Sport psychologist caddying on pga tour

A caddy is the closest thing to being a sideline head coach. It provides amazing insight into the game that no one else can get, and caddies save a professional golfer, in my opinion, about one shot a round. Here’s my take, since I loop a few tour events each year for my clients that I help coach with the mental game.

“Keep up, clean up & shut up”

Caddying is all about timing. The best have an awareness of when to speak up and when to stay silent. They often know what their player is thinking and can even anticipate a response before a question is asked. Most importantly, a great caddy isn’t afraid to make a mistake.

“There is a reason why their name is on the bag”

A caddy is still perceived like a head coach because he/she is only as good as their player. But two of the absolute best that I know are Paul Tesori and Joe Skovron. They have played golf at the highest level, have caddied for winners on tour, Rickie Fowler & Webb Simpson, and prepare better than anyone else.

A great caddy is like a sponsor in A.A. It is built upon a mutual relationship of trust and is also 100% confidential. The best aren’t afraid of calling out their player if they are not preparing the right way, abandon game plans, not committing to shots, or getting in their own way. 

We shot 66, he shot 74” 

The bags are never heavy shooting a 66, but they can get weighty when the player is not playing well. In fact, the toughest part is often removing oneself from the actual score and not getting caught up in what the player is doing. The player himself can ride an emotional roller coaster, so staying positive, calm, in-control, and un-emotional at all times is huge.

“Every shot counts”

I am constantly reminded the importance of every shot! But, once my player 3-putted the last hole of a PGA tournament, which cost him a top-25 finish and $21,000. Ten percent of that amount, my cut, is more than I have ever attempted at gambling in my life.

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

I caddied this past week at The Greenbrier Classic for Gary Christian and even caddied a practice round with the Tom Watson!!! One lesson on mental toughness that was reaffirmed was the power of commitment. However, a major hang-up that gets in the way is having too many options. We may think having options is good, but the opposite is true, when we remove all alternatives, it actually increases our level of commitment.

For instance, when we go out to dinner and the menu has a 30 choices of a dish, it is actually more difficult to make a decision than if the menu only had ten choices. Research has even confirmed that having fewer options actually saves us mental energy and helps us make a conclusion.


There was no power when I arrived the Sunday before The Greenbrier Classic, which meant in this case, cold showers. THERE WAS NO OTHER OPTION. I took cold showers four straight days. Completely cold water driven, I actually felt like a Navy Seal. In the past, I have advocated taking a one-minute cold shower as a way to build mental toughness, but this was way different.

The power returned on Friday, so I could now take a regular shower if I chose, but I was in the Spartan mind-set, so I still opted for  taking a cold shower. However, now it was mentally challenging because all I had to do was turn the knob a bit and I could get some relief, which I unfortunately did…I relented because the option was now there and I was not mentally disciplined enough to ignore the slightly warmer water.


When Spanish explorer Cortez arrived to the new world, he commanded his 500 men to burn the 11 ships. Burning the ships has become symbolic with, sink or swim, win or die. When we are provided different choices; if one does not work out, we think the other option is better, which affects our commitment.  If we are not 100% committed to what we are doing, then it becomes too easy to bail and sail back home. Burn the ships!