How this site aims to digitise the relationship between golfers and caddies

4 Sep 2019

Graham Curry of HandiCaddie. Image: TechWatch

HandiCaddie is one of 12 finalists in the upcoming Invent 2019 competition. TechWatch’s Emily McDaid spoke to founder Graham Curry to find out more.

Graham Curry, a caddie at Northern Ireland’s Castlerock Golf Club, is looking to digitise the process of how caddies are assigned to golfers with his new venture, HandiCaddie.

Curry explains the archaic nature of the system for booking caddies. “Over the past few years I have witnessed many inefficiencies at golf clubs. They complete administrative work by hand, not digitally. Golfers don’t get to choose their caddies. And caddies can’t set their schedule – it’s all arranged by phone.”

On Curry’s new website, caddies can create profiles of themselves and golfers can view their profiles, look at reviews of their work and arrange rounds of golf. The platform will also eventually offer add-ons, giving golfers the ability to book drinks or food after their rounds.

When I first heard about Curry’s idea, I thought he was taking on the world of the super-rich – or just pro golfers. But it turns out that average golfers also hire caddies regularly.

“There are huge benefits to booking a caddie and gaining knowledge from them during your round of golf. At my club it costs £40 to book a caddie, and at Northern Ireland’s best club, arguably, Royal Portrush, it’s still only £55 for an elite caddie.”

Among other titbits, caddies will advise golfers about where to hit their tee shots, what clubs to use and general knowledge of the course. For golfers with a competitive spirit, it can improve their round considerably.

‘I realised that I should to start a business based around the world that I inhabit – golf’

The ability to book caddies is also especially important for golf tourism.

“Golf tourism is on the rise,” Curry points out. This is a hugely important economic boost for Northern Ireland. The British Open, held in Portrush in July, was estimated to bring in 190,000 visitors to the area.

“Five million golf tourists play globally every year,” Curry says. “Here in Northern Ireland, it’s estimated that 52pc of tourists are North American.”

Curry says he believes that 80pc of those North American golf tourists would book a caddie. Of those bookings, just less than a third would book their caddie through a golf club directly – the rest book through a golf tour operator.

Although the website is still being built, Curry envisions a monetisation strategy that will take a 10pc commission on every caddie booking.

‘Lightbulb moment’

When he’s not on a golf course, Curry is often found going for a run or listening to podcasts – which have been a great source of inspiration for his entrepreneurial drive.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur – but I wasn’t sure exactly what my business idea was. I met with Queen’s University’s Student Union’s Kat Maguire and I had a lightbulb moment. I realised that I should to start a business based around the world that I inhabit – golf.”

He has since participated in Belfast’s Enterprise Academy programme and the Dragons Den programme at Queen’s University Belfast, both of which have helped him get the initial stages of his business ready.

“For me, being an entrepreneur means putting myself out there and not being afraid to take a chance,” Curry explains. “I’d like to have the opportunity to impact a lot of people. I’m also willing to put in the hard work and the long hours that it will take.”

Curry has been “going to entrepreneur events from the age of 17 or 18”, he says. “One thing I learned was that if you can solve a problem, you’ve got a business.

“I always ask myself: what problems affect me directly and what solutions can I provide?”

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

HandiCaddie is a finalist in the annual Invent competition run by Catalyst, aiming to showcase the best and brightest innovators that Northern Ireland has to offer. Invent 2019 will take place on Thursday 10 October in Belfast, where 12 finalists will battle it out for a £33,000 prize fund.

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland