A very long time ago in Australia, kids caddied 18 holes for the cost of a Dunlop 65 ($1) and on Saturdays I would caddy 36 holes at Eastern in Melbourne for my two regulars. Each week they would struggle to break 100 but nonetheless managed to teach me much about golf. Apparently the cost of today’s equivalent of two Dunlop 65s ($14) isn’t what kids are prepared to work for anymore, certainly not from seven in the morning until 5.30 in the afternoon.
Geoff Ogilvy caddied at Royal Melbourne where the members — as they did for me at Eastern — let him play the course after the round as well as after school. That one kid had such free access to one of the world’s very best courses and went on to win the US Open is one of the great things our sport can do for kids.
I always loved to caddy and when Curtis Luck’s coach, Craig Bishop called me and asked if I’d caddy for Curtis at The Australian, I needed no persuading.
I’ve seen him play a lot and he’s got an uncommon level of the inventive flair you see less of in this era, because so much of the modern game is about power and how far you can drive the ball. As Ogilvy noted in our Tuesday practice round: ‘A 300 yard hitter isn’t even close to being a long hitter on tour these days.’
It makes suggesting a club tricky, because the concept of hitting a six iron just over two-hundred yards into the long par three, 15th at The Australian is beyond me. Greg Norman was probably hitting four irons in the 1980s but Curtis thought he could rip a "back foot six iron in there", which he did with no problem at all.
For fun I lobbed him a four iron.
"What do you want me to do with this?” he said.
"Hit it by the flag."
He proceeded to hit the most perfect high, soft fade, taking 20 meters off a ‘normal’ four iron and stuck it in there six feet from the hole. Even Ogilvy raised an eyebrow.
Of course there has been a lot of great golf played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the bell going off on Thursday morning makes golf a different beast. It was the great Bobby Jones who once said something like, ‘There is golf and then there is championship golf and the two don’t bear much resemblance to each other.’
The course itself — the same one the generation who grew up paying a dollar for a golf ball thought was very long and the most difficult in the country– plays remarkably short for these guys.
By my count six or seven of the par fours are reachable with wedge approach, two of the four club’s four par fives, the 14th and the 18th, are easily reachable and of the other pair, the fifth is a three-shotter for the majority and the first (a par five for members) is converted to a par four.
All Australian championship golf relies on the wind to defend the course and over the four days the inevitable wind almost as integral to our golf as it is in Britain. The climate over there allows for fine turf which make running the ball into the greens easier than it is in Sydney, but nonetheless the style of golf one is asked to play is uniquely Australian.
Greens surrounded by short grass and hard running fairways are something the world game does not see enough of and it is a blessing those charged with setting up the course have not followed the lead of some leading players who think smothering the course in long grass is the answer to the ball going too far.
For my man, the wind would be a welcome addition to the test this week. Growing up in Perth is obviously a pretty good grounding and his natural creativity is only enhanced by the weather asking for more than the norm.
For my part, I’ll see if I can followed the old and well-worn instruction to a caddy which goes something like this: 'Turn up, Keep up and Shut Up.'