Yardage Book: Playing by the book

A well-worn Augusta National Golf Club yardage book is such a valuable possession that veteran PGA Tour caddie Paul Tesori can’t imagine working the Masters Tournament without it.

That’s why Tesori, who caddies for current U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, plans to put his Augusta National yardage books in a fireproof container sometime this year.

“I wouldn’t be able to do my job very well without a yardage book, especially at Augusta National,” said Tesori, who has worked 10 Masters for players such as Vijay Singh, Jerry Kelly, Sean O’Hair and now Simpson. “In my opinion, it would be like a pastor not having a Bible.

“I would feel empty without it. The biggest thing is, I would have a lot less confidence.”

Tesori once lost a yardage book he’d worked up for the Phoenix Open.

“It was a sad occurrence,” he said. “It wasn’t during that week, but when I came back the next year. It took 12 hours of hard work (to chart the course again).”

For something so valuable, it’s amazing that it took players and caddies so long to realize how important a yardage book could be.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s – 40 years after the Masters started – that yardage books became a common sight in the back pockets of caddies and players at Augusta National.

Before that, players relied on feel, memory of the course and their eyesight to determine what shots to hit.

Ben Hogan was known to pace off yardages starting in the 1940s, but he kept those numbers in his head, not a book.

Jack Nicklaus is credited with popularizing the yardage book, but Arnold Palmer, his longtime rival, didn’t embrace it. A natural player with a unique swing, Palmer played by feel, but he eventually came around to the book.

CHAPTER 1: COURSE STUDY

On registering for the Masters Tournament, each caddie and player receives an Augusta National Golf Club yardage book.

George L. Lucas II, the modern-day yardage-book guru, used lasers to measure each hole on the 7,435-yard-long course.

A LOT TO LEARN

Every course on the PGA Tour has a yardage book for the caddies and players, but they aren’t standard.

Tesori says the yardage book for the Masters, which is co-sanctioned by the tour but run by Augusta National, is different from others.

“We don’t have as much information (in the Augusta National yardage book),” Tesori said.

“It’s not as detailed as a regular event. They didn’t even give you a pin sheet until 2006. I had to walk 18 holes before our round to see if the pins were on the left or right.”

Tesori said he thinks he knows why Augusta National gives up its information so grudgingly.

“As traditional as they are, I think they’re trying to get as much technology out of it as they can,” he said. “They make us go out and learn it. Years and years of experience there are very important.”

And there is a lot to learn, from elevation changes and swirling winds to challenging greens that require pace, distance and the right read to make putts.

“Augusta (National) is a course you need more information than any other course I’ve been on – bar none,” Tesori said.

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