Paulina Gretsky + Golf Digest Cover = Controversy

by Jeff Skinner

In this world of instant information, high speed internet, Instagram, Twitter and all the other methods of getting information selling a monthly, print magazine isn’t an easy business.  Golf Digest has been able to successfully manage that daunting task and has been the leading golf publication for decades.  This month they may sell a few more copies.

In their annual fitness issue Golf Digest has a provocative cover shot of Paulina Gretsky posing in yoga pants and a sports bra.  Many of the golf industry insiders have taken the magazine to task for using Gretsky as the cover model.

Gretsky is the daughter of hockey superstar Wayne Gretsky and his wife Janet Jones.  Paulina isn’t a professional golfer but shares her dad’s love of golf and has a very decent game.  But her claim to fame is that she has carved her way into a bit of popular culture celebrity with her non-stop Instagram posting, kind of like the golf version of Kim Kardashian.  Paulina even caught the eye and heart of Dustin Johnson who proposed to the selfie taking fanatic last year.



Here in lies the controversy.  LPGA players and their commissioner have objected to the fact that Gretsky got the cover over a card carrying LPGA player.  Commissioner Mike Whan released a statement indicting Golf Digest for their choice.   “Obviously we’re disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover. If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who’ve made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong.” 

Current world number three and top ranked American golfer, Stacy Lewis was one of the most out spoken on the lack of a LPGA player on the cover, “It’s frustrating for female golfers. It’s kind of the state of where we’ve always been. We don’t get respect for being the golfers that we are. Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines. But at the same time you’d like to see a little respect for the women’s game.”

Veteran and Solheim Cup Captain Juli Inkster was also insulted, “It’s frustrating because it’s Golf Digest; it’s not Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue,” Inkster said, adding: “I think they should maybe recognize some of the great women golfers that we have. It’s like, What do you have to do to get a little respect? I’m guaranteeing you right now, it was not a woman editor who chose that cover.”

There are many factors that go into choosing a magazine cover and I am sure I don’t know all of them but one of them is to sell magazines.  I also understand that the target market for Golf Digest is mainly men and what appeals to men?  Sex of course…and Golf Digest knows that sex sells.

Last year’s fitness issue had Golf Channel personality Holly Sonders and included a large photo spread where Holly was featured working out.  So this isn’t anything new at Golf Digest.

The LPGA player’s argument is a valid one.  There are dozens of attractive female golfers that spend hours in the gym everyday and certainly look great in workout clothes.  If Golf Digest wanted a controversial cover they could have got one an LPGA player to dress just as provocatively.  But by using an ”outsider” they left themselves open for criticism.

Golf Digest is in the business to make money and they do that by selling magazines and advertising space.  Now, I am not too sure that a non-golfer browsing the magazine rack is going to buy a Golf Digest because there’s a hot chic in yoga pants on the cover.  But this does get plenty of buzz going about the magazine and maybe a few more eyes on the game of golf.

Will it translate into more golfers on the course?  No way, but it may raise Golf Digests profile in the world of selling magazines.  Maybe they’ll be able to raise their ad rates in the future but the fact remains that the last time a LPGA player did make their cover was in 2008 with Lorena Ochoa.

For my money that’s just too long a dry spell for the LPGA.   There are many great players, many attractive players and many wonderful stories on the LPGA.  Golf Digest should give them a little more consideration next time.

Click here for Whan’s statement.


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