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SMG duo buys New England GolfGuide

Love of the links leads to an offer they couldn’t refuse

SMG Publications Manager John Dicocco (left) and Mark Williams, executive-in-residence at SMG, know everything about golf in New England, except when to stop. Photo by Vernon Doucette

John DiCocco and Mark Williams have demanding jobs, but their extra work is a labor of love. They are the new publishers of the 17-year-old New England GolfGuide, and their first edition hit the stores in November.

Williams is an executive-in-residence in the School of Management’s finance and economics department, and DiCocco is the school’s publications manager. These two friends and colleagues don’t just love golf, they live it — playing in the chill of early spring until the winter snow chases them off the courses. So last June, when they were presented with the chance to buy the New England GolfGuide from publishers Leona Curhan and Irwin Garfinkle, there was relatively little debate.

“John had edited the guide since 1991,” says Williams. “The moment he mentioned the possibility of jointly buying the New England GolfGuide to me a few years ago, I thought it was a great idea.”

The guide lists all of New England’s 655 public golf courses and rates them from best to worst, based on multiple criteria, the most important being course layout, condition, and “overall playing experience.” Other factors include the variety of the holes, the quality of the practice facilities, and the professionalism of the staff. Williams says he also factors in a “value rating” based on quality and cost. This year’s best: Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass., the only course that merits five stars.

But, says Williams, the guide is more than a directory. Just this year it was expanded to include more feature articles, including a tour of five courses in Vermont written by DiCocco, and a review of RadarGolf’s Ball Positioning System (BPS) penned by Williams. “The BPS is a golf ball locator,” Williams says. “Unbelievably, a microchip is implanted in the ball. If you lose it in the woods, a pulsed beeping on a handheld device tells you when you get closer to the ball.”

The guide’s new owners say their goal is to provide the ultimate resource for the average New England golfer. “A round of golf at a public course costs on the average $55,” says Williams. “We want to serve the golfing community by providing a great guide — giving them useful information in the same way the Zagat guide is used to help people get the best dining experience for their money.”

Bookstores and sporting goods stores carry the New England GolfGuide, but DiCocco and Williams also manage its Web site, www.newenglandgolfguide.com where people can buy the book online and read about recent changes at various golf courses.

The two new publishers report that things are looking good: sales at Barnes & Noble stores are up 30 percent from last year. But they insist that their venture is about more than just making money. “We want to help build a golfing community in New England, and we want to have some fun doing it,” says DiCocco. Accordingly, the Web site lists his title as editor, copublisher, and C.E.O, which stands for Chief Enthusiasm Officer.

Brittany Jasnoff (COM’08) contributed to this report.