Sexed-up golf mag proves too hot for the plus-four set

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Glamour models are more often associated with the male-dominated world of motor racing. So when an esoteric golf magazine attempted to broaden its readership with a radical transformation into something akin to top-shelf literature, it was bound to cause a stir.

Golf Course News International (GCNI) has long been a staple read of club golfers, administrators and green-keepers, but since its risqué relaunch three months ago the magazine, which appears inspired by the lads' mag Loaded, has run into the rough with the sport's establishment. Golf clubs, including St Andrews course in Scotland, have refused to stock the publication, advertisers have withdrawn support and readers have bombarded the editor with complaints.

GCNI was recently bought by Seoul Nassau, which makes golf equipment, and the change of ownership became quickly apparent. GCNI ditched the traditional, staid front cover for one featuring a blond model in her underwear with a golf ball in flames lodged between her breasts and the headline: "Woman & Golf: the burning issue". In the same edition a doctor wrote about improving your game by having more sex and female Italian golfer Sophie Sandolo was pictured posing on a course in a revealing dress.

Issue two, which had a spot-the-difference competition with a bikini model, was the tipping point. Staff, concerned by complaints and dwindling advertising revenue, decided to rethink things and the third issue looks less like a lads' mag, although it still carries a feature on "Brit Beauties Tipped for the Top".

The European Institute of Golf Architects led the complaints, with its past-president David Williams saying: "The magazine was always a good read ... But the sexed-up, dumbed-down relaunch is totally inappropriate."

The British International Golf Greenkeepers' Association said the magazine had "misread" the market. "Greenkeeping is now a serious profession and they are very qualified people so a lot of them feel the way in which this publication is written is very insulting."

The magazine's editor, Gareth Main, told Scotland on Sunday: "There is a theory that sex sells but we may have taken it a bit far in the first two issues. But the good thing is that we got the magazine talked about. If we use similar material in the future then it will have to be justified and in context. We hope that now we have toned things down the advertisers will come back. We have a meeting with them next week."