Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Truth Part III: From

In Part 1 of this series I discussed how golf companies use traditional advertising, watered down tests, and giveaways to manipulate content and ensure that nearly everything you read about those companies and their products is overwhelmingly positive. In Part 2 I detailed the consequences that result from less than universally positive content. I showed you some of the tricks reviewers use to make sure everyone stays happy, and I explained how something as fundamental as maintaining relationships with your contacts can influence what gets published.

Part 3:

In this 3rd and final installment I’ll show you how the big money grab is slowly squeezing out the smaller OEMs and even the inventors and start-ups with an unfortunate combination of great products and shallow pockets. Finally, I’ll let you know what you can do to determine whether what you’re reading is unfiltered content, or just cleverly disguised advertising.

Picking on the Little Guy:

Most on our side of the industry learn pretty quickly that golf’s biggest names are willing to spend golf’s biggest bucks to make sure their products get plenty of exposure. In our free market economy it’s hard to argue that a company shouldn’t benefit from all the advertising it can afford. It helps the big guys sell product (lots, and lots of product), and the advertising revenue helps keep the golf sites in business. It also happens to provide some of the site owners with an opportunity to make a very comfortable living. Along the way readers get exposure to all the latest gear, and a lucky few actually benefit from the giveaways. The problem is that when monetization becomes the end-game those who can’t afford to play quickly get squeezed out.

The reality is that for many media outlets, Pay-To-Play has become vital to the way business is conducted. As much as golf is a hobby or a passion for many of you, it’s very much a business. If some content is bought and paid for (either directly or through advertising), why shouldn’t nearly all content be?

We think big bucks make for big bullies. The biggest names in golf shouldn’t be able to reduce the little guy to insignificance simply because they can outspend him. If we took that approach our readers would miss out on some great finds and big surprises. While it was being mocked in other forums, MyGolfSpy tested PowerBilt’s AirForce One Driver and found it to be the longest driver of 2010. Though they barely got a mention anywhere else, two of the best wedges that came through our doors last season were Boccieri Golf’s Heavy Wedge, and Solus’ FC-10. Hireko’s Dynacraft irons proved they could hang with the big boys, and both Wilson and MacGregor showed us they still had the chops to make an outstanding forged iron at a very competitive price. One of my personal favorite irons (and among the favorites of our testers) from last year was Fourteen Golf’s TC-910, and almost nobody else bothered to cover it.

You’d think I’d be smarter by now, but in a recent conversation I had with my contact at a smaller golf company, I was shocked to learn that two of the larger golf sites on the Internet told him that if he wanted an “unbiased” review of his product, he’d need to pay for it (by becoming a site advertiser). Just as with many smaller golf companies, this one didn’t have the budget to pony up for the review. As a result readers of these sites may never get to hear about a product that we think might prove to be a game changer. Not only are big golf companies influencing what you see, their willingness to spend and spend big often dictates what you don’t see.

For the big guys spending big isn’t an issue, because around 20% of their massive budgets are devoted to marketing. For the smaller companies, however, ad budgets are absolutely minimal (if they exist at all), with the biggest chunk devoted to research and engineering (what a concept, right?). For the individual who has dumped his life savings into his product, site sponsorship are almost always out of the question. If sites like MyGolfSpy and others aren’t willing to help out with a little bit of exposure he’s probably never going to succeed. For every Martin Chuck (inventor of the TourStriker and instructor at the TourStriker Golf Academy) there are thousands of guys with good ideas that just didn’t make it.

Bucking the Trend:

While I believe it’s important for the average golfer to understand the role that corporate dollars play in influencing the content they see on their favorite golf sites, I’ve got nothing against the other media outlets who take in big OEM dollars. It’s not how we chose to operate, but there is no denying that some of those guys have built outstanding communities where golfers can passionately discuss their love of the game and the equipment that powers it. They’ve given a ton of free gear to their followers, and they’ve managed to support their families while doing it. They operate and succeed under a time-proven business model, and I truly wish them nothing but continued success. The bigger they get, and the more intertwined they become with the big golf companies, the greater the opportunity for MyGolfSpy to differentiate ourselves and carve our own niche.

That said, one of the first, and most valuable lessons I learned in the business world is that the absolute worst reason for doing anything a certain way is to do it because it is the way it had always been done before. We don’t want to succeed by walking in someone else’s footsteps, we want to carve our own path. We don’t ever want to become yet another in a long line of mini-Golf Digests. We don’t ever want to depend on big OEM dollars to survive, and we never want to be part of a system designed to either bleed the little guy dry, or squeeze him out altogether. That is how it has always been done, but it’s not how we want to do it. We’re comfortable being MyGolfSpy, even if it means we don’t get Christmas cards from the big OEMs, and if some others in the media speak of us with contempt, and mock us for having the audacity to speak openly and honestly about the companies they depend on to survive.

The Truth is Out There:

You love golf, I get that. I’d never suggest that you boycot big OEMs or never visit another golf site. My goal is simply to help you understand that much of what you see and read is driven as much or more by money than it is by any real desire to educate golfers, or to share a love for the game.

If you’re not sure what’s real, what’s unfiltered, and what’s honest, take a look at the banner ads. Is there any real substance, or do they simply rehash the marketing info while finding some insignificant detail to nitpick. Do they have the stones to acknowledge that their sponsor’s club is shorter, and less accurate than a competitor’s, or even last year’s model? The truth is right in front of your eyes, you just have to look for it.

If there’s ever a doubt what’s real and what’s not, don’t be afraid to ask to see the numbers, but be specific. Ask to see the data that supports their claims that a sponsor’s driver is the longest they’ve ever tested. Most importantly ask how much the big OEMs are spending to keep the positive reviews and fluffy content coming. Of course, I’m certain none of them would give you an honest answer because if they did, you wouldn’t just wonder whether what you just read was the result of big money well spent, you’d be certain of it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Brother-in-law claims he hits his new Cobra 7 iron 50yds longer then his old 7 iron.

I see that most of the new Cobra irons are strong lofted and in these models, the 7 iron has a loft of 31*. And that is pretty strong compared to a lot of companies' irons, and definitely a lot lower than the lofts of irons made 10+ yrs ago.

There is no magic in shot distance. It is completely explainable in scientific terms because only these things control distance in an iron.

1. The golfer's clubhead speed
2. The loft on the clubhead vs the loft on the previous clubhead and the +/- tolerance of the loft of the clubhead.
3. The face design of the clubhead vs the face design of the previous iron
4. The total weight of the iron vs the total weight of the previous iron

We'll assume that your BIL's clubhead speed hasn't changed since he bought the new Cobras.

So that leaves the other three elements. It is quite possible if your BIL's previous iron set is older, the 7 iron had a loft of say, 35* or so. It is also possible this 7 iron in the new set might be on the minus side of the normal +/- tolerance and could be as low as 30*. A 3, 4 or 5 deg drop in the 7 iron loft would be very big in terms of distance difference.

If the new set is designed with a thin, high strength steel face and the old set was a normal one piece investment cast stainless model, the COR of the heads in the new iron set would be substantially higher. Normal cast irons have a COR in the area of 0.77. Well designed thin face irons can have a COR as high as 0.830. That too can be a VERY substantial difference in the distance.

If the new set is made with lightweight graphite shafts and the old set with steel shafts, the total weight of the new set could be lower by enough to allow your BIL to gain as much as 3 to 4 mph in clubhead speed.

Add these all up and you could see a difference of 20 to 30 yards. Doubtful that it really is 50 yards unless his old 7 iron had a loft of 38* or more.

But the point is there is no "magic" in this, there are no new technologies that only Cobra knows about which could increase distance substantially because all of the scientific elements that relate to shot distance are known and have been used in club design for several years now.

Mass produced golf clubs:

An opinion was posted on the Wishon Golf Forum regarding custom built clubs and I found Tom Wishon's answer to be very truthful.

Statement from a poster: There are FAR too few serious golfers out there. The vast majority of the golfers I see play at the game, they do not play the game. They rarely practice, they just show up every week or couple of weeks to drink, talk trash, and maybe gamble. Golf is mostly the excuse for drinking, trash talking and gambling. Most have grooved a bad swing and most either do not care or are not willing to put in the work to get better. They think they know golf because they have been playing for years, but in reality, they know little about the game.

And they are the last people to buy custom clubs. If they get a new stick, it will be a big name OEM for bragging rights with their buddies.

There simply are too few people like myself out there who are fighting to play this game well and willing to make the investment, which includes lessons as well as custom clubs (and maybe getting in better shape as well).

Tom Wishon's response: You're right about a big number of golfers out there not caring that much. You are also right about a bigger number who care more about impressing their buds with what they buy because they are of a belief that custom fitting only helps good players and for them, as long as they have a bad swing, the club's purpose is mainly to impress the buds.

No question that if we ever won the lottery around here to be able to fund a decent marketing blast to educate golfers about the real benefits of custom fitting over standard off the rack, there certainly would be a good number of golfers who would respond by going to see a clubmaker to be custom fit.

But to get into the minds of these other golfers who are so brainwashed by the image of what they play and the ego of impressing their buds, a separate marketing campaign would have to be created.

Do you remember the Apple Macintosh ad that played during the Super Bowl quite a number of years ago in which Apple used a George Orwell 1984 theme in which they portrayed all of the IBM users as being mindless sheep who would blindly follow each other to walk off a cliff? Their point was of course to say that all you people who buy the big IBM brand are not cool enough to realize Apple is the better way to go.

That's the approach you would have to take with these guys about which you speak. And really, that could be done to create a 180* shift in their ego image-based thinking. All you have to do is convey that when you buy the well known brand name club off the rack, you are not special in anyway because you are simply buying a mass produced, standard made, totally un-unique club just like MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of other mindless people are doing.

What's so special or cool about just being one of the masses when you could be so unique and special by buying something created from scratch for YOU and ONLY for YOU?

IMO that's where the message would have to be to really get to the mindless ones who are brainwashed by the big image and ego marketing.


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Truth Part 2.

Content Has Consequences

(Written By: GolfSpy T) Everyone who has ever written a review for an audience the size of MyGolfSpy’s quickly comes to learn that every review written, in fact nearly every word written, comes with consequences. Consequences aren’t always bad. It should surprise no one that when MyGolfSpy or most any other site publishes a positive review, the majority of manufacturers are quick to post links on their Twitter and Facebook accounts praising the review. Some publish the reviews on the company blog, and many put links on their websites. This is great for us because it drives even more readers to the site, and those readers click on ads, and ads are where the money comes from. At its most basic level, positive reviews = more money, and everyone who operates a website has figured this out. In short, to the benefit of everyone (except the guy looking for an honest, detailed, and unfiltered assessment of golf club), the current system works, and works very well.

While the majority of the larger media outlets work comfortably within this system, there are a select few that, like MyGolfSpy, have fought to maintain their objectivity. More than one golf company has been shocked after MyGolfSpy chose to publish what that company considered to be a less than positive review. And why wouldn’t they be shocked when nearly every other review they’ve ever received has been universally positive?

Protecting Their Advertisers

What I’ve been slow to learn (and probably never will) is that you’re not supposed to say anything even slightly negative about a golf club – especially if 1) The company is an advertiser, 2) The company provided you with the club 3) If you ever want to get anything else from that company. Though not all do it, the most egregious players on the media side have gone so far as to delete negative comments, and in many cases ban the offending readers from their sites. Imagine that…banning a loyal reader because he said something negative about a golf club (produced by one of your sponsors). The unfortunate reality is that site operators are forced to choose sides. Either you’re in it for the truth, or your in it for the money (which means you have to protect your advertisers to the detriment of nearly everything else).

In one recent incident, an OEM that provided equipment to MyGolfSpy was so outraged by a mediocre review (not bad…just average) that they informed us they would no longer provide us with equipment or work with us in any other capacity (it’s probably not who you think). This was done despite the fact that we’d had nothing but positives to say about other equipment in their lineup. Unfortunately, this is far too common as manufacturers have grown accustomed to fluff and actually expect that every club reviewed will be as good or better than the last. I also believe it also speaks volumes about a company who, rather than address the criticism, or ask our testers why they didn’t like a club (the type of stuff that could actually lead to a better product), believe their only recourse for a mediocre review is to take their ball (and clubs) and go home.

In this particular case the company in question went so far as to suggest that the mediocre review did not stem from ordinary performance, and unimpressive subjective numbers, but rather as retribution for a positive review on another golf site. At best the accusation is comical, but at its worst it calls into question my integrity, the integrity of our process, and the integrity of the average golfers who take time out of their lives to test clubs for MyGolfSpy. These are potential customers and rather than accept that their club simply wasn’t well received, a major equipment manufacturer chose to either call our testers liars, or suggest that somehow they were duped by MyGolfSpy. It’s as offensive as it gets, but it’s the most extreme example of how stating an unfiltered opinion about a golf club can not only lead to the loss of direct access, but can transcend the business aspect of what we do, and quickly become personal.

Personal attacks aside, I’m more or less able to shrug this one off with a smile, but could you imagine if we, like so many other golf sites, depended on this company to put food on our table? When between $30,000 to $60,000 in annual ad dollars for a website (exponentially more for magazines) come with the stipulation (spoken or otherwise) that nothing negative is to be published, is it any wonder why the overwhelming majority of reviews and other content are incomprehensibly positive?

Criticize Without Actually Criticizing

Now even the most blatant corporate fluffers have developed clever little techniques that give the appearance of a critical eye, albeit without the risk of actually saying anything negative. My two personal favorites are to criticize the grip, and to talk about how much you dislike the shaft graphics. These two largely insignificant details are ideal targets because, grips are easily changed, many people don’t care about shaft graphics, and most importantly, in the majority of cases, the equipment maker isn’t directly responsible for either. It’s a bulletproof way of appearing unbiased without risking your paycheck.

Now to be perfectly fair, when we test clubs, it’s not too uncommon that a tester will tell us he doesn’t like the grip (the shaft graphics thing is less common), but they might also tell us they think the club is ugly, has lousy feel, and that when they hit it they have absolutely no idea where the ball is going to go. Where we differentiate ourselves is that, while we’re happy to publish a quote when our testers say something positive, we don’t sugarcoat it when they say something negative either. Unfortunately some believe we should print the positive and turn deaf ears to the negative. We don’t believe believe its our place to censor our testers (or our readers), and we don’t believe predictably positive reviews offer any real benefit to those of you interested in making informed buying decisions.

Everybody Gets a Trophy

Perhaps the most popular trick of all is to simply not keep score or not pick a winner. At MyGolfSpy we’ve developed a very comprehensive scoring system that blends real performance data with the subjective opinions of our multiple testers. This allows us to put a score on every club we test. While it’s true that our tests have often shown very little difference between clubs, we think it’s important to showcase those few select clubs that outperform the others. We also happen to think it’s equally as important to point out those few clubs that under-perform expectations. At any time you can look through our archives and see what the best and worst performing clubs are in every category.

Now as you well know, others have developed scoring systems too (you may have heard of the Hot List). These type of scoring systems are great because they enable the publisher to give all the golf companies a trophy at once, without leaving anyone feeling slighted. Occasionally they’ll throw a non-advertiser in the mix (usually for a Silver Medal), but as long as their biggest advertisers split the lion’s share of the Medals, everybody wins…except you.

The 1000 Word Review That Says Zero

Finally (and most commonly) is the 1000 word review that says absolutely nothing of consequence. It starts out with a near word for word regurgitation of the companies press release and quickly progresses to discussing how great nearly every aspect of the club is (it’s longer, it’s straighter, it looks awesome, and feels super-awesome), without a shred of actual data to back it up. Most of the time the claims are supported with generalities like “I hit the longest drive of my life” or “I shot the lowest round of the year”. Of course, golf being what it is, two days later, if that reviewer adds 10 strokes, or only carried a drive 150 yards it wasn’t the clubs, his swing was just off.

OEM’s eat up these types of reviews like Elvis ate up peanut butter and fluff. They’re easy to swallow, and they sure taste sweet when you’re trying to promote your products favorably. Better still; under the most literal of interpretations these types of reviews aren’t biased. They’re favorable to absolutely everything, which is pretty damned unbiased. Of course, the literal definition of unbiased is not the same as objective or even useful.

(Input vs. Control) – And the Power of Friendship

In a relatively short period of time we’ve developed a bit of a reputation. It has even been suggested that, among other things, our primary mission is to piss off as many OEMs as possible. It’s certainly true that we’re not as popular with the OEMs as some other sites. Some of that is by design, but much of that is predictable consequence of the way we operate. If I’m being perfectly honest, if I worked PR for a major OEM I’d like the other guys better too (they’re better cheerleaders, and they’re much more OEM-friendly), but as a real golfer interested in real information, this is where I’d spend the bulk of my time.

A PR guy’s job is to make sure that his company is always shown in the best possible light. We choose to write openly and honestly about the industry and the products we review. When reviews are good and content favorable we make their jobs very easy. When the coverage isn’t as positive as a golf company would like, it gives the PR guys headaches, and there are almost always discussions and repercussions.

From time to time we have been asked to either pull down a post (we don’t do that), or reword an article to provide better cover for a source. On rare occasions we’ve been asked to add some additional information to a review. If the request is reasonable we’re happy to oblige, but our rule of thumb is we don’t take posts down, we don’t take information out of our posts (unless we find out it’s factually inaccurate), and we don’t give OEMs creative control over what gets published. We do however work on a two-way street, and we’re always willing to listen to the same type of criticism we’re known for dishing out. Legitimate criticism and feedback from two different golf company contacts caused us to think about aspects of our review system we may never have considered, and the process is better because of them.

There are definitely some great PR people in the industry, and while we’ll probably never be their favorite site, we enjoy working with them and, I believe that even if they don’t always love us, because they hold a healthy respect for what we do, most are willing to tolerate us. Despite what some may think, we’re not robots, we’re actually decent people who love what we do. What we do just happens to be very different from what anyone else in the industry is doing.

We talk to our PR contacts nearly every day. They send us gear, info, and photos, and invite us to many of their events. They are overwhelmingly good people who, like you and me, have a job to do and they do it the best that they can. Anyone who covers golf equipment can’t help build relationships with his PR contacts, but even this is not without its perils. It’s one thing to criticize a product or paint a golf company in a negative light, but when that company is represented by somebody you have a relationship with, rendering an honest opinion can feel like you’re betraying a friend. It’s a reality that all of us face, and while I can’t find fault with anyone on either side of the industry for building those type of relationships, the human aspect of what we do can complicate things when it comes time to write an article or post pictures of the newest clubs.

What we’ve learned countless times is that however good the relationship is, our contacts have bosses (probably an out of touch old guy in a bad sweater), and those bosses are ultimately the decision makers. So while strong relationships can get you gear for your giveaways and equipment for your reviews, one wrong word and it won’t matter. Business has to stay business because, when push comes to shove, even if your contacts don’t agree with the decision, they won’t hesitate to use whatever leverage they have (ad dollars, equipment, etc.) to either pull you back in line, or cut you off entirely.

Part III:

In Part III I’ll tell you how some media outlets are turning the tables to the detriment of the smaller golf companies, and individuals trying to break into the industry. I’ll also explain how you can identify and separate objective commentary from the paid advertisements and other fluff.

The truth about golf clubs the OEM's don't want you to know.

This article was written by

(Written By: GolfSpy T) You’ve been sandbagged (yes you) and you may not even know it. Think that review you just read from some other golf media outlet is truly honest, or did a golf company spend tens of thousands of dollars for the unspoken promise that every word you read would be positive?

Being a golf club reviewer sounds like an awesome job, doesn’t it? I have access to nearly every golf club that hits the market each year, and sometimes I get clubs that haven’t even been released yet. I get to take the clubs out on the golf course, test them on our simulators, and I have the privilege of writing reviews for our readers. Many of you might consider what I do as your dream job. I certainly did. As with nearly anything else, however; my job isn’t exactly what it seems.

Step into my spikes for a minute.

Think about this. What if a single honest sentence in a review meant a golf company would never send you another piece of equipment? What if telling the truth meant a $50,000 pay cut? What if your integrity was called into question simply because you gave your honest opinion about a new driver or set of irons a golf company was trying to promote?

What would you do?

Do you think you could remain true to what you believe in no matter the cost, or would find yourself sugar coating every word you write? Would you allow your readers to speak their minds, or would you take the money and demand your readers keep their damn mouths shut?

Sadly, these aren’t hypotheticals. These are the realities for any golf site with an audience the size of MyGolfSpy’s. While great golf companies do exist in the industry, there are some who use advertising, access to equipment, and the threat of lawsuits to manipulate content. It’s the ugly side of the industry. It’s a side many of you are not aware of; where tens of thousands of dollars and sometimes millions are spent to influence what gets written, and where some golf equipment manufacturers will cut off anyone who doesn’t play by their rules. Unfortunately, the average golfer has no idea what really goes on behind the scenes, but we’ve decided that needs to change.

In this 3-Part Series I’ll expose how many golf companies buy influence with the media, show you what can happen when you don’t play by their rules, and lift the curtain on the pay to play schemes that are slowly infecting the industry.

Great Expectations

In many respects the golf industry represents the blending of cutting-edge technology and out-dated thinking. Take a step back from the forged composites and carbon nano-tube jargon, and one finds an industry still clinging to the idea that their message can be controlled, and where so-called unbiased reviews are only tolerated so long as they’re positive.

Not surprisingly, however, the greatest of all expectations are those associated with the golf club review process. When I started writing reviews I was naive enough to believe that if I took a thorough look at a product, and gave an honest assessment, manufacturers would publicize the positive and take any criticism, no matter how direct, as an opportunity to improve their products for next year. I was, at best, half right.

Buying Influence

While you’ll probably never find a line item on an invoice that reads “Positive Driver Review – $1000“, beyond simply providing a sample for testing there are several ways that OEMs can influence the outcome of a product review.
Traditional Advertising (Print) – Look in any magazine and you’ll find equipment ads, and lots of them. It’s the way it has always been done, and it’s beyond necessary for the way traditional print media operates. Magazines have huge overhead. They have material costs. They pay talent (writers, editors, photographers), revenue generators (sales and marketing), and CEO types who command huge salaries. It all adds up, and to keep the ship afloat they need money. Some of that money comes from subscriptions, but most of it comes from the advertisers. I’m one who has given the guys behind the Hot List the benefit of the doubt. I’m willing to accept that no major equipment manufacturer has ever come to them and said “give our new driver a gold medal or else”, but I also believe those guys know how the game has to be played. My guess is you’re never more than a couple of bronze medals away from losing a major advertiser (which is probably why they stopped giving bronze medals). With print media on the decline, the guys still writing on paper understand that they need the advertisers more than the advertisers need them, but as long as everybody stays happy, the money keeps rolling in.

Traditional Advertising (Online) – Online, the simplest form of advertising is the banner ad. Placement is everything, and ads in more prominent spots command the most money. On a site the size of MyGolfSpy, big OEMs are willing to pay thousands of dollars every month for premium placement (WE WILL ALWAYS REFUSE TO ACCEPT ADS FROM LARGE GOLF COMPANIES). The problem is that it’s easy to get comfortable with easy money. The income becomes expected. And once you’re livelihood begins to depend on it, you have no choice but to try and protect it. Total dependence on big OEM ad dollars becomes a recipe for fluffy reviews and the golf companies trying to control your content. Your site quickly becomes a place where even the slightest criticism of their product or brand is sterilized to the the point where it becomes meaningless. Other media outlets do this to protect both the advertiser and the site owner’s wallet. Problem is, this has led to the downfall of the honest review, and the silencing of the independent voice. Few things can compromise principles as quickly as a deep pocket, and often it means that the loyal readers of that site now get censored. At MyGolfSpy, we don’t hide the fact that we accept advertising, however; what we don’t accept is big OEM (Golf Company) advertising. You won’t find any banners from major equipment manufactures here, and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re leaving a lot of money on the table by doing so, but we believe it’s much more important to publish truthful and objective content for you readers. As soon as you start taking money from the big guys, no matter how good your intentions, the integrity of the process inevitably gets compromised. As we look at ways to not only sustain the site, but to grow it to match the vision we have for the readers, you may see banners from names you recognize, but you will never see a banner from a major club manufacturer on our site.

Group Tests – Group testing is where a golf company agrees to send out equipment to a site which will then be given to their readers. Sounds great for the readers right? You guys get free equipment and all you have to do in return is write a review about your experience with the free stuff. But what the casual reader of that site (the ones that did not receive free equipment) gets though is a watered down version of MyGolfSpy’s review system. On paper this sounds like a great way to get an unbiased, mutli-perspective review, and I certainly admire the simple brilliance behind it, but unfortunately it almost always leads to more useless information for the average reader, and here’s why: What big OEM’s understand is that the average golfer may never consider the psychology behind a campaign like this. The OEM’s know that if you take an average Joe and give him as much as $500 worth of free gear, 99 out of 100 times you’re going to get a very good review in return. Why? Because even if average Joe doesn’t like your clubs, he likes getting free stuff. He knows that there’s a good chance he might like the next thing you send him, and so whether consciously aware of it or not, most people will do what they need to do to keep the free stuff coming. Almost no one has the stones to risk that opportunity by saying anything negative about their free gear. This leads to not only more universally positive reviews, but also an almost rabid loyalty to the OEM that provided it. It’s a win-win for everybody…or at least for everybody not looking for a truly honest review. Some might be shocked to learn that our testers never get to keep the clubs we test. Given how much other sites give away it seems almost cruel really. We don’t give anything away because we believe that as soon as the “what’s in it for me” mentality kicks in, objectivity is compromised. We do everything we can to keep our reviews as unbiased, and unfiltered as possible. The integrity of the process is everything.

Giveaways - Who doesn’t love a giveaway? They’re great for readers because it means somebody (or somebody’s) is going to get something for free with absolutely no expectations attached. They’re great for us because they increase interest and drive traffic to the site. They’re great for OEMs too because we’re not only showcasing their products, we’re building desire for them. Heck, some of the guys who don’t win may very well go out and buy whatever it was we just gave away. Every site, including this one, does them. And every site (including this one) relies on OEMs to provide product for that giveaway. If giveaways are good for everybody, what’s the problem? The influence here is definitely more subtle, but the reality is that a company is only going to provide product for a giveaway when you’ve got a history of saying nice things about them or at a minimum if you’ve never said anything negative about them. When traffic volume is tied to, or worse yet, dependent on giveaways, each and every word must be scrutinized, because each and every word written has consequences.


What you’ve read so far is barely the tip of the iceberg. In Part 2 of this series I’ll explain why so many of the other golf media outlets are willing to play along, what can happen when you don’t, and I’ll expose a couple of common tricks product reviewers use to give the false appearance of being unbiased.