HOW MANY OF YOU have ever bought a golf club on the strength of a review in a golf magazine or website? Because there are loads of them every month. The one problem is that they are not objective and never will be. The vast majority of them are little more than puff pieces to keep the manufacturers and their press officers happy.
So before we look at where, if anywhere, the golfer can go for an unbiased opinion let’s consider the reasons why the golfing press routinely boom each and every club, ball, shoe, glove or gizmo they test.
We have looked at the spurious jargon that the manufacturers use on these pages in earlier editions with their longer, lighter, bigger, quicker, further, faster, softer, slicker range of hyperbolic advertising. But find the golf staff writer to question any of it, and you will be doing well.
Quite simply the golfing press depend on the club manufacturers for advertising revenue and, provided they follow the party line, the manufacturers can be extremely generous. Equipment is routinely sent to those magazines and websites that are considered valuable as well as invitations to open days, corporate hospitality and a chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s top players who are paid fortunes to use the gear.
The big corporate golf gig to be seen at over the last month was the launch of the Taylormade M1 driver and PSI irons. This was held at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut and had all the bells and whistles that these events routinely bolt on to their presentations under the banner headline ‘Expect the Unexpected.’ The untrammelled ability of golf’s marketing departments to consistently deliver hackneyed, often meaningless marketing lines is jaw-dropping, but that is not the issue here.
Journalists flights and accommodation were paid for, clubs and goody-bags routinely handed out to the chosen ones whilst lesser mortals had to wait until the invitation arrived to test the clubs at a local course that stocks TaylorMade. It would still be a jolly, just not quite as big a jolly. And it would all be paid for. The various happy hacks would then all trot off back to their offices and file pages of coruscatingly positive copy.
The next day the golf journalist would have received a call from a chummy marketing executive to ask if he or she enjoyed the day and what they thought of the driver. To a person they will all say they loved it.
No one would dream of saying, less still writing, ‘I wondered if that white club head tarnished over time,’ because behind the laughing tones of the chummy marketing executive is a huge multi-million pound advertising spend that the magazines depend on. Take that away and they would be sunk.
The TaylorMade M1 driver may well be, and probably is, the most sensational driving experience since the invention of the wheel but how does it compare to what Titleist, Callaway, Nike or Ping have up their collective sleeves? We shall never know because they will all be praised.
Even when it comes to awarding points or favourites in a comparison test all the big producers score so routinely well that the words are interchangeable. This is from one golf magazine way back in January when, incidentally TaylorMade had just launched its R15 driver and RSi irons.
It does not matter which magazine because they all say the same thing and mix some technical jargon up with a hefty dose of game improving superlatives. The Yonex Z Force driver comes with that, apparently must have, ‘Quick adjust system that allows users to tweak their ball flight by altering the loft up or down by 1.5 degrees in 0.75 degree increments.’
‘The driver appears larger that the VXF driver down to the shape, boosting confidence at address.’ So look no further if you are not feeling confident at address or fancy tweaking your ball flight.
This has clearly been lifted straight from the press release sent by Yonex to the magazine and simply rehashed by the hapless hack tasked to review one of the mid range manufacturers that needs to be kept happy. Big boys such as Callaway, Titleist and Taylormade demand far more and get it.
This unquestioning loyalty to products in the golfing media is not restricted to golf clubs. Big-hitters in the ball, shoe, bag,clothing- especially wet weather gear- and range finder sectors also get slavishly good copy and the writer gets a decent supply of balls, shoes, bags, and clothing- especially wet weather gear- and range finders.
So, should any of the above cast a scintilla of doubt about the objectivity of online and print golf reviews where can you go to get some advice that will do you some good rather than the manufacturer?
The first stop is your local golf professional who should know your game because you have lessons with him, the occasional game and most of all trust him. And if you don’t trust him then find a professional that you do because they really want you to come back and you won’t if you are sold a product that does not suit.
With there being no golfing equivalent of Which? magazine the best and most objective review of clubs and balls is to be found online. Admittedly it is US based but most of what is over there now will be over here soon so do take a look at My Golf Spy on www.mygolfspy.com/. But do not take too long over deciding which club suits you because by the time you have made your mind up a whole new range will have been launched on the market to try anyway.
How to find which clubs and balls suit you best :