Golf caddies; the victims of Covid -19

Local golfer Samuel Noroge and his caddie strategise during day one of the Kenya Savannah Classic at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi on March 23, 2021.[Stafford Ondego, Standard]

A caddy’s work is to carry a golfer’s kit for a fee, which depends on the location of the golf course. Nairobi courses pay caddies about Sh1,000 for a round of golf. It’s cheaper outside Nairobi. 

Data suggests there are about 8,000 active golfers in Kenya. Most people think the number is higher. The average pay to a caddie is Sh800 per round of golf and most times, every golfer plays twice a week with the same caddie.

Every week, caddies make at least Sh1,600 (Sh800 per game, two times a week) with the same player. I say ‘at least’ because the caddie is often on the field with different players at different times. Now with about 8,000 active golfers in the country, that brings the amount of money being exchanged on the golf course between golfers and caddies per week equivalent to Sh12.8 million. But due to the pandemic, many golf courses have remained closed. That means that in a year, Sh614.4 million that could have been made has been lost. And caddies are at a loss. George Muchina, who has been caddying at Vetlab in Upper Kabete for over 40 years says the situation is dire.

“The image of a caddie as a young man who takes beer for breakfast is old-fashioned. Women have also gotten into caddying and are giving men a run for their money,” he says.

I am not aware of any golfer who pays his or her caddie on credit or in installments. That means the lockdown has been devastating to caddies all over the country. Most clubs have initiatives to help the caddies during the lockdowns. Some golfers, out of goodwill, send some money to their caddies even when there is no round of golf to be played.  

But it isn’t all bad. In some areas, the golf courses have remained open. And in these areas, the number of golfers has gone up. It is one of the few games where social distancing is easy to keep except on the 19th hole. The 19th hole, for those not in the know, refers to socialising in the clubhouse, which is part of the fun of golfing. I hope that when Covid-19 has run its course, investing more in sports will be one of our national priorities. After all, being unhealthy predisposes you to the ravages of diseases.

Can I let you in on something? I play golf; I love it. This is despite the fact that I drive a Vitz. Why don’t you try it and see if you like it?

(XN Iraki)


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