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YES, PROS USED TO PLAY WITHOUT KNOWING
Before there were green maps, there were yardage books. And their history runs
deeper, and traces a more circuitous path, than any current player on tour probably
would imagine – or remember. In the late 1940s, a talented Southern California
amateur named Gene Andrews began pacing off distances from course landmarks
to the centre of the greens. A Walker Cup player and 1954 US Public Links champion,
Andrews swore by his method and its ability to aid in club selection, and he tried to
spread the gospel to fellow amateurs.
Few listened, let alone obeyed.
Unknown to Andrews, playing by yardage was being developed independently in
Bethesda, Maryland, by a 17-year-old named Deane Beman. Yes, that Deane Beman.
The future commissioner of the US PGA Tour, completely unaware of what Andrews
was doing, actually jotted down distances on his scorecard at the 1955 US Open at
Olympic. It’s what’s known as “multiple discovery”.
“I used to go to a football field and practise taking three-foot steps so I could put
them in as yardages next to holes on my scorecard,” says Beman, retired and living
in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
“I got to where I was rarely off on the 100-yard distance by more than a couple of
yards. I’d walk courses in advance, measuring from trees, sprinkler-head couplers
and corners of bunkers.”
At the Walker Cup in 1959, Beman showed his method to one of his teammates,
a beefy teenager named Jack Nicklaus. “Jack used to scoff at my writing down
yardages,” Beman says. “He wasn’t interested at all. Then, at the 1961 US Amateur at
Pebble Beach, he started copying my numbers onto his scorecard. He never looked
back. Jack was a heck of a lot more influential than I was – after he turned pro, a lot
of players started sending out their caddies to get yardages.”
The phenomenon wasn’t particularly organised or systematic. But it turned a
slight corner when Ernest (Creamy) Carolan, who caddied for Arnold Palmer, began
laminating the pages of his books, spreading their popularity and raising the
standard for accuracy.
“By 1972, it really started to take off,” says Steve Hulka, who caddied for Australia’s
David Graham during that period. “I recall groups of caddies, four or five of us at
once, getting yardages together and sharing the information. Everybody used a
yardage book. Eyeballing was dead.”
The commercialisation began, according to Hulka, in 1976, when caddie George
Lucas began selling his hand-drawn, meticulously crafted books for $5. It’s Lucas
who drew in colourful rejoinders in his books, such as “J.I.C .Y.R.F.U ” (Just In Case
You Really F--- Up) to indicate awkward places.
The turning point came in 1996, when caddie Cayce Kerr began measuring with
a Swarovski laser he acquired in Europe, selling models to players and caddies – at
an escalated price.
“ That changed everything,” Hulka says. “ The laser doesn’t lie, so the old-school
methods of walking with a calibrated wheel or using fishing line were gone forever.
What’s funny is, George Lucas found a cheaper Bushnell model in a Cabela’s
catalogue, which sort of destroyed Cayce’s little side business.”
Yardage books as we know them today appeared in 2003, when Mark Long began
distributing them through his company, Tour Sherpa. There are a few holdouts on
the green maps, but to every player, the modern yardage book rates second only to a
player’s clubs in importance.
– guy yocom
Dufner says the books sometimes convey
incorrect information. Long says this can
happen when the hole location isn’t precise.
“A lot can happen if the hole is charted
even a couple of feet differently than what’s
conveyed on the map,” he says. Duplantis
says improved hole locations provided by
the tour will remedy this. But Long says
players sometimes don’t plot the location of
the ball on the green correctly in relation to
the hole, what he calls “operator error”.
Players and caddies don’t always consult
the books together. Patrick Reed frequently
goes to the book, but his caddie, Kessler
Karain, chooses to ignore it. “I trust my eyes
and instincts,” says Karain, the brother of
Reed’s wife, Justine. “ To me, the guides
take away from that. When Patrick sees
something in the book I don’t see, we’ll
consult. But I’m confident in my senses.”
HOW YOUR COURSE CAN BE MAPPED
The use of green maps on tour leaves the
impression they are available only to the
pros. In fact, green maps of many courses,
including US Tour courses like Torrey Pines
and notable ones such as Cherry Hills and
Bethpage, are available for purchase and
download at sites like strackaline.com.
A few others – PGA National, East Lake
and Riviera are good examples – have sold
green-map books over the counter.
There are holdouts. No modern, laser-
scanned green map of Augusta National is
known to exist. It doesn’t mean that their
greens haven’t been laser-scanned and
mapped extensively; when the 11th green
was washed away by a flood in 1990, the
club used measures taken by a theodolite
laser to restore them. “A course like Augusta
probably has been measured down to the
last pine needle,” Mayerle says. You also
won’t find green maps for exclusive, old-
world citadels such as Merion, which hasn’t
been mapped since the 2013 US Open, or San
Francisco Golf Club, which doesn’t even sell
Any course can have its greens mapped.
If a course agrees to purchase 100
StrackaLine books for $15, the company
will come in and do a complete mapping.
It amounts to a $1,500 charge, which the
course can recoup by selling books to
its members and visitors. Jim Stracka
touts other upsides: “It’s very helpful for
superintendents for pin-setting, being
able to cut the holes where there can be
less traffic,” he says. “It provides a record
in case a green needs to be modified or
For his end, Stracka gets to sell the books
through his website. “We’re adding roughly
10 new courses a week,” he says. “ We have
two full-time engineers who do nothing but
Commercially, the most innovative
offering is presented through GolfLogix, for
years a well-known player in the mobile GPS
distance-guide market. Through its app,
GolfLogix recently launched access to green
maps of close to 1,500 courses, and plans
on bringing the number to 10,000 by 2018.
Users can view green contours on the green
and from a fairway perspective. Access
to the maps will cost $49.99, though PGA
club pros will get them for free on request.
“ They’re fun to use and are going to save
you strokes,” says Pete Charleston, president
of GolfLogix. “But one aspect we’re excited
about is how they’ll speed up play.”
DO THE MAPS MAKE PLAY
SLOWER OR FASTER?
Ah, the pace-of-play issue. We referenced
earlier how Dustin Johnson spent an
additional 20 seconds consulting his green-
map book on the 18th green at the Northern
Trust. That decisive putt notwithstanding,
tour players have not routinely surpassed
the 40 seconds allowed on a putt per tour
guidelines. “As I’ve gotten used to the books
and what to look for, I ’m referencing them
7/12/17 2:14 pm
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