The world of (golf) writing and publishing has changed seismically over the past decade. In 2005, newspapers and magazines (the kind you held) still held the literate world captive, while digital publishing was a flirtation. Those with a keen eye on the future recognized the shift that was about to occur. In 2016, writers for The Boston Globe help deliver papers door to door, to demonstrate their loyalty to their readers. Tablets, phones and other devices are what we hold now and content changes and updates in the blink of an eye. Vic Williams has lived this era as a writer and editor and shares a bit of his experience with us in this interview.
1. Tell us who you are and what your role is in the golf industry (we already know, but we want to hear it in your words!)
I’m Vic Williams, editor of Golf Tips magazine. From 1997-2014 I was editor and co-publisher of Fairways & Greens magazine, which was known as GolfGetaways for its final two years. I’ve lived in Reno, Nevada since 1984, am a California native and a golfer since 1972. Golf Tips is now owned by Madavor Media, one of several former publishers of Fairways & Greens.
2. You’ve been a writer and an editor. Delineate the difference between them, from your perspective.
I consider myself a writer first and editor second, which makes this new gig with Golf Tips a different kind of challenge. In the past I got adept at self-editing my pieces as they emerged, though I did have valuable additional help from my longtime co-editor, Darin Bunch, who never failed to make my work better. Now I’m primarily assigning and editing the work of golf professionals who provide content via “tips”and longer-form lessons; they are, by and large, not professional writers, but the passion for what they do shows through. A writer relies on editors to improve and streamline his work, make suggestions on organization and flow, word choice, etc. We do still hire professional freelance writers for certain types of stories, so I copy edit and proofread their work. I’m also responsible for long-term editorial planning, social media updates, e-mail newsletters, certain marketing pieces, photo editing, etc. Everything but layout and design, which I’ve done in the past, too. I’m pretty much a one-man band at this point in terms of editorial.
3. In the past, you’ve worked with publications with a decided bent toward golf travel. Now you’re working with an instructional publication. What’s different?
One reader recently told me he likes Golf Tips because it’s a “meat and potatoes” guide to getting better at the game we all love, one tip at a time. It’s an instruction manual relying heavily on photographic illustrations; it’s also an equipment guide and with some forays into travel and lifestyle, but I’d say it’s 80 percent dedicated to game improvement across the board, including the mental game. And the great thing about our content is that despite myriad technological advances in equipment over the years, there are certain bedrock elements to the successful, repeating golf swing that don’t change a heckuva lot over the decades. A ball slices and hooks for definite, unchanging reasons. Physics and gravity are pretty much immutable.
4. Has your game improved since you’ve been involved with GolfTips? If not, what elements of your game could most quickly see improvement?
Since I took over the magazine in August 2015, I think I’ve played four or five full rounds. So I haven’t had the time or put in the practice to improve, though if I did, I’d work most on my iron game. It’s uneven at the moment. I’m happy with my driving, short game and putting for the most part, but irons? Not so much. And my fairway metals are giving me fits. I’m not getting over to my left side on the downswing, leading to chunks and tops, and I know it, but my body doesn’t listen. Now I sound like a teaching pro, don’t I?
5. Establishing a line of questioning, how can the average golfer best use GolfTips to make a breakthrough in 2016?
Though each issue is generally themed — we’ll have five print editions this year — we try to include features that offer something for everyone, including tips specifically for women, though men comprise by far the largest segment of our readership. Long game, iron game, chipping, pitching, putting, bunkers, trouble shots … all will get their time on the stage in 2016. I’d say to get the most out of each issue, identify what you most need to work on going in, see if we have a tip or tips that either specifically or generally address the fix you need, and concentrate on that. Narrow it down or you can get too many tips in your head right away. I’m the first guy to say that. And by all means, practice that tip on a regular basis, or it won’t stick. Some readers zero in a certain tip and physical take the magazine with them to the range, open it to the right page, and dig in.
6. How did you assemble your staff of instructional writers for GolfTips? What does each bring that no one else can?
Though most are not professional writers but PGA and LPGA teaching pros by trade, they’re still adept at putting their tips and drills into words and pictures. Most of the teachers I’m working with have been with Golf Tips for a while, they know what we’re looking for and how to pitch their ideas for future features. I’ve brought in some new blood, too, and I’m constantly getting pitches from pros who want to join the party. What makes these folks special as a group is their enthusiasm for teaching golf and constantly looking for ways to improve their methods. Any teacher will tell you that they learn as much as their students, and golf pros are no exception. Individually they certainly bring unique skills to the table — some are natural self-marketers, others are deeper technicians, others are avid inventors — of training aids, particularly. They’re all friendly. They want to help the magazine succeed and recognize what makes us different from the big monthly golf pubs — we focus on rank-and-file pros, not big-name Tour pros or their big-bucks coaches.
7. Let’s return to the golf travel period of your career for a moment. What is the drop-dead spot you’ve visited and what is the one you haven’t seen, that you’d most like to see?
Can’t narrow it down one drop-dead spot, I’ve been fortunate to visit dozens over the years. The Monterey Peninsula is tough to beat for beauty, I love Pebble Beach and have played Cypress Point — my favorite course in the world overall — but I’m a big Bandon Dunes fan. I’ve been there many times, including a recent visit on the shortest (and what might have been the coldest) day of the year. It’s a magical place, pure golf. I love Ireland, been to Wales and England, Cape Breton Island (home of Cabot Links and now Cabot Cliffs), Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Hawaii. All wonderful in their own way. One far-flung spot that captured my heart is Thailand. The golf is excellent, the people are beautiful and the food is incredible. The one I haven’t seen and heads my bucket list is Scotland. I had a chance to join several former GolfGetaways cohorts last year and couldn’t make it work. I won’t consider myself a fully formed golf writer until I check that off my list.
8. Crystal ball a bit for us. What do you see happening in the golf industry short- and long-term, and what role will golf instruction play in it?
Golf will continue to contract as a general pastime, I believe. The game’s powers have struggled to find an answer to the continuing time-crunch and expense issues that keep a lot of casual players or would-be players away. Technology and gimmicks will only take you so far; the bones of the old game don’t change much, and to me it would be a mistake to mess with those bones. That said, it needs to appeal to the public in a new way. I think the days of the old-school private club are over; they don’t fit into today’s family dynamic. In the short term, at the highest level things are very exciting for fans. Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are outstanding standard-bearers on the men’s side, but there are just as many exciting players in the women’s ranks, too. In the long term, the game will survive and even thrive — perhaps not at the level it reached when Tiger Woods ruled the roost, but it’s too much fun, too much of an addictive challenge, with too much great history and that certain lyrical beauty laced through how and where it’s played, along with its natural social aspects — for it to fade away altogether. And as long as people are picking up clubs and making tee times, they’ll seek out help from great teachers. Those people are the very blood of golf, its heartbeat.
9. What question haven’t we asked, that you think we should have posed? Ask the question and answer it, please.
The obvious one: Will Tiger ever win again? I believe he will, but not this year, please — I didn’t pick him for my fantasy golf league teams.