How to make a golf course yardage book

I have recently took up golf – again. Having played a lot when I was younger, and having played a little here and there, I have recently re-found my love for the game.

As a result of this I have been putting in a lot of effort into getting better and better, cumulating in me have some golf lessons (more on that later). As part of this one thing I did notice all the pros have a little book in their back pocket – the yardage book.

The yardage book and/or course guide maps out each hole and lists the distances from the tee and to the hole from various places. The idea being that you always know how far you have to the hole or to clear certain things on the hole.

I thought this sounded like something worth having and I set about doing some research to find out what they look like and where you can get one from, for you course.

Example yardage book

Whilst doing some research I found an interesting blog post post from Golf Digest on A look inside Dustin Johnson’s Pebble Beach yardage book.

The post is an excellent look at the yardage book used by Dustin Johnson during the 2014 Pebble Beach ProAm tournament.

It provides a fascinating look into the information the players have at their fingertips. This information includes:

  • Hole layout – this gives a birds eye view of the layout of the hole
  • Green layout and shape – a birds eye view of the shape of the green including the measurements from front to back, and left to right.
  • Green slopes – it gives the general direction of the slopes on the green which help a player read putts.
  • Distances – for everything!

This sounded to me like a good thing and therefore I went about sourcing a yardage book for the course I am playing at the moment – the Oak Royal Golf course and Country Club.

Making your own yardage book

As it turns out, the course did not have a yardage book or course guide for me to purchase and therefore I thought why can’t I make my own?

The biggest barrier to this would be calculating the actual distances on the holes. I thought that this would have been done with some expensive GPS device, however it turns out that the web version of Google Earth does a remarkable job of measuring distances.

1. Using Google Earth to measure distances

One you have loaded Google Earth, on the left hand side of the screen you will see a small ruler icon. Clicking on this allows you to measure the distance between 2 or more points.

Animation showing how to measure distances using Google Earth
Measuring distances with Google Earth

Once you have clicked on the ruler, you will want to make sure that you have the current units selected in the box top right. I measure distances in yards.

Then to measure a distance, you can simply click the start point and then move your mouse to the end point and Google Earth will display the distance between the two points.

2. Screenshot the Google Earth images of the holes

To get the layout of each hole in your yardage book drawn, you need to create a birds eye view outline of the hole layout.

The easiest way I found to do this was to take a screenshot from Google Earth, of the whole. You can then use this to ‘trace’ over the main features of the hole.

3. Map out the hole features in an drawing package

This is essentially now a task of tracing the features of the course using the vector tools in your chosen graphics package.

For this I use Sketch for the Mac, but you could do the same with a number of software packages for both Mac and Windows as long as they support creating Vector images.

The technique includes adding your hole screenshot and then locking that layer so it doesn’t move. Now use your vector path tool to draw on the features you want to include in your hole layout

The features that I included in my hole layouts are:

  • Tee boxes
  • Greens
  • Green fringe
  • Fairways
  • Fairway first cut
  • Bunkers
  • Trees and bushes
  • Brooks and ditches
  • Bridges
  • Ponds and water hazards
  • Cart paths
  • Out of bounds markers

That is not an exhaustive list and of course add anything else that is important in mapping out your hole.

Yardage book image of hole 8 at the Oak Royal golf course near Withnell, UK
An example hole layout, with distances and features. This is hole 8 at the Oak Royal Gold course.

Once the features are added, we then start to add in some distances, which we measured using Google Earth.

I mark on distances to key points on the hole from the different tee boxes as well as (dots) points on the hole to the centre of the green. This varies by hole depending on the length and the hole features.

Printing and finishing your yardage book

This is the bit that I found the hardest to get right and took plenty of trial and error!

I printed my pages on A4, first working out which holes needed to be back to back. Then it is a matter or printing a page and then putting that page back in the printer to print on the reverse. Of course if you printer prints on both sides of the page this makes it much easier.

Example image of a print layout for the yardage book showing which holes need printing on which page.
The print templates for my completed yardage book. This was 3 pages with the top row one side of the paper and the bottom row on the other.

I then used a paper slicer or guillotine to cut the pages into the correct lengths and then fold them in the middle.

Finally I added a card front and back cover and then stapled then in the centre with a long arm stapler.

The finished product!

Below is an image of the finished yardage book, although I do intend to refine it with time and make it neater etc.

Checking your features on the course

Once you have marked on the features and the distances, next time you actually go out on the course you want to then check those features.

As we used Google Earth to map the features, the images from Google Earth may be a few years out of date and therefore it is worth checking them on the actual course.

As you go round draw on any other key features that you have missed and then you can add then to your vector images when you return.

So, there you have it! A lovely yardage book that will definitely help you on the golf course. I have so far used it twice and both rounds were my best rounds to date.

By Mark Wilkinson

I love playing golf, running and I am also a WordPress business owner, developer, husband and father.

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