Calculating Yardages

i’m sure you will be chagrined to hear that taking a ‘formula sheet’ to an advanced collegiate physics or math exam is pretty standard fare these days. it’s a reflection of the fact that information is so readily available ‘in the real world’ that it is expected that one could look up needed information easily. on the other hand, there is so much information available that if one is not aware of what is actually avaialable, one will not even know to look. i never used the sheets–i ended up memorizing everything as i was putting them together and so, in the end, had no need for them…

How is it that the old timers played The Old Course without yardages? Isn’t it still fair if no one is allowed to look at a sheet or have sprinkler heads marked? Maybe they relied upon the experience of a knowledgeable caddy?

When I watch The Open, I don’t see guys even today just putting it on auto pilot and flying the ball into the green and having it hold pin high all day. I see guys way short and way over greens quite often. I see a lot of long lag putting and pitch shots.
Isn’t this saying that yardages aren’t nearly as relevant? That it is going to take something else to get the job done? Isn’t trajectory control taking a much bigger role in the playing of links style golf?

How is it that we are able to gauge an 80 foot lag putt? I don’t see anyone pacing it off, then trying to figure out mathematically the slope, break and then figuring out how far to take the putter back in inches or feet. People don’t do that even today. You look and feel it.

I don’t see that the knowledge and experience of a local should be leveled or taken away in a competition. It SHOULD be hard to beat a guy on his home course. But of course skill is going to come into play at some point. I am going to beat any 10 handicapper on their home course I would think. But wouldn’t it be interesting if a 10 handicapper could beat me with local knowledge?

Given that the chances of that happening are going to diminish each time I take a look at it. There are going to be obvious things I will see the first time I play a hole and make triple. You’ll learn a few things fast the first time you play a course.

The beauty of the ground game is that it starts to take how the ball is going to bounce out of the equation the lower you hit it. It becomes more and more predictable the lower you hit the ball… to the point that if you putt, you don’t have to take that into consideration at all. It becomes just pace. American golf I don’t always know. My ball may check up and spin back 10 feet or it may hit hard on the green and bounce over the green depending upon the surface. But if I can run one in there, then I start taking that out of consideration.

I just don’t see it being unfair if the books are taken away. It’s the same for everyone, and strategy would become even more important than if everyone just puts it on auto pilot. You would have to start playing the course.

I can certainly tell if I am closer to 100 yards or closer to 150. At 160 I can certainly tell that I can get a 4 iron past the hole and that I will never get an 9 iron there. But in doing that simple judgment, I have set some kind of parameters and I can start to figure out what trajectory I am going to want to hit the shot with. I might use a 4 iron and take something off it keeping the ball down… or I might choose a 7 iron and hit it hard and high based upon what I know is up there by the green. If I know there is big trouble over the green I might not want to feed in a low runner.

I agree that if one player has a yardage book and a pin sheet it would be an advantage over a guy who doesn’t. But if no one has them then it’s just as fair, other than a local is going to have an advantage as they should. It should be difficult to beat a local on their home track… just as in any sport. Home field advantage is a reality and makes winning against that even sweeter… or losing more embarrassing.

There used to be a rule in the USGA that banned “artificial aids”. Not sure who got paid off or how laser scopes found their way through that loop hole. What’s out on the course is out on the course, and whether you want to memorize the exact yardages from various trees or bunkers or sprinkler heads is fine.

I don’t think golf was originally intended to be that exacting of a sport. There should be several ways to play most golf holes. A good solid tee shot down the right side of the fairway on this hole. Here you lay up with an iron. This hole you need to draw the ball around the corner. The approaches into a green can be broken down into quadrants… and ranked accordingly for each of the five major pin placements. Either you learn this stuff… or you had a caddy that did. But I would argue it would always be better if you personally knew it so that when you swing the club, you do so with internal confidence and not questioning the caddy’s suggestion in any way.

Keep it left of the pin here and you’ll be fine. Keep this one below the hole right and you will be fine. There’s plenty of room past the pin on this one, you’ll be fine. There’s an easy little pocket to chip from over the green right on this hole.
Then you shape your shots in accordingly.

There should be sucker pins out there, and sucker holes, and not every hole is meant to be a birdie hole… although of course it can happen with a long chip in or putt… or a missed shot that finds it’s way over to the pin that gets your competitor wondering… did he actually try to do that?

I see the books and pin sheets as just another way of trying to homogenize the game… making it less interesting.

a) This is a joke, right? What tour player is trying to figure out ways to lose to a 10?

b) It is that exact. How are you supposed to hit the ball to the target when you can’t see it i.e. elevation changes, trees etc? Beyond that the first thing I look at before I pull a club on a five par or anything else is the hole location and I work backwards all the way back to the tee. That’s not cheating and it’s not homogenization, it’s called scoring. Fewest strokes possible, all day every day.

Sure, that is a way to look at it… like what is going on now. Let’s just open the floodgates to anything, clubs, balls, laser scopes, whatever the human mind can come up with to conquer the game. Or we can try to protect the game and play it in the way it was originally intended when the courses were designed. Golf, more a game of traditional values. Can par be an honorable score again without growing the rough ankle deep and rolling the greens to 15 on the stimp? Can we allow a little more bounce into the game? Some good ol rub of the green, and the feeling of miracles?

I don’t think the tee shot needs to be that exacting. Hitting down the left or right side seems pretty general to me. I need to make a decent swing, that’s about it. Shots into the green need to be below the hole, even if I miss the green, I need to leave myself an uphill chip for a simple conversion.

To shoot low, the putting needs to be exacting. I can peg the 150 marker off the tee, and stiff my irons to inside 8 feet all day, but if I miss the short putts, I won’t score well.

All you have to do is look at the tour stats even today, and clearly it’s not about precision ball striking, yet the scoring is lower than any time in history.

When I watch a tour event on TV or in person, I don’t see the players hitting it pin high with machine like precision. I doubt the yardages are doing them nearly as much good as they or everyone else thinks.

Using yardages and calculating everything externally is nothing more than a mindset. It’s popular and widely accepted. But some of the best golf I have ever witnessed or played myself has often been in a very carefree manner, just winging it out in an afternoon money game, playing really fast with no one in front of you, just looking and feeling.

I remember playing Waialae in a money game before US Am qualifying. I had not seen the course before, just on TV for the Hawaiian Open, and it was one of those hit and look, play quick and we were all just trying to birdie every hole… and I remember shooting 31 on the back nine without really realizing I was doing it. No yardages, nothing… first look. It was fairly windy, and it was afternoon golf with spiked up greens.

The point I am making is that there is a forgotten way of playing golf by feel.

Nothing wrong with wanting to know where the pin is… and even actively going after that information by driving around the course in the morning, looking through the trees and taking note of were other pins are as you go around the course from across other fairways.

I remember watching Steve Pate jog up a hill to see where a pin was on a hole to be played 4 holes later in a tournament we played at Yorba Linda.

Pin placements are part of the golf course trying to protect itself. Simple systems like red- white - blue for front middle and back is all that should be needed.

If everyone is playing by the same rules then it’s fair. It’s not like everyone else gets a pin sheet and you don’t.

How can golf be made more interesting again? So that shooting par becomes a respectable score again in professional competition.

Pin sheets and yardages, at times can be giving away too much information, particularly on some of the classic old courses with the MacKenzie bunkers and other deceptive illusions intrinsically created by the architect. With yardages and pin sheets it takes that mystery out of the game.

Most of the older courses had smaller greens, so while the approaches then needed to be more precise, pin sheets were not as necessary when the green was only 60 feet front to back. If you were on the green with the pin near the middle your thinking birdie from most anywhere on the surface. The big greens popular in British golf were usually playing more on the ground… so again it was more feeling the shot than flying the ball X number of yards and reaching for you putter.

Home course advantage doesn’t play into pro golf much, but experience should. We shouldn’t see a rookie win The Masters.
Historically a player usually had to get around there 3 or 4 times before they were seasoned enough to realistically have a chance… unless of course a super talent comes along like Seve did.

I remember reading an article by Crenshaw, and he discussed how he chose not to use yardages out at Augusta. He played by feel and won the event not once, but twice.

Well the game was invented by hitting a stone across a field into a coffee can so if that’s your cup of tea knock yourself out. Go whittle some niblicks & brassies and fill some top hats full of goose feathers. But you don’t get to choose this & drop that, this steel shaft & mold formed synthetic rubber grip & machine wound & molded haskell ball is legit but a $10 course guide that says this fairway bunker is 272 to carry & a pin sheet that’ll tell me a green that’s 15 ft above the fairway dead blind is 36 deep & the pin is is on 25 8 from the right is “homogenized”, no different than a Mickelsonized personalized ProV1X*… You don’t get to do online module lessons based on faux science TGM gobbledygook with PP this & power accumulator that and then go oh by the way it doesn’t matter how far away anything is, nobody needs to know whether a pin is front right or back right or when you play a Monday Qualifier that they don’t let you play the day before & you’ve got 100 professionals playing for two spots you shouldn’t have a map telling where the hell anything is. Serial hypocrisy. Damn right SP was climbing the hill to see where the hole is, you don’t always get a sheet & it’s wrong way too often. Part of the game, as defined by Hogan. He did the hard work everyplace he went, all the numbers on all the courses; he did it all step by step and guess what everybody else caught on, figured oh ok this is a lot better to the point where the courses finally started doing it themselves and making an extra couple bucks selling guides to the players. Win win, now I don’t have to waste the time & energy doing it myself & the course gets extra revenue. But one way or another I’m going to know how far that bunker is from the tee and I’m going to know how far that little slanted pine is from the front of the green on every course I play a tourney at even if I have to do it at 3 am. Thankfully I haven’t had to do that very often. Hogan went to Scotland pushing a month ahead of the Open just to learn the courses and the turf. Some of us get that big time and don’t step on the first tee blind at Wailea and shoot 31 without paying attention all that often. Some of us don’t really want spend thousands of dollars flying halfway around the world at the last minute to play an event when somebody with a bigger name drops out and have no shot to contend because I haven’t played the course ten times. Some of us understand the difference between taking the GPS out of a car and taking out the speedometer and the gas gauge.

My point is more the concept of playing courses as they were originally intended. So courses built in the 1800’s play hickory and featheries. 1930’s through 1980’s play persimmon and steel shafts.

Camouflage bunkers where put there for a reason, to be deceptive. If you have a book, what’s the point of that? I just don’t see why a player who knows the course inside and out shouldn’t have a significant advantage. Give someone a playbook with everything spelled out and it’s an attempt at homogenizing the game again.

Play with books and pin sheets when and where they are allowed…but why not offer another venue that encourages a more organic view of the game… forcing players to tap into their hunter instinct rather than their GPS or laser scope skills.

Nothing wrong with studying a book and diagrams of the greens, but why not ban them on the course so players have to commit that to memory. Is anyone required to remember anything anymore?

Here are some thoughts and quotes from Hogan who was certainly a respected figure in the game with concepts that could still be relevant. No discussion of using yardages here.

Bunkers purpose framing a green so you can feel the yardage looking with your eyes, not a cheat book.


Until Hogan arrived at Carnoustie, no one had ever broke par in a four round competition. Shooting par was very respected
and an honorable accomplishment because the equipment and ball and lack of pin sheets and yardage maps gave the course it’s full respect.

Hogan playing The Open using his memory and not a cheat sheet.

More emphasis on the golf course, not agronomy. Tour pros today would walk off the course if the saw greens that hadn’t been mowed in three days much less a week. Modern expectations for pristine conditions are absurd. You learn to be a better player having to hit off a larger palate of lies. It keeps golf much more affordable.

Hogan in the Seitz interview dispelling the use of yardage books and pin sheets.


I remember seeing quite vividly for the first time what Hogan was describing. The first time I ever attended a pro event I went to a Tuesday practice round and when the group I was following got to the green they, or their caddies, started putting tees into the green nowhere near where the pin was that day. They spent nearly all their time putting to the tees placed into the green. Took me a few days to figure that one out. :slight_smile:

Well, it’s getting even worse now. In the practice round for the State Mid-Am many of the guys had Breakmasters that they throw on the ground and map the slopes around the pin placements. They have a good idea how much every putt will break without even hitting a putt. It’s getting a little out of hand.

And the problem now is that those of us that weren’t using them feel like we have to next time just to keep up. It’s becoming an arms race of technology out there.

Well, if you ban yardage books, pin sheets, and note pads, then all that stuff would need to be committed to memory as it should be.

A tee time,
Spiked shoes, a bag with up to 16 clubs, two sleeves of balls, some tees, maybe a glove and a pair of those cool sunglasses Knudson would sport :sunglasses:

Then you go golf your ball.

How dare you interject like facts & stuff into meaningless rhetoric?!? Wussup wit dat? Hehehe…

I reread the thread, they’re seriously letting players use rangefinders & gizmos in state am events? WTF??? Unreal… And here we are in this ridiculous back & forth arguing how dinosaur is dinosaur enough, now that’s funny. And I’m the one on the mod side, that’s what makes this so surreal. Where were you when Leavitt & Hogarth and the rest of those thieves were railing me for all those years? Frigging Chong, every shot, “Niblick? Mashie?” For years… Mike Christensen still says I’m his favorite story ever because I hit persimmon 20 by him, but everybody hits it 20 by him at least… What makes it even weirder is that you’re less than 10 yrs older than me & also from LA. Crazy.

But since I am blind as a bat & can’t tell 160 from 180 (if you ever want to nauseate yourself try my coke bottles on, the R&L are totally different) & stubborn as a mule I retort with comedy:


I’m with you on the 16 clubs, if I can’t have an L wedge though I’m ok with 15.

Max of 11 irons
One putter
and no more than 4 woods (woods, real wood)

count em cowboy…


Pretty sure that set has the Pyratone shafts in them. What a great shaft those were. I have enough of them for a set, but I don’t have a matching set of them. Talk about heavy and stiff. Swing those for a year and it will change your golf swing in ways you never imagined.

Personally I think an L wedge is a little handier than a 2 wood but whatever float your boat.

Never even heard of that shaft. Are you sure you’re not eighty? I’d like to check it out though, what is it?


The Pyratones were those shafts usually with a dark green coating on them. Ken Harrington used a set of those when he shot the course record at Lincoln Park which is still standing to this day.

I have a set of Tommy Armour and Bryon Nelson with them in… but each set is missing a club or two. They are very hard to reshaft because they were pressured in with some kind of tool they had back then. Just more lost technology.

I’m all for technology, but good technology. Not just because something is new. They still can’t figure out how they built the Great Pyramids.

Oh ok I know what you’re talking about, never knew the name I guess. I swung one in a wedge, didn’t think about a whole set with those, interesting. If you have a set that aren’t rusted that would be something special indeed.

As far as the Pyramids, that’s easy. Its called non-union labor…

That interview is very good, something else I haven’t seen in eons but you know he didn’t give the whole story to anybody ever. He figured it was in his advantage to do all the legwork himself because nobody else would, as least not nearly as well. Look at what isn’t said there and in his two books, its like 20% max of a complete picture as he intended. He wasn’t a teacher by nature, he was a competitor and that’s the way it was. Whether it was by numbers or shots or clubs or whatever he was more prepared for every event than anybody ever. Look at Merion, the guy had a one and a two iron in the bag but no seven iron because “There’s no seven iron shots at Merion”… Who does that?? So however you frame it he was the ultimate. As far as writing it down I learned in school to write things down for best retention, it’s better to do it myself of course but time and money and circumstances didn’t make it viable especially when I get it to ten bucks in the shop. Does that make me lazy and not as committed as Hogan, yup but so be it. Put me in the ‘I’ll never win the Open’ club, figured that out ages ago anyway.

As far as technology goes sure, but the direction it has gone happens to be peculiar & insane. I always wondered about that Kevlar Cobra driver that Daly used to win the PGA in '91, the one with the red Ti shaft. The Kevlar was awful but the idea I always thought was pretty good, plus I was a big fan of that Sandvik tip flex Ti shaft, I played that off & on for years. But I thought that direction, molding traditional sized heads out of exotic materials to be comparable to persimmon & the little TMs would take off. After all those TMs were like half the size of woods and were almost all hosel bore parallel shaft. That Cobra though always intrigued me & I was hoping they’d mess around with other materials to find something good but it never happened.

The problem with allowing materials other than wood is that it opens the whole can of worms we are now drowning in.
Someone comes along with some springboard material, then it’s back to where things are now.

I never bought into the shortage of persimmon argument. Heads can be made of all kinds of hard woods. Any wood is still going to need weight. Hickory heads, Maple, Poplar Oak would all be quality materials.

Wood heads keep with the fine tradition of the game. They play well, they feel and sound good, and keep things sane.

I think I would rather hear finger nails splintering down a chalkboard than a hard struck titanium driver with a Pro V 1.

It really is that bad to my ears. :smiling_imp:

That’s nothing… You never heard a range ball hit by a PING Zing2 driver. That was the first metal head they made, it was hollow and sounded like a tin bell. The worst sound in the history of the the Universe. One day I was taking a lesson with Big Monty, he was one of Tiger’s teammates at the Farm and it started pouring so we moved under the covered section on the range &he hit half a bucket with that POS and Tom Quinn & I were both in tears from the reverb of that Fn driver against that aluminium roof. You cannot imagine how awful that was.

You missed the worst by a long shot, this stuff is so tame on the ears its like buttah.