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Yardage Books vs GPS - Which Is Better For Your Game?

I personally love yardage books. There are many reasons I will mention below but the main reason is that I collect them from any golf course I play. Well, that is if they still sell them. It is a piece of memorabilia with details off the golf course that makes it better than a ball marker or logo golf ball. There was a time golf courses knew this and many would give a yardage book to each golfer on the first tee complimentary.

There is a good article GolfPass did back in April about this same thing titled - Do yardage books still have a place in golf?

With the popularity of GPS on, both, golf carts and phone apps, many golfers probably have never used a yardage book or only see the professionals using them. But could a yardage book possibly be better for your game?

Yardage Books (clockwise) Shell Landing, Squirrel Run, English Turn, The Links at Sandestin, TPC Louisiana, Grand Bear
Small Sample Of My Yardage Book Collection

Here are a few key reasons that each is better for your game.

Yardage Books -

  • Distances were measured by professionals at ground level and not from satellite imagery.

  • Full hole overlay with detailed yardage from every tee box to a specific spot like a bunker or hazard.

  • Has the green image with the depth and width.

  • Easier to carry in your pocket while playing.

  • Easier to see and read than a screen in bright conditions.

  • They usually have yardage from every sprinkler head even if it is not marked.

  • The most accurate besides a laser range finder.

  • Do not rely on battery power.


  • Tells you the distance based on your location or that of the golf cart.

  • Can be accurate to the hole location.

  • Most have extra features like scorekeeping.

  • Most have the option to select an object like bunkers or hazards to get a carry distance.

  • Can tell you the distance of your last shot without having to do the math.

Those are just the main benefits of each. After reading those could you tell which is better for your game? Probably not.

I will tell you a yardage book will be much better for your game. There will be some math involved but you will get so much more out of it. With a yardage book, you do not have to worry about staying put in the cart to see the GPS. You can freely walk around look at the book and the course at the same time. Even though a phone app has the same ability you can not always see the screen clearly in many outdoor conditions. A yardage book especially comes in handy when you play golf on the dreaded cart path only days. It is hard to get good yardage when you have to leave your cart on the path 20 or so yards away from where you will hit your shot.

One of my favorite reason I would prefer playing with a yardage book is knowing the depth of the green. This is especially helpful when the golf course is playing firm. Let's say you walk off the yardage from the sprinkler head to your ball and get 150-yards to the center of the green. You then look and see the green depth is 42. Subtract half, (21-yards), and you now know the distance to the front of the green. You can then play to a yardage between the front (129-yards) of the green and the center (150-yards) knowing the ball will take a firm bounce forward toward the hole location.

Because yardage books are measured from the ground by a professional survey crew they are more accurate than any single app or cart GPS. This is from the experience of using 5 different yardage apps at the same golf course comparing them to the yardage book made several years ago. The yardage book had the same numbers I would get using a laser range finder. The GPS apps, even though close did not have the same yardages with the smallest margin being a 4-yard difference. This is similar to Cart GPS although many of them are made by the same survey crews and slightly more accurate. The main drawback is the pin locations have to be manually input each day they change. You understand what I mean if you have been to a golf course and it tells you it x-yards to the pin only to get to the green and see the pin is actually a good 15-yards further back.

There are two big drawbacks to a yardage book. One, they may not reflect any changes the course has made since the yardage books were printed. The most golf course will not pay for the changes to be made until they sell all the printed ones they have. That is if they even decided to continue to offer yardage books. The second reason is it takes some effort. There is math involved, which I know many people hate to do, and you may have to do some extra walking to find a sprinkler head marked in the book then walk off the yardage to your ball.

To be honest, the best way to play golf is with a yardage book and a laser range finder. The yardage book gives you the overlay of each hole while the laser range finder gives you the exact yardage to wherever you stand to wherever you aim it.

For your convenience here are two ways to get a yardage book for your favorite course.

The first is Puttview Books. You can search thousands of courses and order a yardage book online.

The second is Score Snapshot where you can order blank books and create your own yardage book with your own personal notes. (please note we have no affiliation with either company)

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