Laser, GPS technology goes into yardage book


When players and caddies wonder just how far away the hole is from where they’re standing and what club they should use, one of them typically pulls out a yardage book.

The bright orange booklet prepared for this year’s U.S. Open contains some high-tech improvements in its exact measurements of every spot along the 7,400-yard course. It’s a must-read for anyone who challenges the beastly Black Course at Bethpage State Park.

“Whether you’re making a putt, a drive, or using an iron, it’s all about distance,” explained George Lucas, the former caddie for Arnold Palmer. Lucas compiled the first yardage book in 1976. “When you have a yardage book, you can make the best determination of distance.”

This year’s yardage book for the Open used laser scanning to create images of the putting greens and some GPS technology to make its measurements more accurate than ever, said Bryan Wilson, an official with Houston-based Stracka Design Co., which recently teamed up with Lucas. The company has prepared yardage books for some 600 courses worldwide, and offers them each year for every course played on the PGA Tour.

The book on Bethpage Black, for example, warns players to look out on hole No. 15 – one of the course’s most challenging – for a birdhouse to the left followed later by a small tree, with the exact yardage to the hole from each point along the way. And with laser scanning, players and their caddies can study the contours, dips and bumps on each putting green.

The degree of difficulty at Bethpage makes the book particularly important, Lucas said. “It may be the hardest golf course ever made,” he explained. “It doesn’t need the weather to be tough. There are no tricks. It’s just one tough course.”

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