If you’re like most golfers, chances are you’ve wondered… “Are yardage books worth it?”
A lot of times a yardage book will be on the counter in the pro shop, but most guys skip them entirely. But chances are, you probably see the guys on the PGA Tour using them every week and assume they’re only for professionals.
But here’s the thing, a yardage book (or digital yardage book) can make a huge difference in your golf game. For one main reason: they give you more information to select and commit to a shot.
As golf continues to evolve, so has yardage books, which can feel like a personal caddy on the course. You can then use that information to select the right club off the tee, avoid trouble, and they can even help you on the greens.
To help you avoid overwhelm, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the new types of yardage books, how to use them, and more. Let’s take it one step further and break this down into yardage books and pin sheets. Once you learn how to use both, your golf game can reach heights you never thought possible.
Let’s get right into it…
A yardage book is a small guide to help you navigate the golf course. Each book is custom-made for the specific golf course to help you map out each hole and have a solid strategy.
All yardage books include:
- Hole number and layout.
- Total distance from each tee box.
- Distance to hazards and fairway bunkers.
- Distances from the fairway/rough based on sprinkler heads.
- An overview of the green, including green depth/size and tiers.
Additionally, some yardage books have even more information like:
- Slopes of fairways.
- Hole direction (to help factor in wind).
- Slope of the green for your approach shot.
- Detailed analysis of the green including breaks, slopes, and tiers.
- Distances between tee boxes which make it easy to calculate carry distances to hazards, bunkers, and other features.
Yardage books are pretty straightforward to read and use compared to pin sheets (more on that in the next section). To use your yardage book, follow these steps:
- Locate the hole and tee box you’re playing.
- For example, it might say #1 is a Par 4 and 444 yards from your tee box.
- Then, scan the page to see the distances to hazards that you want to avoid (like fairway bunkers, water, and/or tree clusters).
- Then, identify your ideal landing spot and use the right club off the tee.
Depending on the yardage book type, it can also help you with your approach shot as well. Some detailed yardage books will help you understand the slope of the green, size of the bunkers, and more.
Also, if you’re more of a visual learner, make sure to watch this one-minute explainer video on how to use a yardage book. Click here to watch now.
There are three main types of yardage books that I’ve encountered over the years. Here is a breakdown of each one and estimated price.
- Level 1: These are more of a “generic” yardage book that focuses more on hole by hole overview than anything else. These are usually available in pro shops and cost between $10-20. They’re great for beginners and have just enough numbers to not overcomplicate things. Don’t expect any green reading features with these books, but still much more information than a typical scorecard provides.
- Level 2: These are more advanced than level one and usually between $20-$40, depending on if you buy online or in the pro shop. These books are favored more by lower handicap golfers and include extra information about greens, fairway slopes, distances from the back of the tee boxes, and more.
- Level 3: The final level is the most comprehensive type of yardage book. These are not for beginners as they have so many numbers and arrows it’s easy to get confused. Instead, they are for elite players who want as much information as possible. These types of yardage books usually include a hole overview and tons of information about the greens. A good example of these books is PuttView. These are usually $40-$50 and provide everything you need to know about each hole on the golf course.
If you choose to purchase and use a yardage book, make sure to buy a yardage book holder as well. This will help them last much longer and ensure that moisture from sweat or rain in your pocket doesn’t affect the paper.
Here are a few great picks on Amazon to carry your book, pin sheet, and scorecard:
- Craftsman Crocodile Scorecard Holder: This is made from high quality Pu leather and available in five different colors.
- USA Stars and Stripes Holder: This is a great way to protect your book, hold your pencil, and show off your patriotic spirit too.
These are small investments and well worth it! Paired with a rangefinder, your game will be lethal from tee to green.
- Yardage Book (by BlueGolf)
Now that you have a good understanding of yardage books, let’s take it to the next level. The next thing that will really help your game in tournaments is learning how to read a pin sheet.
Unless you’re playing a really high-end golf course, don’t expect pin sheets for every round though. But whenever I do show up to a fancy course and see daily pin sheets, I know it’s likely a great course. Sadly, pin sheets are usually reserved for competitive events as they take extra time and effort by the course to provide.
A pin sheet is a single piece of paper that has the pin locations for all 18 holes on the course. It provides in-depth information about the location of the pin and the size of the green to help your approach shot strategy.
A pin sheet might look like hieroglyphics though if you don’t know what you’re doing. But once you learn the basics, they’re pretty easy to understand.
A pin sheet is important as it tells you a ton about your approach shot. When you know exactly how far a pin is located on the green or from the edge, it makes it easier to choose your target.
It also makes it clear if the pin is front, middle, or back so you can be strategic about what distance you want to play. Most importantly, a pin sheet can help you miss in the right spot by making sure you don’t short side yourself.
Like I mentioned above, a pin sheet might feel a little like trying to read hieroglyphics if you’re new to the game. But once you learn how to read a pin sheet, they’re actually pretty simple.
A pin sheet has 18 circles, each representing 1 of the 18 holes on the course. Usually the 18 circles are divided into three columns of six to make it easy to fold and store in your yardage book. The left side is holes 1-6, the middle column is 7-12, and the right is holes 13-18.
Here’s how to decipher each pin location:
- Green size: 90% or more of the time the pin sheet will have the total depth of the green. This can get a little confusing as the pin sheet always has a circle but as you know, most greens aren’t perfect circles. For example’s sake, let’s say it’s 38 yards deep.
- Pin Numbers: Once you locate the hole you’re on, then you’ll see two numbers. Let’s say it’s 21 to center and 7 from the right. This means that the pin is located 21 yards away from the front of the green and 7 yards away from the right side of the green. It’s important to note that these are always measured in yards, not feet!
- Plus/Minus Yardage: Finally, the pin sheet might also have a plus or minus sign that represents if the pin is short or long of center. For this example, if the green is 38 yards deep and the pin is 21 yards on, that means it would say 2 or +2. Since the center of the green is 19 yards (38 divided by 2), 21 yards is two paces (aka yards) long of center.
Additionally, some pin sheets might also have a box to help you keep track of your stats. Some will have a checkbox to mark if you hit the fairway, green, total number of putts, and your score.
Do you have even more questions about yardage books and pin sheets? Hopefully, we’ll cover them in our frequently asked questions and answers below.
No, not every golf course has a yardage book, which is very unfortunate as they are super helpful for some golfers. But just because your local golf course doesn’t offer yardage books in the pro shop, doesn’t mean you can’t get them.
Instead, you just need to find them online. Here are some of the best custom yardage books that you can buy online:
- PuttView – 30,000 courses worldwide
- GolfLogix – 35,000 courses worldwide
- Strackaline – Yardage books & putting books
- Long Yardage Books – The #1 choice of professional golfers
It’s 100% personal preference. Both can help you miss in the right spot and not minimize course management mistakes.
Yes, some yardage books can help you read greens too. Not only do they help you with full swing shots, but more yardage books also offer tons of information about the green.
A lot of them have slopes, arrows showing the break, and even more features. But remember, not every book has green features, so double check before buying online or in the pro shop.
Yes, yardage books are legal for tournament play.
Yes, thankfully they do make blank yardage books now. If you play a course regularly and can’t find a professional one, you can always map out your own yardage book.
This blank yardage book from Score Snapshot is perfect. Here’s why we love it:
- USGA conforming.
- Comes in a 4-pack.
- Has a blank space for course/yardage.
- Contain pages for distances, notes, and green mapping pages too.
- Made of high quality, 80 pound text paper stock which won’t rip easily.
Prices of yardage books can range greatly from course to course and more importantly, what the yardage book tells you. Some might cost $10 and provide a layout of the hole and a few numbers to help you off the tee.
While other yardage books will help you pretty much everything from:
- Carry distances.
- Slopes of fairways.
- Green contours/slopes.
And more. These in-depth range books can range from $30 to $50 but well worth it as they provide tons of useful information.
According to several sites, most (if not all) of the PGA Tour players use Mark Long yardage books. Mark Long is a former PGA Tour caddie for Fred Funk and now makes these indispensable guides for the best players in the world.
So, are yardage books worth it?
My answer: It depends.
But if you’re someone who can break 90 and wants to lower your handicap, then yes a yardage book is so worth it. A yardage book might help you have 3-5 (or more) strokes as you can have a better strategy on each shot and keep the momentum going.
Yardage books aren’t for everyone, but if you’re a committed golfer, I highly recommend using them. I’ve gotten to the point where I have 20+ yardage books for all my local courses as I’ve acquired over the years.
I write detailed notes and identify targets so I can show up ready to play, even if it’s been a while since I played the golf course.
Additionally, if you play a lot of competitive golf, learning how to use a pin sheet is vital to help you shoot lower scores. Paired together, they make a powerful 1-2 combo to help your game go from good to great!
If you choose to use one or both of these aids, please do not let it slow down the pace of play. This will frustrate your playing partners and likely make you play worse, not better. But once you get the hang of them, they’re a great resource to add to your pre-shot routine.