In the days since Golf Magazine named True Spec Golf, a company under the same ownership umbrella as the publication, its top clubfitter in North America, the reaction in the clubfitting community has been resoundingly negative.
Neither company acknowledged the clear conflict of interest that both are owned by Howard Milstein's 8AM Golf, with Golf Magazine publishing their list without any disclosure and True Spec tweeting in celebration without explaining the inherent issue with their celebration.
This lack of candor is part of a pattern of operation at 8AM Golf, which also owns Golf Logix, Club Conext, Miura Golf in North America and the Nicklaus Companies -- something pointed out in a Golf News Net piece in reaction to the clubfitter list.
That article prompted a variety of reaction from the clubfitting world, but the most important public response so far has now come from Mark Timms.
Timms is the co-founder and CEO of Cool Clubs, one of the top five clubfitters on the Golf Magazine list, and he was a founder of Hot Stix, one of the other top five clubfitters. Timms wrote an open letter to the industry expressing his displeasure with the Golf Magazine list.
Timms notes the conflict of interest that should be made clear to any consumer dealing with Golf Magazine or True Spec Golf.
He also expressed displeasure at being offered a licensing deal by Golf Magazine for use of a logo the publication designed which ranking clubfitters can use in promotional material. The fee, Timms said, was $3,000. This licensing fee is common in the publishing industry, where publications charge recipients of awards and honors a fee to use their logo. It does happen in golf, but it's not universally considered a bad practice.
Honorees of various publications are often approached about purchasing advertising to run alongside their accolade being mentioned in print or digitally. The offer is considered optional.
While the public reaction to the Golf Magazine clubfitter list has largely been from True Spec Golf's competitors, the True Spec fitters themselves could also be equally harmed. Their work could be maligned or diminished because of what's happening above their head at a corporate level.
Timms closes his letter imploring 8AM Golf for transparency and worries that the pattern of mixing up 8AM Golf businesses in Golf Magazine editorial could lead down a troubling path.
"Golf Magazine is sliding down a very slippery slope, and I, for one, am surprised and disappointed," Timms concludes. "If they want to use their platform to promote a company they own, at least tell the readers."