Golf Digest Continues Its Quest to Make Golf Sexy

Latest cover photo raises eyebrows

Headshot of Emma Bazilian

Is Golf Digest the new Maxim? Probably not, but the magazine sure has been making waves recently with a string of racy (by Golf Digest standards, at least) cover photos.

A few months back, the Condé Nast title raised a few eyebrows when it paired Kate Upton—admittedly more clothed than usual—with golf great Arnold Palmer for the cover of its December issue. Later this year, the magazine’s digital video channel will roll out a new series focusing on “the sexiest golf moves.”

Now Golf Digest is pushing the envelope even further with a sexy cover shot of Paulina Gretzky, the 25-year-old daughter of hockey player Wayne, clad in a low-cut white sports bra and matching leggings while posing (rather provocatively) with a golf club.

So what, exactly, is Gretzky doing on the cover of a golf magazine? Well, she’s engaged to PGA Tour golfer Dustin Johnson, is the daughter of two “avid golfers” (apparently dad Wayne and mom Janet are big fans of the game), and is now “quite smitten with the sport herself,” according to Golf Digest. She’s also an old pro at sexy cover shoots, as evidenced by her December 2013 Maxim appearance. In short: she’s got the good looks and just enough of a connection to golf to lend some much-needed sex appeal to a sport dominated by middle-aged dudes wearing visors.

While many of Golf Digest’s (mostly male) subscribers will doubtless be pleased to see this issue in their mailboxes, the magazine is also facing some backlash, most notably from LPGA golfers, whose players are rarely featured on Golf Digest’s cover. (In fact, only 11 women—golf pros or not—have made solo appearances on the cover since 1969.)

“It’s frustrating for female golfers,” pro golfer Stacy Lewis told the New York Times. “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.”

In response, Golf Digest editor in chief Jerry Tarde said, “Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine’s beginning. Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today, and she has a compelling story to tell. She also might get some new people interested in the game.”

The cover also sparked plenty of conversation on social media:

But not all of it was critical. Plenty of people seemed appreciative of Gretzky's good looks:

And the magazine may have even managed to get a few new readers:

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.