Photos credit: Matthew Harris – Royal Dornoch caddies David Pearson and Anne Sutherland.
GOLF tourism pumps millions of pounds into the economy of the Scottish Highlands.
Now Royal Dornoch Golf Club captain and economist Professor David Bell has highlighted the key role caddies play in giving visiting golfers the red-carpet treatment – and boosting the local economy.
Bell, a native of Dornoch and a caddie himself in his youth, is now a professor of economics at the University of Stirling. He has been number crunching at one of the world’s top-ranked links courses.
Last year, more than 13,500 tee times were snapped up by visiting golfers with the Championship Course on their bucket list.
Caddies are sought after by international guests – many of them Americans – and Professor Bell estimates they provided a £700,000 boost to the Dornoch economy last year.
“2022 was a bumper season for caddying at Royal Dornoch as international travel fully opened up again in the wake of the pandemic,” he said.
“Our caddies, who are mostly local, helped golfers navigate our world-famous links more than 7600 times.
“More than half of our visitors want a caddy to make the most of their round.
“Over the course of the season, 113 different caddies carried bags or pulled trolleys and advised on how to play the course.
“Golfing visitors from all over the world welcome not only their advice but also their insights into life in this gorgeous corner of Scotland.
“Caddying is an unsung pillar of cultural exchange for Scotland. My recent trip to meet our US members confirmed their affection for Royal Dornoch’s informality and ambience and the key part played by our caddies.
“Caddying at Dornoch has always been inclusive: men and women, young and old are welcome to become caddies so long as they understand the etiquette of the game and how to play the course.
“They provide a vital part of the memorable Royal Dornoch experience.
“The caddies injected around £700,000 into the local economy between May and October, helping to offset the cost-of-living crisis.
“Now we are looking forward to another busy season and welcoming caddies, old and new, to our ranks.”
Caddies range from veteran “loopers” to members of the club’s youth section.
Picture framer David Pearson has spent 12 seasons as a caddy.
“The majority of the caddies are members, which is a rarity at golf courses of this standard,” he said.
“I don’t know of any other Royal clubs which would let their members caddy, never mind encourage them.
“They know the place inside out.”
One-time architect’s technician Anne Sutherland returned to Dornoch after working in London.
“I have been caddying here for five years.
“I decided to give it a go and it’s great. You are outdoors, walking miles a day and meeting different folk from around the world every day.”
Local man Cameron Hook revealed caddying has helped him through university.
“I started as a junior and continued during my university days. I suppose I’ve been caddying 15 or 16 years now.
“I must be pushing 2000 rounds on the Championship Course and I’ll be back again for at least half this season.
“It’s good that money is going into the local economy and I’d encourage local youngsters to sign up for caddying.”
Student Hannah Riddell has close family ties with the club.
“I have been caddying since I was 14. My sister Rebecca caddied before me and most of the juniors get involved,” she said.
“The club encourages youngsters to caddy. Most visiting groups want caddies.
“I enjoy caddying. I wouldn’t have done it for so long if I didn’t.”