Because of all the time and effort required to fill in the details, Greller said, he lives in dread of losing his Masters book. It would be like losing a computer file that was not saved on your hard drive. “It’d be less stressful to lose my passport, absolutely,” he said.
The value of the books was driven home recently when Jeff Ghim, who is caddying here for his 21-year-old son, Doug, lost the yardage book he had painstakingly padded with notes over three months of research.
The book fell from a pocket of his long-sleeved overalls on Monday. His heart dropped, he said.
“Fifteen years my son’s dreamed of playing here,” Jeff Ghim said, “and I lose the directions.” How could he replicate three months’ worth of notes in two days?
Thankfully, he got the book back. Someone turned it into the caddie headquarters the next day, and Ghim, with book in pocket, guided his son, a Masters rookie, to low-amateur honors.
Yardage books have been around since at least the 1950s, when the future P.G.A. commissioner Deane Beman, then a junior golfer, sketched crude models for his own use. In the 1970s, the books proliferated as professional players and caddies, in search of a legal edge, turned to the course field guides compiled by pioneers like Mark Long, who has followed the high-tech path. He supplies his greens books to caddies for $150 apiece.
Carl Jackson is widely considered a priceless alternative. Known as the greens whisperer of Augusta National, Jackson worked 54 Masters, including 39 as the bag man for the two-time champion Ben Crenshaw. When Greller was about to caddie in his first Masters, in 2014, he sought out Jackson to try to absorb some of his knowledge about Augusta’s bedeviling breaks and slopes.
Every tournament week since, Greller has checked in several times with Jackson, who first caddied at the Masters as a 14-year-old in 1961. The two do not go over notes because Jackson stores all his knowledge on the pages of his mind.
Since Crenshaw regards Spieth as a protégé of sorts, Greller is never shy about using Jackson as a resource.
“Carl probably wants to throw his phone any time he gets a phone call from Michael, he’s probably talked to him so many times,” said Justin Thomas, Spieth’s competitor and close friend.
Greller said the best advice he had received from Jackson had nothing to with a fall line or a pin placement. It was simply: “There will be multiple times you’ll be confused. Then you trust your instincts.”
To remind himself, Greller writes a note on some pages amid all the technical jargon: “TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.”
“I haven’t seen it,” said Spieth, who, like most golfers, keeps books of his own.
John Wood, a veteran caddie who works for Matt Kuchar, spent Monday morning walking the course by himself, stopping often to take notes. By the time he was through, the pages of his yardage book resembled geometry assignments. He described the outing as a chance to “recheck stuff I’ve seen over the years.”
Jack Nicklaus, who counts six Masters titles among his 18 major victories, wonders why any touring pro would not want to be the master of his own game.
“To me, the game of golf is learning how to play the game and be responsible for everything you do,” he said. “That’s the fun of it. It’s fun to learn how to putt greens and how to play clubs.”
He added: “Now everything is given to the guys. That said, if it were all given to me back when I started in 1962 on the tour, I probably would have done exactly the same thing.”
Lanier was playing on golf’s minor league circuits when he started a side business making yardage books for his competitors. The side business outlasted his playing career. He uses every resource at his disposal, including Google Earth, to make his hand drawings as detailed as possible. Lanier can sketch Augusta National as if it were the back of his hand because it is practically his backyard. He grew up a couple of miles away and now lives close enough to walk to the course.
His drawings, while highly respected among golfers, are often lost on outsiders. Lanier recalled a visit he once paid to a Staples store in Florida to make copies of a book. A woman was using the copier next to him. Peering at his drawings, she asked, “Sir, excuse me, are you a medical illustrator?”
Lanier told her that, no, the illustrations she had mistaken for amoebas were greens and bunkers.
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