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Body Watch

Magazines That Help Players Have a Ball

One in an occasional series.

July 24, 1996|LESLIE KNOWLTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

From racquetball and rugby to bowling and baseball, ball sports are big in the United States, and the dozens of specialty magazines that cover them reflect that interest.

But compared to other sporting publication categories--such as water or snow sports--most national ball sport magazines cater to fans rather than participants. Sure, you might find an occasional tip on how to perfect your swing, but most focus on the spectator angle.

Here are our best bests for those ball sport magazines that do cater to more than couch potatoes:

Golf Digest

* Number of issues a year: 12

* Established: 1950

* Circulation: 1.5 million

* Cover price: $3.95

* Subscriptions: (800) PAR-GOLF

Billed on its cover as the "largest and most preferred golf publication," this thick book from the New York Times Magazine Group--publisher also of Golf World and Golf Shop Operations--marked its 500th issue this year.

Including writers such as John Updike and Alistair Cooke, the magazine sports long features, myriad instructional and equipment tips plus video reviews and tour and travel information.

* Departments: "The Changing Game" (read about virtual reality golf); "The Digest" (interesting shorts like "Lost Balls," in which we learn how a driving range and golf store owner paid two schoolboys $150 for turning in 1,200 lost balls they'd found on various golf courses, only to be arrested for receiving stolen property).

* Recent Features: "How to Find a Swing You Can Count On"; "The Old Cuss and the Kid from Wagga Wagga" (some people say it was Jack Burke Jr. who taught Steve Elkington how to win).

Golf

* Number of issues a year: 12

* Established: 1959

* Circulation: 1.3 million

* Cover price: $3.95

* Subscriptions: (800) 876-7726

This Times Mirror Co. magazine, a charter member of the National Golf Foundation, is loaded with instructional and equipment tips and also covers everything from general fitness to golf course architecture, history and travel.

In 1992, it revamped to include "The Golf Course," an easy-to-read regular 30-page section of 18 short features, giving the magazine a wide and varied range of topical coverage.

* Departments: "Golf Reports" (check out the "Case of the Purloined Persimmon," in which a cheeky burglar stole a commemorative Ryder Cup persimmon driver made especially for President Clinton. Luckily, and unbeknownst to the thief, it was just a copy; "Private Lessons" (personalized instruction).

* Recent Features: "Club Test '96" (amateurs test the latest in woods and irons); "The Perfect Fit" (find and groove on the swing that complements your body's shape, strength and tendencies).

Polo

* Number of issues a year: 10

* Established: 1975

* Circulation: 7,500

* Cover price: $4

* Subscriptions: (301) 977-0200, Ext. 132

Started by polo player Ami Shinitzky, this lean publication--affiliated with the U.S. Polo Assn.--includes instructional tips, tournaments and polo clubs. And in case you were wondering how to spend your next vacation, it also contains ads for polo vacations, and authentic New Zealand turnout rugs, the "last horse blanket you'll ever need to buy."

* Departments: "Fanfare" (find out where to get equestrian needlepoint designs); "Usefuls" (take the pain out of polo by warming up); "Yesteryears" (read about the days when men were men and polo ponies were ponies).

* Recent Features: "Finishing Horses: A Trainer's Dilemma" (five world-class trainers reveal their secrets for successfully introducing a horse to competition); "The Safety Predicament" (rates helmets and goggles, plus bemoans how--unlike in other sports--polo players lack standards for choosing the right protective headgear).

Volleyball

* Number of issues a year: 12

* Established: 1990

* Circulation: 87,000

* Cover price: $3.50

* Subscriptions: (800) 876-2509

Started in San Clemente and now based in Woodland Hills, this Avcom Publishing Ltd. publication covers everything from beach to indoor volleyball. It is jam-packed with practical drills, strategies and equipment tips, plus features and profiles about players.

* Departments: "Digging Around" (find out things such as: 14 million people now play beach volleyball, the biggest growth sport from 1987-1994); "Headliners" (read about the two times Dana Cooke shattered her tibia and fibula playing volleyball).

* Recent Features: 1996 Ball Review (rates 90 volleyballs); "Sinjin Smith" (at 38, he's hoping to make one more climb to the top).

Tennis

* Number of issues a year: 12

* Established: 1964

* Circulation: 850,000

* Cover price: $2.95

* Subscriptions: (800) 666-8336

Started in Chicago as a regional tennis magazine and bought by the New York Times Magazine Group in the early 1970s, this is America's only national monthly tennis magazine. Aiming to be a full-service publication for the serious recreational tennis player, it covers all elements of the sport including instruction, equipment, pro games, fitness and travel.

* Departments: "Final Word" (recently asked the question: "What if weird rules ruled?"); "Passing Shots" (see the 16th-century oil painting "Portrait of a Boy With a Real Tennis Racket and Ball, Wearing a Pink Slashed Doublet and Hose," artist unknown).

* Recent Features: "We Put You in the Right Frame of Mind" (there's a trend toward extra-long rackets afoot); "Blasts From the Past," Jimmy Connors' Champions Tour is showing that full-bore senior tennis is no bore).

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