You still can’t have any of them though and if the USGA and Royal and Ancient Club of Saint Andrews have it their way, soon Tour professionals won’t have them anymore either.
Both organizations announced in a joint statement that the governing bodies for rules are concerned about the amount of information now readily available to Tour players.
It wasn’t always like that though.
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Currently, Tour players, a Tour caddie, or maybe an on-course TeeVee commentator, The Book, as it’s known at golf’s highest level, is off-limits to golf’s laymen.
Former tour caddie “Gorjus” George Lucas and former caddie Mark Long, each with separate companies, have been making yardage books for tour players the better part of four decades now.
For the most part, Long’s work, reviewable at longyardage.com is now the go-to for every player and caddie on tour, including the upcoming Dean & DeLuca Invitational.
The work is highly regarded — even more so over the past decade as it has become highly informational as technology and techniques have improved.
“The first system I wanted to use was about $70,000,” Long said. “I didn’t figure that made much sense for what we were trying to do.
“But for the longest time, I always used George’s books like everybody else and I still don’t think he gets enough credit for not only what he did, but how much he charged for those books back in the day.”
Lucas was a lifelong caddie who originally set about using fishing line to take measurements from the front of the greens to various points where fairway shots tended to be played from.
The science was certainly inexact, but at the very least, Lucas’ efforts were something to work with.
“I began doing my own books around 1998, and for the longest time I didn’t show the work to anybody,” Long said. “After a while, some of the fellas couldn’t believe the amount of information I had, and then they started asking me for copies.
“It wasn’t long before tournaments were asking me to do books as part of the welcome packages for players. I’ve never asked one tournament to do their books. I’ve always respected what George did and wasn’t going to take on something unless I was asked.”
A decade later, Long’s surveying instruments run nearly $170,000 and one software package alone runs $5,000 per month.
The Book is not really anything you’d see on display in the golf shop.
That type of work is usually something flashy, with high-gloss printing and the look of a souvenir.
But tour yardage books are mostly black and white, and have evolved from something that looks like it was set on a drawing easel to something that looks like formal blueprints for a small military invasion.
Lucas’ books were some of the first to get as much information packed in as one could extract using footwork and fishing line.
Over time, the introduction of hand-held laser range finders changed the game completely.
For Long, who briefly studied aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland before bailing out of that intense program, has used his academic background to take yardage books to a new level.
“It was one thing to have yardages to the front and then another to have a real idea of, say, how far a pin was from a large swale or shelf on the green,” Long said. “That was something you had to do by foot and now for the most part, caddies don’t need to get out and walk much in preparation like they did before.”
Yardage books now have precise measurements not only from tee to green, but also factor in things like graduated slope.
Mostly, the main numbers provided are yardages to the front of greens.
The tour provides hole location sheets each tournament round for professionals and caddies, which makes accurate calculations to the front of paramount importance.
Additional information includes precise numbers captured from the back cuts of tee grounds to front lips and back lips of fairway bunkers or perhaps a cluster of trees that professionals use at target lines to place shots.
In case you mess up, which is to say you found yourself hitting a third or fourth shot from a precarious position in the fairway, there is additional information on sprinkler heads.
For the really bad or awkward shots, Lucas always added a few letters to his usual J.I.C. (just in case) heading so a player knows how really bad the shot was.
Your imagination can go from here.
No matter the barbs thrown in, players and caddies have loved the evolution of yardage books over the years and trusted the work for several generations.
And despite the outcry for the inclusion of technology, like laser range finders for tournament play, it’s doubtful something like that gets approval and finds its way into tour competition.
Yardage books remain the gold standard, but don’t count on getting one easily.
“Well, I’m thinking about it seriously,” Long said of the books’ availability. “Basically it’s really hard to find any of my books out there, but I’m considering looking into the idea of selling a select few on my website.”