Two caddies per player would still be acceptable, one for the clubs and one for the umbrella. Three caddies is considered the height of decadence. But it happens.
The American actor Bill Murray, whose fans span the generations from Ghostbusters through Groundhog Day to Lost in Translation, grew up as a caddy-turned-greenkeeper and starred in a film called Caddyshack, which remains the favourite of many professional golfers.
The life lessons he learned as a caddy, Murray recently told an interviewer, included: ''How to smoke, curse and play cards. But more important, when to.''
Thai female caddies are a little different, but then so is their Caddyshack.
Every day, all year long, a steady stream of women proceed into the large Caddy Mansion at Laguna Phuket Golf Club and emerge ready for action in ones, twos or threes.
Within minutes, they are smiling graciously at the first good shot of the round and exclaiming: ''Khaeng raeng!''
This actually means ''Hey, for a weedy guy, you hit that ball really well,'' although in strictly polite foursomes it may be interpreted as ''Nice shot.''
For many golfers who have never had the form or the money to hire a caddy in their home country, playing with one for the first time can be a little like partnering Tiger Woods at St Andrews in front of 10,000 spectators.
There is no need for nervouseness, though. Every caddy quickly becomes the cheerleader and coach for her player, offering encouragement and guidance at each hazard and dogleg, and usually proferring the right club for the shot.
Even if you duff a drive off the tee, the caddies will keep a straight face. They will wait until your back is turned, then laugh uproariously among themselves.
But if you dare to utter the words sum num naa (''that's my own stupid fault'') they will all fall about, holding their sides, fit to burst.
Some overly serious people finally discover in Thailand what Bill Murray, Bob Hope, W. C. Fields, George Burns and a long list of other comic legends could have told them: golf can be great fun.
Ask the Thai caddies, though, and they will say that for them, golf also means freedom. Freedom especially to choose when to work, and for how long.
Many jobs on Phuket involve long hours and are paid monthly, but the 220 caddies at Laguna earn a cash fee after each round, usually supplemented by a tip.
Under the roster system, caddies can opt in or out at short notice. Once they have completed the course, their name is transferred to the back of the queue.
But there is also an overriding incentive system. A guest can request a caddy whom he or she gets to know and like, so sometimes, enduring friendships are formed betwixt tee and green.
For many, being a caddy is sanuk. (fun).
And five hours' work is not considered to be a long shift, by any stretch, although it does involve dealing with every Thai woman's worst enemy: the sun.
Unlike many Western women, for whom a tan can be seen as healthy or at least give that appearance, Thais consider the sun's rays essential for growing rice, but not much else.
They will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it, one of the reasons why Laguna caddies rug up under their top-to-toe uniforms, don broad-brimmed bonnets, and love to carry an umbrella, especially when it's not raining.
Drawn from surrounding villages, the Laguna caddies start out at an annual caddy school. Learning the intricacies of the game and golfers' English is part of the process.
There are probably some surreal moments when it comes to explaining why some metal clubs are called ''woods'' and how the best golfer in the world came to have the same name.
Just like Bill Murray, some Thai caddies will use their golfing experience to go on to better things. Others fall for the freedom and stay for a lifetime, even encouraging daughters to follow in their footsteps, literally.
So when a caddy tells a player that the other caddies in their three-ball are her mother and her grandmother, she may not be joking.
Book a round at Laguna Phuket Golf Club or a lesson with a professional by calling 076 324350. Other excellent golf courses are available on Phuket at Blue Canyon, Mission Hills, Phuket Country Club and Loch Palm. The south of the island is due to gain its first course in 2008.
Related Golf Articles:
Thinking about playing a pioneering round on Phuket's newest golf course in 2008?
Spectacular Golf Course, Academy for Chalong
Red Mountain, a new course sculpted from the tin mine country at the heart of Phuket, is set to make the island even more appealing.
Big Red Is Green For Go
The article on caddies appears in 'Laguna lifestyle & travel' magazine for June-December 2008.
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