Golf For Women

Golf For Women (GFW) ranks as one of the more inspired ideas in the recent history of women's magazines. By my highly precise count, there are no fewer than 363,364 women's lifestyle titles on the market today. Yet as opposed to the all-things-for-all-gals approach of its peers, GFW mostly confines itself to blanketing all aspects of one specific lifestyle: that of the golf groupie.

The magazine's execution has started to live up to the promise inherent in its concept. As opposed to earlier issues, in which GFW seemed more eager to please than a three-month-old puppy, the May/June behemoth tones down the frivolous non-golf content in favor of more straightforward tips and tactics. How to choose a club, fix your swing, strike the ball - it's all there and it's all presented with a minimum of B.S.

Yes, women's-mag mainstays still rear their ugly head from time to time. (As an aside, why does every publication feel the need to saddle readers with a "notable events" calendar of some sort? Do editors truly believe we have that much of a problem budgeting our leisure hours?) But these elements aren't so distracting as to overwhelm the golf goodies that, ostensibly, are what get readers in the door.

What they'll find once they get there is an amalgam of lifestyle-mag staples - nutrition, fashion, beauty, etc. - meticulously tailored to accommodate women golfers of all skill levels. The mag's "First Cut" section of smaller items offers everything from a look at a prime golf destination just outside London to a Q&A with the outgoing LPGA commissioner to a comparison of shipping options for golf bags. What binds these three items? They're both inclusive and focused at once, if that makes any sense; they should be of note to players across the golf skill spectrum. Slightly less interesting is a sidebar about private-label wines produced by Greg Norman and Ernie Els, but maybe that's because I'm holding out for John Daly's basement moonshine.

While there's nothing wrong per se with this meat-and-potatoes content, I prefer GFW's more expansive features. A travel narrative surveying a handful of South Africa's luxe courses steers clear of the bunker (bunker - get it? get it?), offering more than the usual half-assed mix of tipsy observation and faux-quirky local color.

Compelling for an entirely different reason is a report on two gay couples battling for the same rights as married couples at an Atlanta course. To her credit, writer Marcia Chambers steers clear of the hysterics that marked much of the earlier debate about Augusta National's ban on women members, presenting a balanced survey of the ongoing discord. I wish the mag hadn't diminished it with a cheaply alliterative and punny cover line, however ("Country Club Controversy: Who's In, Who's Out").

I also wish that GFW didn't occasionally dumb down to accommodate celebrity tripe like the cover story on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" starlet Mariska Hargitay. A newbie's golf primer that employs the actress as its first-time-on-the-links lab rat, it doesn't belong within an Annika Sorenstam five-wood of the aforementioned features. That the cover shot of fetching Hargitay would suggest the existence of a full-service salon just beyond the eighth tee, which doesn't exactly bolster its credibility.

Featuring a trio of Teutonic models, the "Opposites Attract" fashion spread suggests nothing if not "Sprockets" at the driving range. And who knows what the editors might have been thinking when they compiled "The Official GFW Romance Kit," but when Ms. Magazine Rack and I are feeling frisky, a Tiffany sterling-silver Atlas ball container is rarely leveraged for aphrodisiacal effect.

Fortunately, these few moments of vacuity occupy a mere seven or eight of the issue's 208 pages - not a bad ratio by any standard. Golf For Women is the best at what it does by quite a bit. A few tweaks here and there, and it could evolve into one of the mag world's preeminent lifestyle brands - male or female.

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