Are The Major Golf Magazines Becoming Cliched?

While paying for a box of balls at the local pro shop I noticed the cover of the magazine that was sitting in a pile next to the register:

“Justin Timberlake?,” I scoffed. “What’s next? Brittany Spears?”

The clerk shook his head. “It’s sad what’s happened to those magazines. I don’t read them any more.”

I agreed that I had been reading much less of the major magazines lately, and that set him off. Matt then went on to recite a litany of complaints with Golf Magazine and Golf Digest: repetitive tips, contradictory tips, worthless tips, fluff coverage of the Tour and players, celebrity worship, and Tiger worship (I’m surprised he didn’t accuse them of Satan worship). He managed to accuse them separately of naked jingoism and an Anti-American bias (I lost track of which magazine he was referring to.) Matt accused them of essentially taking bribes from the equipment companies for good reviews of “worthless clubs,” and of writing good things about high end resorts in exchange for free vacations. He claimed that three quarters of the magazines were advertising (not true. I just counted. A recent issue had only 80 pages of advertising out of 172)

For a guy who didn’t like the magazines, Matt apparently had done quite a study of them.

After another twenty minutes of conversation, I found that we agreed on a couple of things. First, that the two “majors” have become a bit hackneyed and cliched. And second, that Golf World and Golf Week both had superior coverage of the things we cared about. He liked the stats, the lists of tournament winners and such; I liked the general freshness of the two—something that comes from their weekly publication.

I wondered how the circulations of Golf Digest and Golf Magazine have been holding up. As it turns out, circulation for both have been flat over the past eight years—at about 1.5 million each (Golf Digest is a little higher, Golf Magazine a little lower). Given the increase in population, and the supposed increase of interest in golf, I would have expected better, though. We might also note that Golf For Women magazine, and arm of Golf Digest, has gone under.

I also wonder about the legitimacy of the circulation figures. At one local pro shop, you can get an issue of either of these free with any purchase. They keep a stack next to the register. I also was able to get a free subscription by attending a local golf show last winter. In my mind, giving magazines away is not the same thing as having actual active subscribers.

As it stands now, I’ve half a mind to let my subscriptions to Golf Digest and Golf Magazine lapse when renewal time comes around. And if I see one more celebrutard cover, I will.

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3 thoughts on “Are The Major Golf Magazines Becoming Cliched?”

  1. Given that Justin Timberlake has become the host-whatever for the Shriners Tournament, I can see that a story on him would be a bit newsworthy. I don’t like his music or his choice of roles in movies or the coverage of his lovelife (yuck) but I would like to know why someone young like him would take such an interest in a PGA tournament.  Michael Jordan hasn’t done that and to hear Fred Couples tell it, Jordan is the greatest thing that’s happened to golf in the last ten years or more. 

    As for the golf magazines, I like Golf Magazine because it does have the feature articles about the players.  Since I don’t play golf, I have no use for all of the golf instruction and since I’m not spending thousands on a vacation, I have no use for the travel section.  Golf Magazine is trying to broaden its appeal by offering coverage of the different aspects of the game and I think they need to do that if they want to stay in business.  As for the alleged bias in product reviews, when we are tortured by the pro-Tiger media and can’t watch even one hour of golf coverage without hearing the man’s name, I find it hard to believe anyone would expect neutrality in anything golf related these days.

  2. Well, I was quite happy to see Justin on the cover, in the hope there would be some news on his new golf course in town—and there was.  Finally some news about when it will open, and then the Memphis Commercial Appeal picked up the story from Golf Digest.  Quite a sports desk our local paper has that it takes Golf Digest to give them a short article on the course located about 15 miles from the newspaper offices. 

    I can see some of the complaints for sure, the tips are repetitive.  While Timberlake’s article wasn’t nearly as interesting to me as Nickolson’s article a few months back, it does give a different take on golf and the social aspect around it.  Further, it gives a boost to youthful interest in the game to have Justin on the cover. 

    I would rather see a lot more articles on courses you can play, and play cheap.  Having just the high dollar resorts and courses doesn’t do much for me, except wish they put that course in Tiger Woods 09. 

    I may or may not keep my subscription—I will let you know in June 2012.  About a year ago, I got a renewal letter for $8 a year, and I went ahead and tried to see if I could renew for 5 years, and they let me.

  3. Charity tournaments (like the Shriners) depend on a celebrity ‘host’. I guess there weren’t a lot of celebrities jumping up to volunteer; Bob Hope is dead. So is Sammy Davis Jr. Last I heard, Bing Crosby wasn’t doing too well either. They could’ve gotten George Lopez, but he’s damaged goods after the Bob Hope Classic dumped him. Bill Murray has that golf-cart DUI over his head. Perhaps Charles Barkley…

    Mr. Timberlake may be not the greatest choice, but he’s relatively young, relatively well known, and willing. That has to count for something.

    And you’re right – both Golf World and Golf Week are great publications. I didn’t know about the former until I read it in your blog.


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