About The Quadrilateral And Why I’m Taking The Newsletter Plunge

I’m Geoff Shackelford and I’ve been at this golf media thing over 25 years now. First books, then magazine and internet writing for all of the golf publications. Since 2003 I’ve been the purveyor of GeoffShackelford.com. In between I’ve done golf architecture work, podcasting, Golf Channel contributing and Twittering.

This is a nice way of saying I’ve pivoted to new forms of media since the late 90s. Usually reluctantly giving how fleeting format so clearly seem. (You must be on Vine ASAP, it’s where the kids are at!). I never expected to talk on television or host a podcast and if you’d asked me a year ago about newsletters I’d have said: I get too much email already.

Shoot, three months ago I wasn’t sold on the newsletters.

Then I started signing up for some, reading them more daily and enjoying the lack of clutter and cookie requests, but mostly the connection with writers I enjoy. Substack, more than most hosts, has found a way to make reading pleasurable again.

My blog at GeoffShackelford.com will continue like it has since 2003. State of the game issues will remain paramount, as will the occasional need for comic relief. But original posts there have become tougher to put time into without knowing exactly who I’m writing for or why. Too often I’ve felt feeling forced to cover stories just to whet a daily appetite for “content” even though I make no money from the site. Which, honestly, is also a perk of Substack: I have incentive and freedom to delve deeper and do research knowing there is a curious like-minded reader at the other end.

Speaking of delving deeper: today’s golf coverage is driven by traffic and broader reads designed to spike traffic and (gulp) “virality”. You would not believe the data writers are expected to write with in mind and the topics they must avoid in the silly little world of golf. Even golf’s major championships have been neglected in this push for hits. The Quadrilateral gives me a chance to highlight a broad range of interesting and sometimes wonky-looks involving the Grand Slam tournaments because I know you, the subscriber, share my passion for tracking these four weeks and the year-round speculation surrounding them.

Therefore The Quadrilateral will focus on but not be limited to these areas:

Stars and history. I’m from the Jenkins school of loving the timeless stories and the all-time greats. I cringe at rally-killers and game-story spoilers, but that’s life in the major championship world and part of their allure. The upcoming run of major venues means we have the chance to relive great moments from past events at the venues and translate what we might learned from those epic weeks of yesteryear.

Architecture and course setup. If you’ve seen my work dating to the mid-90s, you know I love golf architecture. Previewing venues is both educational for those intrigued by course design, but also important in determining who the course might favor. The chance to highlight the work of architects and superintendents preparing these special arenas is particularly exciting in the newsletter format because I know Grand Slam fans enjoy such coverage. 

Prognosticating. Weekly betting talk will wear pro golf fans out soon, if not already. But four times a year, we still enter pools and try to guess who might perform well as part of the run-up. I will not ask for a cut of your pool winnings. Ever.

The business of majors. Golf’s major publications have completely abandoned this side of coverage. In my experience, editors looking for hits or fearful of conflicts loathe such story stories and fear they will upset the coveted millennial audience. Core golf fans are generally successful in business but web traffic goals kill all but those obviously-sponsored stories. Not at The Quadrilateral.

The business of majors, II. The way we watch majors will change dramatically in the next few years, whether the technology and audience are ready or not. A pay-per-view major will happen this decade. Monitoring.

Television. So much of a major’s impression, gravitas and respectability depends on its television presentation. Free of any conflicts, I can cover the amazing work (and sometimes questionable decisions) by networks.

Travel. When some form of the old days returns, the world of travel to and around the majors will be a thing once again. I predict it may even be bigger component of the Grand Slam than before. So if I can’t help you figure out where to eat, stay and play golf, I’ll interview those who can. In 2021, I just hope to get to some of the majors with the limited media seats available, but in time the majors will become greater gathering places four times a year and The Quadrilateral will be all over this welcome return.

Merchandise. I will not be hawking it unless demanded, but I will cover the merch like I have through the years at various publications and at GeoffShackelford.com. It’s big business and a fun part of the majors.

More Questions

Every new edition of the newsletter goes directly to your inbox. No clutter, no pop-ups asking for your approval to keep reading my scintillating prose, just information you need to know about the majors.

That said I know you have more questions…

Q: When does it arrive?

G.S.: Whenever I feel news, analysis and insight warrants. But there will be at least one weekly edition delivered to your inbox, likely on Thursday’s via Substack’s clean, simple and annoyance-free format.

Q: Why Thursdays?

A: Most inboxes are bombarded on Mondays and Tuesdays. Thursdays typically start the week’s professional tournament, meaning players have been asked a few major questions in pre-tournament press conferences. News has inevitably been made related to the impregnable quadrilateral and Thursdays seem like a good time to wrap up what it all means. Thursday reading will also make you just a little more informed for that weekend’s 19th hole banter (when those return at a safe distance). But this could change given reader feedback!

Q: What do I get for $5 per month or $49 a year?

GS: Emails from Geoff Shackelford delivered to your inbox featuring exclusive reporting, breaking news analysis, reminders of a great tales from major’s past, upcoming venue analysis and much, much more.  There will also be a few Q&A’s and podcasts throughout the year only for subscribers, as well as communal elements like a discussion group and meet-ups. Paid subscribers will also enjoy daily updates in the run-up to each of the big four. And the week of the major and for a day or two after? I guarantee you will hear from me first thing each morning with recaps and other insights. 

Q: What does a founder get for $150?

GS: A special thank you from me that might include a small gift.

Q: Why now and why just men’s majors?

GS: It is quite exciting knowing I’m writing to an audience that loves these four events and can’t get enough of everything about them.  Freed of the conflicts that weigh down coverage, or the need to treat non-majors with more weight than most deserve, I believe the Grand Slam events are under-served by today’s media coverage. Going forward, the majors will be the game’s biggest stars without equipment regulation that helps elite talent stand out better.  I’m hopeful the newsletter will expand to include more than the men’s majors in 2022. But for this year, it’s the big four and the Ryder Cup.

Q: Why the newsletter format?

GS: Knowing I’m writing to an audience that loves these four events and can’t get enough of everything about the majors, frees me up to write for a smart, captive audience. Yes, newsletters are the “it” thing of the moment and I have been skeptical of their sustainability. But the reading experience and privacy protections have been deteriorating on all but a few websites. Newsletters increasingly make more sense and Substack is developing intuitive ways to make reading even more satisfying.

Q: What sold you on the viability of this format?

GS: I’m hooked after developing a (reading) relationship with other writers and select outlets via their newsletters. I’ve grown to see why these correspondences are giving writers new life while delivering their readers fresh enthusiasm for the written word. Even the newsletters just rounding up news and notes from major news operations are better in this format than reading Twitter or Facebook headlines. Plus, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing your hard-earned money is supporting writers instead of executives who only see golf coverage as their latest widget to brand, platform, brand-platform, sanitize and eventually destroy. So on that happy note, won’t you join me?

Q: Why wouldn’t I just surf the main golf sites or GeoffShackelford.com without getting another email or paying?

GS: You could, but The Quadrilateral will give you one clean, mobile or desktop-friendly reading experience. Deeper, sometimes unapologetically wonky topics will be addressed. But after putting up posts on a blog that has 16 or so years of archived material, I’ve increasingly feel limited by the “public” blog format. As the advertising world demands “content integration” and “influencer” elements, I’ve decided that world is not always freeing for me to address topics with readers. GeoffShackelford.com will continue but I’ll be picking major-related topics more carefully and focusing more than half my time on The Quadrilateral.

Q: Will there be a Quadrilateral community?

GS: I hope so. I’m not entirely ready to predict how it will evolve. Friends of the newsletter will get access to the Substack discussion group options that look like a super way to interact with other like-minded, intelligent fans of the majors. I’ll be open to ways that make it fun for all, so bear with me while I figure out the best ways to utilize this fast-evolving concept.  In a post-pandemic year I hope to have at least one subscriber meet-up during major weeks.

Q: Will I get email offers and other reminders to buy stuff?

GS: The Quadrilateral email list will NOT be sold and cannot be shared with companies looking to sell product. I will not be sending out merchandise offers or reminders. Subscribers might—might—get an occasional coupon code included in the newsletter from a fitting partner that wants to reach the amazing Quadrilateral audience and whose product I like. There could be an offer for a second golf-related newsletter that is in the cards for regular Wednesday delivery (but first things first…).

Q: Will there be ads?

GS: No.

Q: Will you know that I subscribed?

GS: I will see email addresses, nothing else. You are not required to fill out a profile to subscribe for free. Did I mention it’s free? Now, if you are a golf executive who would rather I not know you paid for a subscription, use an alias email address. Those wonderful kids of yours, the ones you lean on for 18-34 year-old market analytics, can help you set up an address with a more clever name than you would have devised.  

Q: How do I pay?

GS: Substack makes it incredibly easy and safe to pay. I recommend doing it on a mobile device for safety and simplicity. Monthly subscribers get notified each time they are charged.

Q: What happens after late July when The Open is played?

 GS: There is always news related to the majors and plenty to review from the year. However, to ensure I’m “delivering value” (gulp) I’ll be covering an event we all love: the Ryder Cup focus set for this September at Whistling Straits.