Twoscore and five years ago, our fore-fathers brought forth a new magazine, conceived in some smoky 19th hole and dedicated to the American golfer. GOLF MAGAZINE would be for country-clubbers and muni players in all 49 states — and Hawaii too, once the Aloha State joined the Union four months later.
In 1959 the Celtics swept the Lakers — the Minneapolis Lakers — in the NBA Finals. Frank Sinatra won his first Grammy Award, which was also anybody’s first Grammy, since the Grammys began that year. And that spring our first cover showed Sam Snead, who was not identified. Everybody knew Slammin’ Sam. Inside, the first GOLF MAGAZINE led off with a letter from Bob Jones: “I am delighted to know that you are projecting a first-class magazine devoted entirely to golf.” Next came a note from Walter Hagen, who wrote, “Old-timers such as Bobby Jones and myself, who are watching through the picture windows, will be depending on your new magazine to keep us up to date on the links we knew so well yesterday.” On the same page was a letter from Art Citrynell of New York, who asked, “Do you think you can run some articles which might help average players like myself? I can’t seem to make my long-irons work…. My putting is a little weak too.”
Through 534 issues and thousands of pages of swing tips, we are still helping players who can’t hit their long irons. On that score, 45 years of instruction have boiled down to four words:.Switch to lofted woods. As for putting, decades of hard work have led to a two-word solution to your troubles: Dave Pelz. But the game is still maddeningly difficult. That’s why more than six million readers turn to us for help every month. Millions more read our foreign editions in Australia, China, Korea and other lands. Someday we’ll run a headline worthy of McDonald’s: More Than a Billion Slices Cured.
“The advent of electric golf carts is bound to shape our future golf courses,” Gene Sarazen wrote in a prophetic column in 1960. “Architects designing new courses will have to plan bridges and hard-top paths along the fairways to handle this new type of traffic.” Six months later, in a story headed “Boy Wonder,” defending U.S. Amateur champ Jack Nicklaus proved he was no prophet. “You can print this or you can forget it,” the 20-year-old Nicklaus told GOLF MAGAZINE. “I will never become a professional golfer.” We printed it and remembered it as Jack went on to demonstrate that the old, oblong Tourney he played was no crystal ball.
A March 1963 story held a better forecast. Nicklaus had won only one pro major by then, but we made him odds-on to become the best player ever: “What is there to stop him? Probably nothing. But if anything, boredom perhaps. Or calories.” Noting that his weight was a worry (“Jack, called ‘Blob-o’ and ‘Whale-man’ by his classmates at Ohio State…”), writer Will Grimsley portrayed a 23-year-old Nicklaus so strong (“averaging around 280 yards with his driver”) and willful that his destiny was clear. Grimsley quoted Sarazen: “I’ve never seen a player who could shut himself off from all around him the way Nicklaus does. Nothing affects him.” That fierce will turned “Blob-o” into a champion who fulfilled our every prediction, including a line that helped fix the Golden Bear’s famous nickname: “On the putting green, Nicklaus hunches over the ball like a frozen grizzly bear.”
Gender roles were shifting in the ’60s, but we seemed stuck in the ’50s. A 1963 feature, “Ten Ways to Keep a Golf Widow Happy,” prescribed Ricky Ricardo tactics (“Bring her a box of candy”) to pre-empt a fate worse than bogey: “A powerful weapon she can use… is withholding sex. This, in turn, can trigger hostility on his part.” And that piece, by Dr. Joyce Brothers, was progressive compared to a 1964 screed by columnist Oscar Fraley. While admitting there was “nothing like a dame,” he asked,.”But why do they have to foul-up a great game like golf?” Lest you think Fraley was the lone curmudgeon at that month’s articles meeting, his story came with a note saying that the article didn’t “necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the editors of GOLF Magazine — but don’t bet on it.”
A new spring brought another Snead cover. No one noticed at the time, but the background of our May 1964 issue showed a golfer urinating on a palm tree. Around the office we call that one the “Mr. Tinkle” cover.
How much has the game changed since 1966? That was the year we asked touring pros which of the majors mattered most. Surprise answer: the PGA Championship, which Dave Marr said “is in a class by itself.”
In 1968, beside a tempting ad for the upscale Concord Golf Resort in New York, (three days of golf, deluxe lodging and three meals a day for $60), we ran a story on Golf-O-Tron, an early golf simulator. Designed by a firm that made ballistic missiles, the game offered video versions of Pebble Beach and Pinehurst and sold for $10,000, or $63,230 in today’s dollars.
By ’72 our editors were making like Carnac, predicting Nicklaus victories in that year’s Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, “and everyone will go out of their birds waiting for the Super Slam to be completed at the PGA.” Nicklaus won at Augusta and Pebble Beach and lost by one shot to Lee Trevino at Muirfield. That issue also carried these lines praising the U.S. Open venue: “Not everyone can play Merion or Baltusrol or the Olympic Club. But everyone — everyone with money, since the greens fee ranges up to $20 — can play Pebble.”
|A Message from the White House|
| Congratulations to GOLF MAGAZINE on your 45th Anniversary.
Mark Twain once called golf “a good walk spoiled.” Clearly he was never president. For me, golf provides a welcome escape outdoors with friends and family, and a chance to exercise. Golf is a longstanding tradition in the Bush family — we’ve even created our own version of the game, which rewards both score and speed of play. Some of my fondest memories are of early-morning rounds with my dad.
Golf is one of the few sports in which each player reports his own score. There are no referees to call penalties or enforce the rules. The game demands integrity and trust, and it sets a good example for young people beginning to build character. And as anyone who has ever picked up a club can attest, golf is a great challenge. A well-placed trap or tricky green can test the patience of the most seasoned professional. Yet the game has a way of satisfying even the beginners among us. No matter how many 5-irons you shank in a round, there will always be one good enough to keep you coming back. May all your drives find the fairway in 2004.
—President George W. Bush
That was the same year we serialized Michael Murphy’s weirdly wondrous Golf in the Kingdom, and soon we took on another sort of metaphysics. In the 1975 story “How Close Are We to Breaking 60?” the editors suggested that “golf’s ‘four-minute mile’ will never be attained because the courses are getting tougher.” Two years later Al Geiberger shot 59. Chip Beck and David Duval have done it since; our own Annika Sorenstam shot the LPGA’s first.59 three.years ago.
October of ’76 brought one of the best off-course golf tales ever. In that issue, Winnie Palmer told GOLF MAGAZINE about a birthday surprise she’d planned for husband Arnold in the late ’50s. President Dwight Eisenhower was in on it. So one night at the Palmer house in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, “the doorbell rang,” we reported, “and Winnie, who was in her room dressing, said, ‘Arnie, will you see who that could be?’ He went downstairs, opened the front door, and almost collapsed. There stood the president of the United States with a duffel bag and that great grin of his. ‘Could you put up an old friend for the night?’ “
In 1979 the magazine launched a franchise that turns 25 this year: GOLF MAGAZINE’s Greatest Courses in the World. That ranking had Augusta National first and Pine Valley 28th — but only because the list was alphabetical.
Soon came our 1980 yearbook and some of the best quotes of any year:
Lee Trevino, griping about the small greens at Inverness, the previous year’s U.S. Open venue: “My ball was in the middle of one green and the name on my ball was touching the fringe.”
Andy North on his post-1978 U.S. Open slump: “I’ve been in a slump all my life.”
Sam Snead on retirement: “What else am I going to do? I once thought of becoming a political cartoonist because they only have to come up with one idea a day. Then I thought I’d be a sportswriter because they don’t have to come up with any.”
Almost as good was a 1980 cover line that flew past the third cut of credibility — “POWER PLUS: Ballesteros Tells You How to Drive It Long and Straight.”
The ’80s brought controversy in the forms of Laura Baugh and Jan Stephenson. The LPGA had hired a new marketing chief (the guy behind Life cereal’s famed “Mikey likes it!” commercials) who put female pros in come-hither calendar poses, spurring a dispute the magazine billed as “Sex vs. Sock.” Tour veterans hated it. “I didn’t join the tour to be in a chorus line,”.said Kathy Whitworth, while Jane Blalock called the tour’s cheesecake photos “quasi-pornography.” In the June 1981 GOLF MAGAZINE, Baugh’s IMG agent, Hughes Norton, who would later guide Tiger Woods’s career until Tiger dumped him, stuck his wing tip in his mouth. “Ladies’ golf had no one along the lines of appeal that Laura represented,” he told us. “You had some reasonably good-looking women who couldn’t play very well and some great players who looked awful — typical women’s athlete types.” In the end came a fragile equilibrium: The game rewarded the best players, male and female, but rewarded them more if they were good-looking or charismatic. Baugh fought alcoholism and never won an LPGA event. Stephenson fought sexism, won 16 tournaments and three majors, then triggered another uproar last year when she told us that Asian players were “killing our tour.”
In May of 1982 our readers met “Professor Putt,” better known as Dave Pelz. Here’s a trivium: Did you know that Pelz faced Jack Nicklaus 22 times in Midwestern junior, high school and college tournaments? Can you guess how many times Dave beat Jack?
You’re right. None.
After more than a decade as a NASA nuclear physicist, Pelz returned to the game that had haunted him since that 0-for-22 against the best player ever. He knew there had to be a scientific way to play better golf. There wasn’t, but in time he invented one. Over the course of 22 years and 14 cover stories, Pelz has nuked the idea that short-game talent is a gift, not a craft any golfer can learn.
Remember Olivia Newton-John in health-club leotard and leg warmers? Nancy Lopez aced that look in “Let’s Get Physical,” a 1983 fitness feature we published in Fairway, our guide to LPGA golf. But sex symbol N.Lo looked shy compared to the full-frontal hilarity of Peter Jacobsen, our 1983 Golfmate of the Year. Posing in a sauna with a GOLF MAGAZINE towel draped over his drop zone, Jacobsen grinned like a guy who knew he’d still be winning on Tour two decades later.
In 1983 Tom Doak took over a new, improved ranking of the world’s best courses that evolved into GOLF MAGAZINE’s Top 100 Courses in the World. Doak, who would go on to become one of the world’s finest course designers (his Pacific Dunes ranks 19th on our latest list), filed his story and kept his head down, knowing that every golfer who didn’t belong to Pine Valley or play the other greats would be mad at him. The top five that year were Muirfield, Pebble Beach, Royal County Down, Pine Valley and Cypress Point — not hugely different from our current top five of Pine Valley, Cypress Point, Muirfield, Shinnecock Hills and Augusta National. This fall we will rank the best public-access courses, the Top 100 You Can Play. We’re also working on a new list. Golf-travel guru Scott Gummer won’t give up the details, but says, “Trust me — it’s going to be big.”
Golf has long been a celeb magnet: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Sean Connery… Tommy Lee? Celebs from Samuel L. Jackson and Jack Nicholson to Cheech Marin and the Three Stooges have starred in our pages along with a guy you might not want to call a nasty slicer. “If you’re going to play golf seriously,” O.J. Simpson told us in 1990, “you got to know how to make excuses.”
One of our most popular features bowed 12 years ago when “ClubTest ’92” put the latest woods and irons on trial. Callaway’s brand-new Big Bertha woods got raves, including one from tester Ken Van Kampen: “Looked at it: ‘Uggh! Look at that big fat head!’ Waggled it: ‘Hmmmm… not bad.’ Hit a few: ‘Hey, wait a minute — let me hit some more!’ ” (Van Kampen now works for TaylorMade. Asked for a follow-up comment, he says, “Whatever happened to those Callaway guys, anyway?”)
If you’re among the legions of golfers who bemoan the cost of clubs, try a price test: How much did a set of three graphite-shafted 1992 Big Berthas cost?
The answer, (c), proves that not everything is going to hell. Computers and metalwoods just get better and cheaper.
Of course, those graphite shafts were already obsolete back in 1979. That’s when we called graphite a fad whose time had come and gone. Ten years later we said the same about the long putter: “A few companies will continue to manufacture long putters. But for most of the golf world, it’s become yesterday’s pet rock or mood ring.”
If recent rumors are right and the USGA.bans long and belly putters later in 2004, we’ll claim we were correct — 15 years early.
In 1995 we followed Bill Murray at Pebble Beach as he sported a GOLF MAGAZINE cap, a tam-o’-shanter with an Astroturf top complete with flagstick and golf ball. Murray and hats have a fine history. Here’s a story you haven’t heard before: Actor Randy Quaid was playing with Murray one day when they came to a fairway flooded by rain and a sprinkler that had gone haywire. Murray, irked to see a lake where his ball had gone, turned to Quaid. “I’m going to play it,” he said. So he waded into waist-deep water — and vanished when the fairway caved in. There was nothing left but the bill of Bill’s cap, floating, until he popped up under it, spouting water like a cherub in a fountain.
You’ll find many more great moments in this special edition, starting with a sampling of classic covers on the next four pages. But there’s far too much in 50,000-plus pages of GOLF MAGAZINE history to slam it all into one issue, so we’re going to keep the birthday party going all year. For the rest of 2004, each issue will hold a special 45th Anniversary section, with our ongoing countdown of the 45 Greatest Moments of the GOLF.MAGAZINE.era. Each month we’ll reveal five more. Check the list, go to www.golfonline.com/45 to rank the top 10, and you might win $45,000.
A long shot? Maybe, but so was GOLF MAGAZINE 45 years ago, when nobody thought we would be here today, just hitting our stride in 2004.