Happy 12th blogiversary to the rock solid golf blogger known as… well… Golf Blogger. About eight months before Hooked on Golf Blog was founded John Retzer (Golf Blogger) founded GolfBlogger.com. GolfBlogger.com is likely the longest running independent golf blog in existence, and certainly one of, if not the best golf blog in the universe. It always has been. That’s because John has passion and dedication to golf blogging, he knows how to spell, and he loves golf. The spelling part is a really big deal to me. I know as well as anyone that running a serious blog in any category isn’t easy and running one at the quality level and frequency of John’s posts only happens about 1% of the time or less.
When I started HOG I looked up to Golf Blogger in admiration and with inspiration. There were a couple of other golf blogs which started in 2004 too, which are now long gone. There are many hundreds, if not thousands of golf blogs which were started and abandoned over the last 12 years. The net is a blog graveyard of people who thought they could do it with little to no effort.
I’ve said many times that the absolute best, and unexpected part of running this blog has been the fantastic people I’ve met and become friends with. John and I have played many rounds of golf together and have established a great friendship. In fact, we’re golf blog brothers.
I’ll forever be tailgating Golf Blogger as one of the first kids on the block. I know he and I will be around for many years to come because we do it for the love of the game and to express ourselves, not for the big money that bloggers make. Yeah, right.
Hats off to you John. I look forward to another 12 years from you buddy. FORE!
A fantastic golf blog related Twitter discussion happened a couple of nights ago. There was some tremendous discussion and a few important points I thought I’d talk about today. Here’s the tweet that started it below. Click it and follow all the commentary. It is great.
People have a misconception about me, and bloggers who work hard to build a reputation and following who trusts their opinion. Often people say to me “you’re lucky you get free stuff sent to you all the time.”
Lucky? Puhlease. Like Gary Player says, the harder I work the luckier I get. I have to chime in because I have a very strong opinion on this. I’ve worked my ass off on this blog for over TEN years. I’ve spent thousands of hours and tens of thousands of my own dollars on web hosting, design, travel, trade shows, software, computers, photo gear… all things I use to produce what I hope is entertaining and original golf content. When I go to the PGA Show in Orlando I pay my own way. The PGA Show costs me thousands in airfare, hotels, rental cars, food. The biggest cost is being away from my super wife and my little 2.5 year old boy. So when I come back from a golf trade show with a new pair of shoes, a bag of tees, and a dozen golf balls, that is far from free. Dollars for dollars the last PGA Show netted me a $3500 pair of $129 shoes and a week’s worth of constipation.
I do not review these useless things…
If I receive a box of golf balls, a shirt, a driver, a book submitted for review here the stuff is NOT “free.” I spend HOURS researching, testing, writing, painstakingly taking photos, working on web content. At the hourly rate I charge my day-job web design and development clients that $29.99 box of golf balls would cost hundreds in my time. If it was free I might as well quit this blog thing and just spend the $29.99 and save myself 5-10 hours of trouble.
Why Little or No Negative Reviews?
If you saw my house you’d know I’m not full of it when I say I can’t go to the bathroom without tripping over a golf accessory or some golf gadget. Seriously. It is out of control. I’ve experimented with having other writers here, but I prefer to have this blog be MY blog, good or bad. Therefore it is not possible for me to review every item I receive. Maybe I could do it if I snapped one photo with my camera phone and wrote two sentence reviews about the products, but that’s not how I roll. I like to get into the products and try to translate my experiences in much more depth.
It is because of that time factor that I can’t review everything. So what do I choose to review what what do I abandon? I made the decision to try and limit most of my reviews to products I believe in and can convey a positive message about. So any product I feel is junk, crap, irrelevant, useless, or not well made or poorly designed gets no airtime.
That said, in every review I write I try to put in a critique paragraph or two if I can. I try to point out product weaknesses or ways the product could be improved.
Blogs Who Mail It In
I do have a beef with crappy and lazy bloggers who mail it in. You know the ones. They are the golf blogs who spend NO time on their reviews. Their content is a copy/paste of the PR firm’s materials and the photos are stock PR photos, or shitty photos they took in their kitchen with a couple of rotten pieces of lasagna from last night’s dinner in the background. Their poorly lit photos have the ratty carpet in focus and the product out of focus. They never played that club or tested those golf balls! They never REALLY tested it for a MONTH or more on a real golf course like I do. They’re mailing it in.
PR firms and golf companies love those types of blogs. Whatever PR stuff they send gets automatically posted. It’s like a free advertising outlet. Those sites are easy to spot because their content is the same as the others who are doing the same thing. Sorry, not here.
I have my reasons for keeping my reviews positive as I stated above. When it comes to others is that the same reason? If so, great. I suspect however that those sites are AFRAID to post a negative review for fear that their golf gear gravy train will run out.
Unfortunately the digital golf world is flooded with these sites which dilute the space and hurt the search rankings of good sites, making it even tougher for them to survive. I know. I’m one of them.
Many golf blogs come and go. Most don’t have the balls, time, or dedication it takes to keep it going and to produce ORIGINAL content. That wedge I reviewed last month was not free. I spent dozens of hours testing it on a real golf course, taking photos, and writing about it with a passion for what I’m doing.
The day that passion is gone or does not translate to an entertaining, original, and informative outlet is the day I leave. Could be tomorrow. Could be in a decade.
First Tee- Pebble Beach
I’m getting so many contribution offers here it is mind blowing. On a daily basis I receive 5-10 “offers” from “writers” who have “been reading my blog for years” who want to contribute fantastic content my readers are going to love! There are so many generous people out there! I’m so humbled and thankful. I’m sure the only reason they want to write for HOG is because it is such a well respected golf site, full of great and useful content. I’m sure their only motivation is “exposure” and “contributing.” So exciting! I’m absolutely positive that great content will happen to have an outgoing link or two, you know, in exchange for the great article! Yay! No problem.
Yeah, how dumb do you think I am?
Most of these writers have amazingly and coincidentally penned 100% perfect search engine optimized content, keyword rich in the subject of their expertise. That subject isn’t necessarily golf. It could be cosmetics, online gambling, mortgages, erectile dysfunction.
Obviously Google’s latest algorithms are setup to favor links which come from site articles, rather than advertisements or banners. As a result, I get a flood of “offers” of this great, SEO bait.
Typically I respond with a nice one or two sentence note, “thanks for the kind offer, but I do all my own writing. Good luck.” But it is getting so out of hand that I’ve decided to write this post and send all the would-be HOG contributors here to read it.
How about you buy me a round of golf at Pebble Beach in exchange for this article? Here’s the skinny…
I’ve decided that I can be bought. If you want to place one of these articles let’s first call it what it is, a PAID advertisement or advertorial. If any of these “generous” writers are willing to pony up what it will cost me to play a round of golf at Pebble Beach ($500), I’ll happily post their piece, and even let them put that outgoing link in with a “do-follow.” If you don’t know what a do-follow is, no matter. The link will be valid for one year and after that the article will be deleted, or can be renewed for another round at Pebble!
If you are one of the few real writers, simply looking for a real outlet to publish your work and you don’t have the cash to buy me a round at Pebble:
“Thanks for the kind offer, but I do all my own writing. Good luck.”
As part of the 10 year anniversary of Hooked On Golf Blog I’m going back in time to some highlights of the past.
This post will be a quick recap of the first few years in the life of Hooked On Golf Blog, 2004-2006. In those years I broke ground on many golf blog techniques and features, which many hundreds of subsequent blogs have copied in one way or another, and still do today. When I started, there were no blogs “reviewing” golf equipment, apparel, golf courses, anything else. It was the wild wild west of golf blogging.
After the first post in December of 2004 I posted my first review of any golf product, which was Golf for Dummies DVD by Gary McCord.
In December 2004 I also started developing a golf community website called Web Country Club. Later WCC would die and I would create The Golf Space, which is still around and has over 6,000 members.
Jack Nicklaus and me
In January of 2005 I began ranting about sappy musicians playing golf in pro-ams, like Michael Bolton. That ranting would be a craft I would spend years perfecting and I’m still getting better at it. Kenny G? Pass the barf bag.
In the spring of 2005 I posted many opinions and results from PGA Tour events. I also posted my first few golf course photos from a golf trip to Vegas. Little did I know how many courses and photos would be coming over the next 10 years.
Around March 2005 I tried something to spruce up my then Blogger blog theme. I put a Titleist golf ball up in the corner of the website. About 15 minutes later someone from TaylorMade emailed and asked if I wanted to review some prototype golf balls, and perhaps even write about it. They also “suggested” that the Titleist golf ball didn’t look that great and should be removed. A few days later I received my first product submission, a Maxfli prototype golf ball which I really liked at the time. Shortly after receiving the balls, I played 92 consecutive holes with one.
March would mark the date I would post my first golf club review, the Ping Craz-E. I would also post my first golf travel review of La Costa Resort and Spa. I was not all that great a doing those types of reviews, but how could I be? I was a golf gravel writing virgin.
Unfortunately some of the photos from 2004-2005 were on Flickr, and are no longer available. One of the lessons I would soon learn was to host and be in control of ALL of my content and media.
April 2005 was the first Masters month for HOG. Tiger Woods would win that Masters with the incredible chip-in on the par-3 16th, and it would be the last Masters which Jack Nicklaus would compete in, sniff sniff.
On April 9, 2005 HOG made a big move. I left the Google/Blogger.com domain and opened the site on WordPress with its own domain name, HookedOnGolfBlog.com. In hindsight I wish I would have found a shorter URL but it is waaaaay too late to worry about that now.
In June 2005 Travel Golf asked me to join them as a golf writer. I declined to focus on HOG. Years later they would be bought by Golf Channel.
In July 2005 The Golf Chick golf blog began, and I’d eventually build up a long and great friendship with Kristen Williams. She’s awesome.
Jack Nicklaus said farewell to competitive professional golf as he waved while standing on the Swilcan Bridge at the Old Course in the 2005 Open Championship. Sniff sniff. In the same tournament, Tiger Woods won his 10th major.
In July of 2005 I posted my 300th golf blog article. July 2005 also marked the departure of “MJ on Golf,” a nice blog by a very cool cat named Mike Jones. Mike was a good digital friend.
In August of 2005 I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Nicklaus. On the same day I met Billy Casper and helped him find his way.
In August 2005 I made it to the final championship match at Meadowbrook Golf Club. My opponent, a former pro, made five birdies in a row to close me out. Nice playing buddy.
Last story of August is when my then 8-year-old daughter was hanging out with Bill Murray at a golf tournament. He even bought her a snow cone.
In September of 2005 my proudest moment in golf happened, I won my first club championship!
The first big event of 2006 was unfortunately the loss of a golf pal to cancer. RIP Bobby.
In February 2006 I received my first Google check for advertising. I think it was a little over $5.00.
The 14 Ball Putter was introduced.
The Golf Space, a golf social networking site I built, opened its doors.
TaylorMade got back into the golf ball business.
My golf stats tracker came to life online at The Golf Space for the first time.
I was one of a few people invited to play Ballyneal before it opened and during the round, a new friend carded a hole-in-one. Picture below:
Ballyneal Golf Club
Played golf through the Denver area, with golf course architect Jim Engh.
The Golf Space hit 1,000 members.
Unfortunately in November the site was hacked and completely dropped off of Google’s rankings as a result.
One of the many HOG World Tour stops, Black Mesa Golf Club in New Mexico
As of today Hooked On Golf Blog is 10 years old. TEN YEARS. Back on December 5th, 2004 I posted my first golf blog, “You can only understand if you golf.” It was certainly not award winning material. I’d give it a D+ today, but I’m sure Tiger Woods didn’t hit his best shots when he first picked up a club.
I started blogging at the suggestion of my best friend Alan Nelson. Back in 2004 he told me blogging would be big, the next big craze on the internet. Alan is a wise man and when he has a suggestion I take it to heart. This was before Facebook or Twitter. When I asked what I should blog about, he said “something you love.” I had to choose between rock & roll, strippers, pizza, and golf. I chose golf, though I think if I chose strippers I’d probably be a millionaire by now. Thanks to Alan’s suggestion, HOG exists.
The 10 years I’ve been running this blog have been amazing. I’ve worked hard to build up about 5000 golf articles, over 20,000 golf photos, hundreds of videos, several other golf sites and associated social networks. I’ve played some of the world’s most amazing golf courses, many which had not even opened to the public yet. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing much of the world’s best golf equipment, golf apparel, and golf accessories.
At about 2-3 million hits per month by anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 unique visitors per day, it’s hard to count how many millions of hits and visitors the site has seen in the past decade. Rough guess I’d say the site has seen 100 million hits, and probably 15-20 million unique visitors.
The HOG Photo Gallery is now at 20,381. The HOG Twitter @HOGGOLFBLOG has 2,798 followers while my personal twitter @TheGolfSpace has 4,003 followers. The HOG Facebook is at 1,587 followers. My Google+ page has 415 followers and 742,996 views. On Google+ the HOG page is at 311 followers and 74,152 views. The HOG YouTube features 438 videos, 631 subscribers, and has 5,333,049 views.
In short, I have a reach to a large audience.
You can tell Miss Universe digs me. Just look in her eyes.
Because of this golf blog I’ve met some of the coolest people on the planet. A few notables include Jack Nicklaus, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Robert Duval (yes the Academy Award winning actor) and Miss Universe, Stefania Fernandez. Miss Universe is a lot better looking than Chi Chi, though not as entertaining. I’ve met many stars in golf and business, but the real people in the industry are the ones who have had the biggest impact on me. I’m talking about the people who run other golf sites, work at golf courses, design golf courses, work for golf manufacturers, work in PR firms, and even caddie. These people are the heart and soul of this industry and the game. I’m thrilled to have established so many relationships and friendships. I plan to mention many of you in my people post.
I had intended to recap the last 10 years in this 10 year anniversary post, but I’ve spent a good hour on just calendar year 2005. So I’m going to break it up a bit and post some look-back posts for the last 10 years.
Next up, the birth and first years of HOG. Look for the next post.