used to be a certain percentage of the earnings (roughly 10%, similar to a sports agent) but that structure has changed. 

Since golf doesn’t guarantee money each week like the MLB, NBA, or NFL, if players missed the cut they wouldn’t win anything. Which means zero money for the caddy which isn’t a good business model. 

A lot of professional caddies have raved about LIV Golf as they reportedly treat caddies so much better. Some caddies even said they feel like players with nicer facilities and other benefits too. 

Final Thoughts on a Forecaddie’s Job

Both a caddie and forecaddie are a great way to get some extra help as they assist golfers on the course. Most recreational golfers can see the benefits of a golf caddie quickly! Not only do they carry clubs, a walking caddie can help with club selection, avoid penalty strokes, and find balls in the tall grass to save time.

If you’re playing a bucket list golf course, I highly recommend hiring a traditional caddy or forecaddie. If you’ve played the course more often, a forecaddie for the group might be best as it’s cheaper and they’ll help spot golf balls.

Just remember, the more they help and more personable they are, the more you should tip them. While a forecaddie fee is assessed in the clubhouse, they only get a percentage of that. Caddies and forecaddies tend to make most of their income with tips (usually cash but now a lot use Venmo or other apps as well). 

If they go above and beyond with service, green reading, and more, tip them well. It’s a great way to make a fun round even better and less frustrating by not losing golf balls.