NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - If your dad is like most, he will celebrate Father's Day by tuning into the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament. Maybe he'll even sneak in a round before TV coverage starts Sunday afternoon.
A golf shirt, a cap or a dozen of the latest hi-tech Titleists will make him happy, but why not go the extra mile this year and give him what the pros enjoy every day: 18 holes with a caddy.
"If you've never played golf with a caddy, then you have never played the game,'' said Dennis Cone, president and founder of the Professional Caddies Association, a trade group lobbying for better benefits for caddies.
Caddies have been a fixture at courses in the British Isles since the game was invented there five centuries ago. But they are much less common in the United States. Cone estimates that 95 percent of Americans have never played golf with a caddy, mainly because the service is limited to elite country clubs. The hefty revenue generated by the rental of motorized golf carts has also kept the caddy option on the back burner.
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But golfers that have used a looper on vacation or at an outing are getting hooked, Cone says, fomenting a revolt against golf carts and paving the way for greater access to caddies. Many high-end golf resorts, like Pinehurst in North Carolina and California's Pebble Beach, have offered the caddy option for years, while newer developments like Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., have banned carts in favor of caddies.
"We're seeing more and more people taking caddies,'' said Keith Hicklin of CaddieMasters Enterprises, which trains and supplies caddies to 24 U.S. resorts and private clubs. "Resorts are finding it's something guests like to have.''
Your butler on the fairway
And why not? A caddy takes care of all the chores normally left to the golfer, like raking sand traps, cleaning clubs, and figuring yardages for shots into the green. A good one will also read the break on putts and provide playing tips based on local knowledge of the course.
|Tiger Woods' caddie Steve Williams follows a shot at this week's U.S. Open.
Proponents also point out that caddies improve the speed of play, shaving precious minutes off 18-hole rounds that now stretch five hours or more on some courses. Having a caddy replace divots in the fairway and ball marks on the green also improves playing conditions.
With a caddy taking care of the nitty-gritty details, golfers can concentrate on their game, shoot the breeze with their playing partners, or nail down that business deal with a client.
"Most people would say that it does make a difference; as you walk toward your ball you can visualize what your next play will be,'' said Kent Instefjord, the head professional at Whistling Straits.
While caddy programs are popping up across the country, there are no definitive lists of golf courses that offer caddies. Many established golf resorts either feature caddies or can arrange for a caddy with at least 48 hours advance notice, while the rare public facility like Cog Hill in suburban Chicago may have a youth program where high school and college students carry bags to earn scholarships. Instefjord recommends calling courses individually for their policies on caddies.
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Caddy rates vary by region, but you should expect to shell out about $40-to-$50 per bag. Tips are optional but recommended by most clubs. If you are arranging a caddy for Dad, course officials suggest leaving the Rodney Dangerfield-sized pro bag at home and opting for a bag that weighs less than 25 pounds. Some courses even weigh bags and will give you a replacement for the round if yours is too heavy.