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Choosing from the world of golf magazines is like choosing which club to hit

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Golf DigestThe number of golf magazines available to newcomers to the game is almost as varied as the number of people willing to give them advice.

They range from high-end glossies to weekly, working-man publications. It can be a bit bewildering, because they tend to look alike. How do you choose from magazines that mostly have photos of guys swinging golf clubs on their covers?

Here's a brief overview of some of the top print magazines, what they focus on, and what they've done in their most recent issues.

Golfweek is a newsy weekly that concentrates on the stories behind competitive golf, like the PGA Tour, the PGA European Tour, Nationwide and Champions Tours and college golf.

It is a well-written and timely magazine that provides a lot of inside stuff that the sports sections of newspapers, even the majors, don't have the time, space or inclination to run.

For example, the Forecaddie section in the front of the magazine, in its October 10 issue, features news like Charles Howell III's frustration with the Official World Golf Rankings. Howell was threatened with a fine about voicing his frustration over the rankings. It turns out points that should have been awarded to Howell were instead awarded to David Howell, the European Ryder Cup player.

The magazine also has a lot of inside news on equipment, manufacturers' plans and so forth, like Calloway's possible venture into forged irons - will Phil Mickelson use them?

It also has other features like profiles - for example John Steinbreder's rather fawning profile of Bill Jones III, the CEO of the Sea Island Company.

There is a business section, tips, occasional first-person columns from the pros, an exhaustive Scoreboard report - all the numbers you'd care to look for - and advertising-sponsored travel features that invariably tell you their destination is the greatest.

Its staff-written travel features are a bit more objective: one recent issue features one by noted golf writer Bradley Klein, who called New Mexico "the best state for quality, affordable golf," a rarity in this day and age. There are also opinion columns, usually in the back of the magazine, that seem a little tepid.

They also do trend stories that are oftentimes interesting, like Alex Miceli's story on how the large PGA purses may be coming to a screeching halt.

Golf Digest is, of course, the bible of golf magazines. A big, thick glossy magazine, it is chock-full of tips from leading pros and teachers like Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and David Leadbetter.

Its November issue features a "secret tip" from Vijay Singh: Singh practices with a glove under his left arm and keeps it there throughout the swing. It's hardly new, but everything Singh does nowadays is under scrutiny.

The magazine is known for its in-depth features, such as its recent and fascinating story on the pressures of being No. 1 in the world, with memorable quotes from those who have actually been there. For example, from Greg Norman, who recalled a time in 1996 when he heard of Woods' ambition to be No. 1: "I actually sat back and said "Oh, thank God," Norman is quoted as saying. "There was an instant relief."

And this from Jack Nicklaus: "I don't think I ever became the best I could be. I don't think I ever even approached it."

Tom Callahan's story on home run king Mark McGuire answers the question of whether hitting a baseball or golf ball is harder. "Are you kidding?" McGuire said. "If you swing a little early on a curve or a little late on a fastball, you'll pull it straight left or hit it to right field, and either might be just fine. But golf?"

Golf World, a weekly publication of Golf Digest, is a slimmer, less exhaustive volume, but it does have its moments. A recent story on former PGA commissioner Deane Beman revealed his thoughts on the USGA's losing battle with advancing technology. "There is not strong enough leadership to bring perspective and there is a great tendency for no one to be responsible."

Then there are the high-end magazines, which cater to the upscale, traveling golfer. For the most part, these magazines tell the well-heeled traveling golfer where to go to enjoy the good life.

For example, the Design 2004 issue of The Golfer picks out the best - the finest golf resorts in the world, premier golf real estate around the world, golf gems from around the world, etc. It's a "a travel guide for the discerning golfer," but doesn't offer much advice about places to avoid.

However, in its recent section on "the ultimate list for the discerning golfer" - various "best of" lists by established golf figures - it does have a "Great Architectural Crimes of the 20th Century."

Ran Morrissett, on the dastardly renovations to great Donald Ross courses, says: "How could course design have gone so awry, given that a man with a team of mules and scrap pans gave us a how-to blueprint decades ago."

Golf DigestTravel and Leisure GOLF, has much of the same, with huge advertising sections. Its September/October issue features a great essay by John Updike who served as a marshal in the 1999 Ryder Cup match at Brookline when the Americans won.

Updike says the "us versus them" attitude doesn't really fit in professional golf: "It's not as if these foreign golfers don't live, many of them, in Florida and Texas, their wives swapping recipes with ours."

The magazine offers Private Club news ("behind the gates at the country's top clubs"). One recent story dealt with the common characteristics of golf and opera, which would hardly hold Joe Duffer's interest.

Its latest issue offered a self-serving story by Greg Norman on how environmentally sound courses can be more fun to play, and a story on golf in the heart of the Amazon jungle.

Its "playaway" section does explore places to play, but the reviews are very short, though its latest issue takes a more in-depth look at the golfing opportunities of Kansas City.

There are others, of course, like Executive Golfer, which you can get at a number of golf clubs, and which is obviously aimed at an upscale readership, Golf Inc., which is geared toward the considerable business of golf and Golf Magazine, one of the bigger magazines similar to but of lesser quality than Golf Digest.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
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