May 8, 2003. Lamenting a Death in the 'Family'

By: Jeff Shelley

Talk about hitting a guy when he's down. The recent demise of a wonderful publication, Golf Journal, won't be doing anything for my temporarily anemic muse. Citing cost (about $4 million a year), obsolescence of its news due to the Internet (hogwash - see costs above), and a detour from its core mission (covering the USGA), America's governing body of amateur golf has killed the game's best publication.

I looked forward to getting Golf Journal more than any other magazine. It covered average people - its members, folks like us. Not Tiger Woods (save for his compelling amateur accomplishments). Not Mickelson's agonizing absence from a Major podium (who really cares except Amy and the kids). Not square grooves, oversized clubheads, nor swing-tips-of-the-second. Certainly not the advertorials now overpopulating the golf press.

In order of preference, here are my favorite national golf magazines:

1. Golf Journal (ixnay on this rank anymore)
2. Superintendent News
3. SI Golf Plus (whether golf or baseball, SI's always had the best writers)
4. Golf (mainly for James Dotson and David Feherty)
5. GolfWorld
6. Golfweek
7. Golf Digest
8. Take your pick from here

I'm particularly miffed these days about a disturbing habit the major monthlies have adopted. Seems their subscription departments have hired independent "contractors" which ping you every month about renewing even though there are two years left on your subscription. Until I wised up, I was an easy target for these unwanted solicitors because I had magazine subscriptions billed to both my company, Fairgreens Media, and myself.

As late as two years ago, I took magazines for their word and dutifully renewed my subscriptions, thinking they knew the dates. I accepted those postcards as kindly reminders, but not anymore.

I'm down to two subscriptions to Golfweek, and am now getting only one copy of Golf and Golf Digest, instead of two. I now keep a list of when I subscribed and for how long so I don't bite when the solicitors come calling with nebulous invoices. I'm thinking about letting all of my subscriptions lapse, but now believe I have a better handle on the rampant renewals and will quell that idea for now.

So let's check the current Golf Magazine Scorecard:

Magazines are experiencing decreased revenues due to lack of advertising, and their page counts are visibly shrinking as a result. Subscriptions are diminishing at a rate parallel to a weakened golf industry caused by the lousy economy, 9/11, and the inactivitity of weekend hackers.

Golf Journal bites the dust because its news is old, it costs too damn much to print and mail (with NO advertising to offset the overhead), and the bloody Internet (where you're reading this) provides quicker info than a periodical.

So what's the score at this point in the game: Double-bogey and the dreaded Other. If you tried to punch this score into the GHIN System computer terminal at your local club, you'd get a "Won't Accept Score."

Over 720,000 American golfers will now no longer be getting Golf Journal, first published in 1948. In a GolfWorld article lamenting that bad news, the USGA's senior director of communications, Marty Parkes, said the association has received fewer than 200 complaints about the decision to fold Golf Journal.

Make that 201 Marty.

A golf publisher spoke for many of us when he commented on the death of the magazine. In Geoff Russell's GolfWorld piece, the unnamed publisher said, "Golf Journal is one of the few places you can go to research the game's history. It is sad to lose a magazine like that."

It's more than sad. It's a bloody shame. Though its reasons are understandable, the USGA has just removed one of its primary tools for promoting the game and amateur golf.