AC logo

 

 

Synopsis

Anyone who plays golf, and there are twenty-six million of us in the U.S. alone, knows something about caddies, even if they’ve never had one. Go just a little deeper, and almost all know that the most colorful caddy characters reside in Scotland. There are reasons for this. Golf has been played in Scotland for over 500 hundred years, and since the beginning, there have been caddies. Of course we deal with that history in both a fun and serious way, but much of our documentary is spent in the company of the current characters who regale us with stories anecdotal, insightful, and downright funny. Our documentary begins as a quest to see if any of the caddies of old still exist. Caddies I clearly remember from when I visited as a nineteen year old golfer some decades ago. The search for the ultimate caddy character does not easily reveal itself. Ronnie MacAskill, Director of Golf at Royal Aberdeen helps us out with the 500 year history of the game, and well known Scottish character actor David Joy as the incarnation of the most famous caddy and champion golfer, Old Tom Morris, provides a counterpoint in our appreciation for the history, humor and tragedies of some of those long gone.

Breathing in and out of the documentary is the unsettling fact that many courses were temporarily sacrificed for their strategic location and expanse during the great wars for tanks and planes. Likewise, the men. Andrew McCloud of the Highland Fusiliers, who has caddied at Royal Dornoch since his teenage years, tells how of the one hundred and thirty-five original recruits for the Second World War, only three returned. These histories are an inescapable part of our story, and we would be callous to leave them out.

But let’s go onward with our romp across the Lowlands and over the Highlands stopping at many a golfing Mecca, spending time on the course and in the pubs with our subjects. How they regard Americans and other nationalities that visit is of particular merriment. To quote Robert Burns, “O wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursels as others see us.” They’ve got us down.

Complimenting the tales and lore, is Scotland itself, an old, wild, and stunningly beautiful expanse of land. Whether lingering in the wild of the Highlands or staring across the North Sea to the Orkneys, the countries visceral beauty is palpable.

In the end, we find our man, Billy Buff. Billy worked the local coalmine near Prestwick until it closed then, took up caddying. He still caddies today at Prestwick Golf Club, the Club that inaugurated The Open in 1860. Clutching a pint in one hand, a cigarette in the other and his florid bulbous nose leading the way for a joke or pointed remark, the man might be the last of his kind, and we are happy to be in his startling company. It was hard to leave all that great good company. With the strain of bagpipes, we and the audience are at once bid a wistful farewell and sense a need to return.