In his toast at my wedding a few years ago, one of my brothers pointed out that I worked for Travel + Leisure Golf. Then he paused for a moment. “I’m not sure where the work part comes in,” he said, eliciting a few laughs.
Those were the good ol’ days. A couple of years ago our budget, like those of so many media outlets, began getting tighter. Then our staff started getting smaller, first by attrition and then through layoffs. We stopped assigning long-range stories. The magazine became noticeably thinner.
Ultimately, we received the sad word last month that T+L Golf was folding after 11 years of publication. The March/ April issue would be the last. Even though I had already been laid off, the announcement left me with a profound sense of loss.
On a personal level, I missed what could fairly be called a dream job. (My brother was right.) Even when we weren’t traveling to places like the British Isles and the Caribbean, my colleagues and I had our share of fun. In the office after hours, we’d work on our swings in the open space of the art department. To avoid puncturing the ceiling, we had to choke up on the club and keep our swing planes nice and flat.
The pain of losing T+L Golf, though, runs deeper than the hurt caused by the finish to such frolics. It’s a sign, of course, of these awful economic times and the shuttering of cherished newspapers and magazines across the country.
The magazine’s disappearance brought an abrupt end to a meaningful relationship between the writers and editors and our 625,000 readers. Sometimes we surprised and delighted them; other times, no doubt, we bored them. But we showed up in the mailbox every other month and genuinely tried to have something interesting to say.
Like all glossies, ours was vulnerable to criticism that it promoted a fantasy world. Not only were the women beautiful in the land of T+L Golf, but also all the men had single-digit handicaps and played off the back tees.
Yet if you looked beyond the glare of the alluring photos — golf porn, some people called them — you could usually find substance. As story lengths were shrinking and features were being replaced by cheaper, easier-to-produce Q&A’s throughout the industry, the magazine remained a haven for the artful writer. Readers so inclined could savor the well-crafted sentence and the lengthy narratives on offbeat subjects (gimme putts, America’s fiercest club championship, the enduring mystery of Young Tom Morris’s death). The contributors ranged from the established to the aspiring, from a best-selling novelist like Chang-rae Lee to freelancers whose bylines appeared mainly in local papers or regional monthlies.
There’s something else we all lose when a publication disappears: a sliver of the written memento of our day. Golf journalism creates a rich historical record about this game we love. May the craft long outlive these troubling times.
Paul Rogers was a senior editor at Travel + Leisure Golf from 2005 to 2009.