Nothing nude under the sun

Asian caddies could teach us a thing or two about preventing melanoma

Friend and fellow golf writer Duncan Forgan has e-mailed me with a slightly sheepish question following his round at Ocean Dunes Golf Club, in Phan Thiet, a seaside fishing and resort town in Vietnam.

“Are the caddies there just really flirtatious?” asks Duncan, a handsome and personable Scotsman who could easily wonder whether the behavior was generic or specific to him, but who already seems pretty sure the answer is yes. (Full disclosure: The reporter has written for the firm that represents Ocean Dunes Golf Club and Danang Golf Club, cited later.)

You forgot the gloves

Yep, Duncan, the caddies there, about 80 percent young women, really are flirtatious, although that’s pretty much like female Vietnamese bank tellers, wait staff, flight attendants, you name it. Taking it seriously can (I’m told) get a guy in a lot of trouble, but it’s otherwise one of the antic aspects of playing golf in Vietnam, as well as most other Asian nations. What caddies here lack in caddying expertise – a lot, generally – they almost always make up for in earnestness and, for lack of a better term, cuteness.

The only weird caveat when it comes to caddies, though, is that you seldom actually know what they look like. That’s because they cover up from head to foot – including, usually, long gloves and face masks – to prevent exposure to the sun.

Not a matter of hygiene, it’s an aversion to darkened skin tone, especially for women, as indicative of class, family history, etc. They’re dedicated to the practice, too: It’s not uncommon to see Asian women shielding their faces from the sun just to cross the street in Saigon.

This is, in turn, congruent with another facet of the mainstream perception of beauty: Judging by billboards and other promotional material, the Caucasian, fair-skinned version is preferred.

Eclecticism reigns in caddie couture at Paradise Resort Golf Club, in Vung Tau, Vietnam

And while I’m hardly the first to note it, this will nonetheless come as a major shock to Western guys who have spent time in a large, Asian city like Ho Chi Minh City.

Caddies at Danang Golf Club

Caddie-fashion reform is, however, in the works at Danang Golf Club, a Greg Norman-designed course that opened in April to considerable acclaim. As conceived by Howie Roberts, the general manager, and created by an expat designer from its sister course, next-door Montgomerie Links, the caddie uniform consists of form-fitting slacks and a moisture-wicking microfibre, long-sleeved top. An oversized, wide-brimmed visor provides plenty of sun protection, and most of the winsome caddie staff opts not to go with the “Bedouin look.”

DGC's new caddie outfits are stylish

A wholly welcome jolt to the status quo.  Look out, Duncan.

# # #