TO MANY professionals in the world of golf it is par only for the coarse. A previously respectable trade magazine dedicated to the minutiae of greenkeeping and course design has outraged many readers by going "top-shelf".
Golf Course News International, which once ran learned articles on the best types of grass to grow and how to cut it, now features wood, wedges, birdies and rough of a quite different kind.
GCNI decided to sex itself up in a - literally - naked bid to attract a new generation of young readers. But the heady mix of female flesh and double entendres has seriously backfired, forcing a rethink after just two issues.
Some golf clubs and organisations - such as the St Andrews Links Trust, which runs the world-famous Old Course - will no longer display the magazine in their clubhouses or practice ranges.
Readers have bombarded the magazine with protest letters, while some of the industry's leading advertisers have withdrawn their business. Among those leading the protests is the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, whose past-president David Williams said: "As golf course architects we used to look forward to the receipt of GCNI. The magazine was always a good read and very informative.
"But the sexed-up, dumbed-down relaunch is totally inappropriate for a serious professional magazine."
GCNI was launched 10 years ago by US company United Publications, but the changes emerged after the title was bought by new owners Seoul Nassau, a golf products firm.
The first new issue set the tone with a front cover depicting a blonde model in a black bikini top with a flaming golf ball disappearing down her cleavage. The justifying headline was: Women And Golf, The Burning Issue.
The edition also had a "world exclusive" on doctors prescribing more sex as an aid for playing better golf. But its most eye-catching feature was The Hunt For The Birdie Bucks. This was a piece on the female golfers most likely to be courted by marketing men - for their looks as much as their ability.
Italian professional Sophie Sandolo - known in her native country as "La Bod Bella" - was captured posing on a green in a revealing string dress while Australian Carlie Butler was photographed in a tight, red glittery top.
Issue two opened with an article on "shaft king" Jim Davey, who runs a custom golf club fitting company, and an advert for a ball-washing machine, illustrated by a naked model squeezing a bar of soap. A spot-the-difference competition asked readers to identify 10 changes in a picture of a bikini-clad model against the background of a golf course.
The revamped magazine has not gone down well in traditional golfing circles, with the St Andrews Links Trust saying it was unlikely to display it at its practice ground any longer.
"It has caused a bit of stir and I can't see that the advertisers are going to like that sort of thing," said a spokesman. "A lot of magazines seem to have gone down this route but I don't think it works in golf."
At Turnberry, the Ayrshire course that has just got back on the Open Championship rota, golf course director George Brown said he thought he was flicking through Playboy magazine. "At first I didn't recognise it as GCNI and the further I got into it the more I realised it was not portraying our industry in the right way," he said. "It didn't do much for me and I have a crew of 30 young, healthy - if you know what I mean - greenkeepers working for me and I don't think it did anything for them either."
Calum Todd, one of Scotland's leading golf course architects, said he no longer subscribed to the magazine for which he used to contribute articles.
"When it changed I withdrew my name from it because I didn't want to be associated with this trash. It was a well-respected trade publication and a great forum for debate within the industry and among course architects. Now it's like a soft-porn magazine and I and many of my colleagues want nothing to do with it."
The British and International Golf Greenkeepers' Association, which represents the profession, said the magazine had "misread" its market.
"Greenkeeping is a now a serious profession and they are very qualified people so a lot of them feel that the way in which this publication is written is very insulting," said spokesman Scott MacCallum. "I have heard nothing but derogatory comments."
Letters in issue two confirmed that two major advertisers had withdrawn their business.
Issue three, out this month, has been toned down, but the cover still has an image of a glamorous model in strappy high heels swinging a club. Inside is another picture of "sexy Sandolo" as well as a feature on Brit Beauties Tipped For The Top.
Gareth Main, the editor who took over for the third issue, said the new owners had deliberately set out to attract a new audience. "This was basically to get attention because before it was dull and boring. Shots of women on the front were there to grab attention.
"There is a theory that sex sells but we concede it may have been taken a bit too far in the first two issues. But the good thing is that it got the magazine talked about. If we use similar material in the future then it will have to be justified and in context."
Main conceded that many of the adverts in the third issue had been placed by parent company Seoul Nassau. "But we hope that now we have toned things down advertisers will come back. We have a meeting with them next week."
Asked if golf clubs had told the company they would no longer display the magazine, he said: "That was the general consensus, yes."