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LOVE THAT GOLF
Rick Reilly
August 21, 1989
A CURIOUS AMERICAN EXPLORES THE GAME IN JAPAN AND FINDS THAT IT HAS A FIRM GRIP ON THAT NATION
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August 21, 1989

Love That Golf

A CURIOUS AMERICAN EXPLORES THE GAME IN JAPAN AND FINDS THAT IT HAS A FIRM GRIP ON THAT NATION

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Right. The caddie's entire face is usually in shadow, and the only thing you hear is a voice way inside there saying, "Iz O.B."

With only one caddie per foursome, it is a mystery how she gets it all done. She marks and cleans the balls—not done in the U.S.—hands out everybody's putters, takes whatever clubs they're holding, advises everybody on the putting line, handles the pin, excuses three-putts, smooths egos and traps, takes the putters back, hands out drivers for the next hole, and makes it halfway down the fairway, ordering your clubs numerically as she goes, before you're ready to hit.

For this, she makes about $19,000 a year—plus a tip from the entire foursome: a pair of socks or a box of chocolates from one of the on-course teahouses. At some clubs she gets free lodging in a caddie dormitory. For most golfers, though, the thought of a caddie dormitory is chilling.

Why?

Because you can imagine the conversations that go on in a place like that: "So the guy says to me, '235 yards, what do you think it will take?' I wanted to say, 'With your swing? Two three-woods and a seven-iron.' "

Have we exhausted your store of information about caddies?

Well, there is one more thing. The caddies are seriously high-tech. At a lot of courses, when it's foggy or you can't see the hole, a caddie will whip out her walkie-talkie and check with the caddie ahead to see if it's clear to hit.

At the GMG course, west of Tokyo, the bags travel by an elaborate monorail system operated by the caddies by remote control. The four bags are loaded on a little tram—sort of a par-72 Futureland—and the caddie "walks" it along with the foursome up the side of the fairway, stopping it when she needs clubs and sending it whirring off when she doesn't. It's sort of like playing C-3PO's home course.

Japan may also be the only place on earth with escalators on the golf courses. Instead of making the players actually walk up hills, on many courses there are "skylators," rubberized moving sidewalks that whisk the player up the hill to the next tee.

So the players won't have to wait in order to begin waiting for their next shots.

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