Before discovering POTN, before the web, I was buying/borrowing used camera magazines at boot/yard/garage sales mostly to look over the "reader galleries" and read the C & C. Its a great teacher, reverse engineering the mistakes etc. Its a lazy way to do a photography course. C & C would say "In hindsight, I wish I had used some more FEC" and I'd look up flash compensation. That sort of thing.
Now I go to the club for the photos and the C & C night once a month. The social aspect is well n truly there too, you pays your money and you takes your chances like everything. The C & C is mixed intensity depending on the sobriety of the judge(s). Usually the judges are local pro shooters of various types, lured into service with promises of a free beer and/or some ego-enhancement from the "We're Not Worthy" crowd.