Forecaddying to be exact. A forecaddie doesn’t carry a bag of clubs, but rather stays ahead of a cart-riding, foursome of golfers. His duties consist of finding golf balls, taking pin-distance measurements, cleaning clubs, fetching clubs, bagging clubs, holding clubs, reading putts, and more.
This was my job during the latter half of my college years. It is to date, the most arduous hiring process I’ve ever had to go through. There was a 3 part interview - general golf questions, a 30 minute phone interview where the caller would asked questions like, “Have you ever felt the flow?” and “Can you describe an example where you’ve gone above and beyond?” and an on-site group interview at The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Plantation Luxury Golf Resort.
If you were fortunate enough to pass the phone/social/psychological interview portion, you were brought in for a 5 day, unpaid training session. You were taught the basics of forecaddying and eventually graduated as a certified professional forecaddie.
Forecaddying is all about staying attentive to your golfers’ needs. Each member at the course is treated like a VIP, so the pressure is on big time not to screw up.
You typically meet them on the driving range and begin asking questions like “Where are you from?,” “What brings you out here?,” “How often do you golf?,” “What’s your handicap?,” “Would you like me to clean your clubs?,” etc. We call this user research in the design world, but it’s really just asking questions, sincerely listening and paying attention because you actually care.
In addition to getting to know the golfers, you have to be able to read them. Their body language, the way they interact with people. Do they seem easy going or are they cussing on the driving range after slicing the ball 100 yards to the right? You have to determine very quickly what type of personality type they are and what type of service they are going to prefer. You find this out more and more with each hole played, but to start with, you’ve got to use your gut. You have to read them and adapt.
Some golfers want to know every detail about the hole they are about to play while on the tee box. Others like to figure it out for themselves with only a minimal amount of information. Some golfers like to have their club-face cleaned after every shot and carried back to their bag. Others like to carry it themselves. Most golfers like to know if there are any breaks on the green that aren’t apparent. You have to remember and act on all of this while running through the woods looking for golf balls, stepping off measurements from the nearest yardage-marked sprinkler head, tallying and writing down distances for every player, and running around like a madman albeit composed and confident.
Generally there will be one high maintenance golfer, two easy going ones, and one quiet self-sufficient type. You have to adjust your service to fit each one at every aspect during the game. Which one will rake their own bunker? Which one wants you to read their putt, mark their ball, etc.? You strive to make each person happy with your performance because after all, you are working towards that big tip at the end.
There are so many variables to process it seems daunting but this is where the “flow” comes in, as the phone interviewer alluded to, so many weeks before.
This is no different than our job as designers. We have to understand our users before we can effectively design for them. We need to know what they like, what they don’t like, how they interact, what are their preferences. We parse all of this information to make informed and intuitive decisions regarding interfaces and flows. Just like caddying a round of golf, we start with assumptions about the golfers and refine as the game continues. As we learn more about users, we modify our service for them and begin to relate on a more personal level - from copywriting to interactions and beyond.
Many times after finishing a round of golf, I often felt very much connected to the players. It wasn’t uncommon for returning golfers to request caddies they had previously used - friendships were built. We shared stories and experiences together. The golfers trust the caddies because they were extremely knowledgeable about the course and provided paramount service.
There was a sign at the caddie office that said “Caring to serve. Driven to be the best.” Although I thought it was incredibly cheesy at the time, this should be no different with all of our digital endeavors.