The interim between a religious holiday and a secular one brought two challenges, two head-to-head scenarios to my attention. Rankmark offered its 2011 hybrid club test results, just in time to spend your post-holiday bankroll, while MyGolfSpy put across something much more sinister, a cook-off with three contestants: butter, cooking spray and noslice. There’s no dragon tattoo here, yet a compelling story lurks.

Rankmark’s story is one with which I’m familiar. The company invites club companies into sending equipment its way for trial. Some do, others don’t. The company offered updated fairway metal, iron and driver tests during 2011, leaving wedges and putters as the clubs for examination in 2012. Rankmark is transparent in its methods, linking a back-story page to its test results.

BuffaloGolfer, in its younger days, engaged in a similar testing process. Is a test truly legitimate, however, when not all fairway metals (3, 4, 5, 7) or irons in a set (4-9) are tested? What if not all companies submit their latest and greatest models? Do you buy them (ouch, cried the bean counters) or borrow them from a local pro shop (chances are the company doesn’t want you to have them, so they’ll nix that, too.)

Eventually, BuffaloGolfer gave up on the club-testing avenue, preferring the product review approach. If a company wishes for a review, we’ll put that particular product through the paces and give an honest opinion in digital.  As a result, you won’t read sweeping reviews of apparel, equipment or accessories on this site. Instead, individual products, one by one.

MyGolfSpy came on the scene surreptitiously a few years back. Billing itself as a covert insider, the site/company promised details that no other site or magazine had, before those sites of magazines obtained them. To gain viewer trust, MGS would push images of unfinished club heads across the email desktop, promoting the notion that it had access (legitimate or furtive) to the yet-to-be-released sect of products from the industry’s movers and shakers. I’m aglow for a nice thriller, so the idea behind MGS appeals to me. So far, no one has gotten hurt, no has been taken prisoner or had a burn notice put out, so MGS seems to be a safe place to gather information.

Obtaining inside access is a difficult notion. Publicizing industry leaks is even more challenging and mortal. If a company knows that its fortress has been penetrated and state secrets have found purchase in the hands of the press, it will move to seal the breach. If the information is truly revolutionary, a counter attack ensues. One word: Wikileaks. The same should be taking place in the golf industry, yet MGS persists. Is it possible for one site to have an insider in every major club company? Yes. Probable? No.

My thinking is, clandestine sourcing is attractive, something that the major companies might see as a form of guerrilla marketing, for which they wouldn’t have to pay. Leak an image of an unfinished iron, a picture of an unpainted driver or unpolished wedge, and a buzz ensues. Leak it when you are ready.Why suspect this? For starters, MyGolfSpy is still in operation. If MGS had offered a wine before its time, that company would have been uber-pissed and would have taken measures to block future releases and even make life difficult for the website, in the form of legal action.

With a base in western New York and absolutely no one entrenched in the western states where the major manufacturers (Nike, Titleist, Taylor Made, Ping) have compounds, BuffaloGolfer would never, could never be the operative that breaks industry-wide stories. Doesn’t mean we don’t like the notion of a mole; it won’t be us.

The particular MyGolfSpy test that gave impetus for this piece is one on the application of lubricant to the driver face, for enhanced accuracy (I considered writing performance, but resisted the call of the churlish.) I first became aware of the use of the grease, or petroleum jelly, for elimination of spin in Dan Jenkins’ novel Dead Solid Perfect. It’s the weapon of choice of Kenny Lee Puckett, protagonist. MGS gives a nod to the vaseline, then eliminates it from its dance-off with NoSlice, a product that purports to eliminate excess lateral movement. The opposition consists of a stick of butter and a can of PAM cooking spray. Unless I’m missing something, where’s the petroleum jelly?

Rankmark and MyGolfSpy appear to fly in the face of the giants at Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. They are the little guy, the underdog, and they often bring to light the many smaller companies (Scratch, Boccieri, SCOR, Bobby Jones, RC) that aren’t Nike, TaylorMade, Titleist, Puma-Cobra, Cleveland, et al. Are Rankmark and MGS everything they seem to be? Probably not. Perhaps less, perhaps more. Certainly viable and informative. I’ll leave MGS with the win in this head to head. The company releases more information than Rankmark and writes one heck of a tantalizing piece, apparently not afraid to step up to a fight, even with TaylorMade.