I've belonged to a few photo clubs and done the monthly competion thing with judges scores and comments. It was like reading photography magazines (the popularist kind, not the darkroom/fine print kind). They are both helpful up to a point in a photographer's development/evolution, but then at some point you already know everything the photo mags are saying, and you find yourself disagreeing with judges' remarks. At this point you're more or less on your own on your own spiritual/sacred photographic journey. It's like when being on an organized bus tour of a foreign country is no longer what you're looking for. You are looking for your own road, not anyone elses.
Great thread!