Golf Connoisseur

Let me just say that I don't golf--but judging from the pickup truck and hound dog, neither does our cover guy. And the cut lines don't help: "Classic Guitars," "Thoroughbreds at Auction." Clearly, "connoisseur" rather than "golf" takes center stage here.

Just ask David Feherty, who not only graces the cover but shares his feelings on everything from cowboy boots to his favorite shotgun, which gives new meaning to blowing the competition away. Turns out, he's the Irish boy turned Texan who played for the European Ryder Cup Team and is now a golf commentator for CBS. But to sink that putt, you have to know your game.

Golf Connoisseur, a glossy bimonthly, uses golf as a pretext--it's a springboard into a general-interest magazine. For example, the table of contents lists articles on the Acer Ferrari laptop, the Lexus GS450H and the Big Dog Mastiff motorcycle. All come with hefty price tags. Now, golf pros or people who count the week wasted if they haven't stepped on a pristine course, can, I'm sure, afford such luxuries.

The laptop goes for a cool $2,200 and the cycle, an American-built chopper, lists $28,500 as the base price. It's described as a "street-legal showpiece that performs, eliciting a neck-snapping reaction as it cruises down Main Street." My guess: the whiplash is caused by the noise from this mastodon, coupled with the shock that, judging from the bike's paint job, the '50s are back.

But here's the kicker: Though the "stories" are slugged in the "Connoisseur's Club" section, they read suspiciously like advertorials. Similarly, the "From the Editor" section, instead of promoting the magazine's lineup, plugs Feherty's book, David Feherty's Totally Subjective History of the Ryder Cup. Did I mention the editor co-wrote it, and conveniently supplies the name of the publisher for our edification? I was surprised he didn't include order forms.

Now, it's cool to mention the book and his participation, but to assure readers it is "not only funny but actually good history" is the province of critics. Devoting the lion's share of the editor's letter to his opus just isn't kosher. He's left the green and is shilling on the fairway.

Eyebrow is duly raised. It arched higher when I read the chronicle of "Farhad Vladi, Purveyor of Paradise," whose day job is to sell islands--admittedly, not your standard business-school major. How he arrived at his career path is a mystery. What isn't, are his current listings, which are noted (with prices) in the article, along with his Web site. Again, this piece had the faint whiff of an ad masquerading as edit, which suddenly seemed par for the course.

In fairness, I understand that golfers often enjoy an upscale lifestyle, so articles on travel, food, wine and fashion make sense. Still, they require more sophisticated art direction and smarter headlines. And they need to jive with the magazine's affluent spirit. What is "Why I love NASCAR. No, Really" doing in Golf Connoisseur? It's beyond gratuitous. Yes, really. And the reason for the interview with Met's pitching ace Tom Glavine on everything but golf is anybody's guess.

Don't get me wrong: There are golf stories, supported by lovely photography. The piece on the first-class golf options around Dublin was helpful and informative, as was the interview with Tom Lehman, the Ryder Cup captain of the American team. Even the new golf clubs in the New York metro area will be of interest to prospective visitors. I can also see the value of detailing how the King Cobra driver tried to gain traction among pros. But when the company bills spokesman Colombian rookie golfer Camilo Villegas as a "sultry chick magnet," it's the stuff of Stuff. Jack Nicklaus has probably hung up his clubs in shame.

Golf Connoisseur is a good idea, but it needs more finesse in its swing. In future, just stick to fore play.

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