A young entrepreneur puts his talent and passion for golf into his course yardage book business.
April 15, 2022
By Joseph Oberle
Photos by Charlie Anderson
Some young athletes dream of working in their favorite sport from the moment they sink a long birdie putt—but few envision accomplishing it before their 10th birthday.
Seth Damsgard of Maple Grove got hooked on golf at age seven, started working in the game two years later, and now his business is outpacing any dream he might have had.
“I couldn’t say working in golf was a dream of mine, since I was only nine when I started,” the now 14-year-old Damsgard says. “It’s just really cool to be adding value across the nation to a sport that I love.”
With the help of his parents and three sisters, Seth started a golf business called “Golf By Numbers” which produces detailed, tour-quality yardage books for local golf clubs. Using satellite images, he created the yardage books by making computer drawings of the holes, measuring numerous yardages and slopes and adding them to the renderings. Seth created his first yardage book for Eagle Lake Youth Golf Center in Plymouth, and has now made books for 11 Minnesota courses (plus one in Iowa), including The Royal Golf Club—which resulted in a heady opportunity for him.
“At the Royal, I was able to make the books before the grand opening,” Seth says. “And I was made an honorary member of the course. I got to hit the inaugural tee shot with course owner Hollis Cavner and architect Annika Sorenstam.”
An Idea Is Born
For Seth, the business began with a club in his hand. His dad introduced him to golf when he was very young.
“My dad would take me to the range, probably before I could walk,” Seth says. “I would play in the sand trap and putt around on the putting green, so I have grown up in the golf environment. I started playing tournaments when I was seven years old.”
A basketball player and recent convert to pickle ball, Seth’s competitive juices began flowing in those golf tournaments with some early success. He won tournaments (US Kids Local Tour for 10-year-olds) and collected medals in MN Jr. PGA tournaments and the Jr. PGA League for Edinburgh USA. But along the way he became frustrated with not being able to carry penalty areas on some holes.
“I was in the situations where I wasn’t able to hit the ball over a pond, so I would have to go around. I was really needing the yardages,” Seth says. “My dad would help me make these ‘chicken-scratchings on paper’ yardage books that I would keep in my pocket. I was noticing how others were having this issue [with] distances.”
The personal yardage books led to an idea, a Kickstarter campaign and (with computer instruction from Seth’s dad, Chris,) soon a fledgling business. But it didn’t stay that way for long. Seth searched online and found Scott Brady, owner and operator of Precise Yardage Books (PYB), and contacted him for a meet-up to pick his brain about the business.
Brady, a former Tour caddie, had started his own business about two years earlier and was doing the drawing and yardage measuring by himself. As his business picked up speed, he was becoming swamped.
“When Chris and Seth called me, it was just out of the blue,” Brady says. “We were on the phone for an hour with his questions, and I was happy to help. They did all their drawings off Google Earth. I told them ‘I stay up all night and do the same thing. Any chance you want to do it for me?’”
A Growing Business
Seth and his older sister Eliana (who handles the paperwork) and younger sisters Ashley and Gracia signed on to provide the hole drawings to Brady, while his people conduct the yardage surveys and build the pages. The books are sent back to the Damsgards for proofing before returning to PYB for a client proof and printing. Brady says the partnership couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“The business was really picking up, and I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without them,” Brady says. “They have been a tremendous asset to our business.”
PYB creates 80 to 120 yardage books per year (having now surpassed 500 courses) and each course book goes through Maple Grove. With a course list that includes, Muirfield Village, Seminole, Oakmont and Interlachen, the sky appears the limit for PYB, which is considering expanding into the European market next.
“We’ve done more than $3 million in sales. It’s been insane,” Brady says. “The Damsgards coming on gave me the energy and time to focus on other aspects of the business. They are a big part of our success.”
Still, who takes on a kid and trusts him to assist in a million-dollar business? The folks at “Shark Tank” likely would have passed. But Brady enjoys working with kids and knew that Chris, an engineer, was overseeing things. Still, he saw something in Seth.
“He’s well-spoken, and anybody in the golf business who sees somebody with a good playing background, whether they’re nine or a club pro, that means something,” Brady says. “He has a passion for golf.”
Talent Meets Passion
Seth’s talent and passion have propelled him. He volunteers as a standard bearer at the 3M Open every year and has rubbed elbows with some of the “Greats of the Game.”
“I got Hale Irwin,” Seth says. “We have exchanged a few emails since then. I also got a voice recording from Gary Player and a letter from Jack Nicklaus, and that was really cool.”
Seth is homeschooled, has played varsity golf for Osseo High School since seventh grade and is saving money from his business to attend college. In the meantime, he started another small family business doing voiceover work. Seth’s plan is to attend business school at St. Thomas University to become an entrepreneur.
Some kids dream; others do. Does anyone doubt Seth will accomplish that goal soon?