Harare is something of a dream city for golfers, well known for its many golf courses all within a 30km radius. There are over ten golf courses in the city although some are run down due to lack of members and sponsorship fatigue. Six golf courses have managed to stay afloat and maintain their prestige.
Over the years these golf courses have provided employment for hundreds of caddies. A caddy is an individual who helps the golfer by carrying the golf bag, reading the greens, club selection, calculating distance and raking bunkers among other duties. They usually have no contract of employment with the golf club but get their income from the golfers who use their services.
The use of pull/push carts in the game dates back to the 1940s when golf was exclusively played on foot in most golf clubs, this enabled the easy movement of the heavy golf bag. Locally these carts have been pulled around the course by the caddy, leaving the golfer to focus on his game. One of the major responsibilities of a caddy on the golf course is to carry the golfer’s bag and employment used to be certain for caddies – a golfer would not risk straining his/her shoulder and back by carrying the bag or pushing the cart.
General manager at Royal Golf Club, Ian Mathieson said, however, that golfers are being increasingly economically minded. They would prefer to pay a one off fee of around $100 for a cart, rather than hiring a caddy that would cost over $20 after the caddy fee, halfway meal ($2) plus a tip.
Asking caddies how they felt about golfers adopting self-use of these carts was like asking postmen how they felt about the use of emails. A caddy based at Wingate Golf Club says that not only has the tough economy seen a reduction in the number of golfers who play frequently but the few golfers who still play are cutting costs pulling their own carts instead of hiring a caddy.
Alois, the caddy master at Chapman, said some players understand the situation and still use the service of a caddy even if they bring a push/pull cart. He took the whip to the caddies however, saying that the economy was not the only reason that some players opted for the push or pull cart. He says that some of the caddies did not fulfill their duties on the course efficiently.
An employee at Chapman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “The duty of a caddy on the course is also to maintain the course this includes picking up litter, raking bunkers and fixing divots. This function saved the golf club as they did not have to employ more people to maintain the course.” Now with fewer caddies, golf clubs will have to spend more on maintaining their golf courses.
With the economy unlikely to pick up any time soon and the rate of unemployment high the question is what can be done to make sure caddies still get work and aren’t totally replaced by the carts? Amateur golfer Takudzwa Majoni agrees. He suggests that as the busy days at golf clubs are usually Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, on one of these days the clubs could make it compulsory to play on foot, thus giving the caddies a continued chance of some employment.