Yardage Book: Authors rewrote game
CHAPTER 4: THE FIRST DRAFT
Gene Andrews, a top amateur from California who won the 1954 U.S. Amateur Public Links, is known as the “Father of Playing by Yardage.”
He would walk the course in the days before practice rounds at tournaments and write the numbers down in a book.
Deane Beman, who would later become PGA Tour commissioner, got the idea of charting yardages from Andrews, according to an interview in March with Jack Nicklaus.
“Andrews started it, but I didn’t get it from Gene. I was playing a practice round with Deane in 1961 and he said, ‘Why don’t you try it one time, just walk off the golf course?’ so I did it at Pebble Beach,” Nicklaus said, referring to the site of the 1961 U.S. Amateur. Nicklaus went on to win the match-play tournament, beating Dudley Wysong 8 and 6 in the final.
Nicklaus wrote the Pebble Beach yardages on a scorecard, which is now in a museum, he said.
“I played 12 rounds during the amateur that week and was under par every single round. I said, ‘That’s pretty good,’ ” Nicklaus said. “So when I came to the (PGA) tour (in 1962) I was the only guy on tour (charting yardages).”
Indeed, when he won the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont, Nicklaus was credited as being the first winner to use a yardage book in the tournament.
By the mid-1960s, a few more players started using a yardage book. It wasn’t until 1976 that George L. Lucas II produced the first yardage book for a PGA Tour event, at the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic.
When the first yardage books started appearing in the early 1970s, some Augusta National caddies had to quit because they couldn’t read, said longtime caddie and Augusta native Carl Jackson.
Jackson and fellow Augusta National caddie Jerry Beard adjusted by making their own yardage books in the early 1970s.
“I never had one (a professional yardage book); I used my own,” Beard said. “I guess they were close, but to me the pro books didn’t know the terrain like I did.”
Jackson said he made his own book in 1974. Once he started working for Ben Crenshaw, in 1976, Crenshaw’s buddies knew about Jackson’s homemade book and asked to take a look at it.
“In practice rounds, they wanted to use my book,” said Jackson, who 30 years later made the yardage book used at the Alotian Club in Roland, Ark., where he is the caddiemaster.
CHAPTER 5: READING BETWEEN THE LINES
There are secrets of the trade for caddies in the Masters Tournament, such as learning to read the swift and undulating greens, how to play the devilish par-3 12th hole and when to take your medicine and not shoot at the pin on certain holes – no matter what.
A HARD READ
As if the quickness of Augusta National’s bentgrass greens weren’t enough of a problem, there are humps and swales on the greens that make reading putts even more of a challenge.
“It’s the one tournament of the year I (chart) where the low spot is by the green,” said James Edmondson, the caddie for Ryan Palmer, who played in the Masters in 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
“That’s really important,” Edmondson said. “You know you can be working uphill as much as you can. If you have to pitch it out, that’s where you want to hit it to and keep gravity in your favor.”
Jerry Beard learned the breaks of the greens from on-the-job training. He said former Chairman Clifford Roberts wanted the caddies to walk ahead of their players when they could, then putt the greens before they got there to learn the breaks, which they then committed to memory.
“We’d have putting games for money,” Beard said.
The result, he said, was that “there was no spot on those greens that I didn’t know.”
A SURPRISE ENDING
No matter where the pin is on No. 12, caddie Paul Tesori recommends aiming for a certain spot on the green – just over the right side of the bunker – because of the hole’s narrow green and the wind.
Tesori sticks to a similar strategy on Nos. 1 and 5 because of their severe undulation. In his yardage book, Tesori puts an “X” in the target spot on those greens: front-center on No. 1 and middle-left center on No. 5.
On holes without an X, Tesori sometimes makes notations of where not to hit it on the green, based on a particular pin position.
A DIFFERENT STORY
Sometimes at Augusta National, caddies and players have to go against what they see. These lessons are only revealed after trial and error – mainly error.
If there is a cardinal rule for caddying at Augusta National, it is this: putts on the front nine break toward the lowest point on the course – the portion of Rae’s Creek behind the 11th green – even if it doesn’t look that way.
It’s called the pull of Rae’s Creek, or in caddie Paul Tesori’s shorthand in his yardage book, “Rae Creek Influ” (Rae’s Creek influence).
Jack Nicklaus knows all about the pull of Rae’s Creek. His birdie putt on the 17th hole in the final round of the 1986 Masters looked like it would break slightly to the right.
Nicklaus, knowing Rae’s Creek was to his left, believed the pull of the creek would make it a straight putt. It was.
He made it on the way to 6-under-par 30 on the back nine and his sixth Masters victory, at age 46.
Likewise, there are similar problems on approach shots where it looks like one thing and is really another. One such hole is the par-4 seventh, where there is a change in elevation of 14 feet from the tee up to the green.
Jerry Beard remembers caddying for Don January in a practice round one day with Hubert Green. January’s ball was near a sprinkler head on No. 7 that had 102 yards written on it, meaning that was the distance to the front of the green.
Beard knew it played to 115 yards because of the higher elevation of the green, and that’s what he told January.
Green said he should play it as 100 yards.
“Me and Jerry know what we’re doing,” January told Green, according to Beard.
The shot played to 115 yards, just as Beard had told his man.
CHAPTER 6: COMPARING NOTES
Ben Crenshaw and Carl Jackson might be the only player-caddie team in the Masters field that doesn’t need a yardage book. Crenshaw and Jackson have been working together so long – and they know the course so well – that they go by the club needed to reach that particular pin, not the yardage.
“I have a number just in case, but he’ll walk up and say, ‘It’s either a 6 or 7 (iron),’ ” said Jackson, who will work his 52nd Masters this year. “I’ll say 7 and he generally agrees. Ben’s real good with eyesight, even now. He’ll be right 95 percent of the time.”
Crenshaw doesn’t carry a yardage book. Most players do, but not all of them.
“There are guys who rely strictly on their caddies,” said Mike “Fluff” Cowan, who caddies for Jim Furyk. “They don’t want to have that extra thing to do.”
Furyk, who has been Cowan’s player since 2000, does carry a yardage book.
“Jim likes to be involved,” Cowan said. “He does the yardage just like I do. We get to the ball and we compare what we have. Hopefully, we both don’t make a mistake at the same time. I’ve caught him and he’s caught me (with a wrong yardage).”
Tesori estimates 80 percent of the players on tour this year carry a yardage book. However, of the three previous players he caddied for in the Masters – Vijay Singh, Jerry Kelly and Sean O’Hair – none carried a yardage book.
“They trusted me,” Tesori said. “I’ll call it a humble brag.”