By Luke Kerr-Dineen
Golf Digest's Hot List has a long and proud history. It prides itself on being the definitive guide for consumers in their search for equipment to improve their games. But that doesn't come easy. It takes, among about a million other things, hard work from dozens of staff members and testers and a great host in the Wigwam Golf Resort in Arizona. Here's a little look at what the Hot List looks like from behind the scenes, through the eyes of someone experiencing it for the first time:
It's important to start your day with laughter, and that's how I found Golf Digest Assistant Editor Steve Hennessey when I met him bright and early on Thursday morning. Too bad he was laughing at his own tweets...
That guy behind him is Mike Johnson. He's Golf World's Equipment Editor, and he (alongside Golf Digest's Equipment Editor Mike Stachura) has been running the Hot List since the very beginning.
Call me an ignorant New Yorker-turned-Englishman-turned-South Carolinian-turned New Yorker, but Arizona has an uncanny ability of opening its skies to reveal some truly phenomenal sights.
Like, really phenomenal.
But back to golf, and it turned out that Golf Digest's Social Media Editor Richard Simmons...whoops, sorry, I mean Ashley Mayo...made an appearance to help limber up all the testers. It looked like it was about to turn into a Jimenez-like warm up at one point, but luckily she didn't think any rotating hip thrusts were necessary.
The way testing worked on Thursday is that three different group were split into three different sections: fairway woods, mallet putters, and game improvement irons. Each tester hits as many balls as they need to and then give a verdict on a variety of different factors; sound and feel, for example, or looks. It's fun, but there are a lot of clubs, so it's also hard work.
The highlight of my Hot List so far? Finally meeting this guy, John Strege, in person. Strege is a writer at Golf Digest and has authored five books, one of which won the USGA International Book Award. Everyone told me that he is "the man," something I can now confirm. Let the word go forth: John Strege is, indeed, "the man."
John Bronson is also "the man," or, if it's more grammatically correct, "one of the men." A self-described 17ish handicap, Bronson played two years in the NFL as a tight end for the Arizona Cardinals, and joined us at the Wigwam on Thursday to test some super-game improvement irons.
The testers didn't hit drivers on Thursday, but that's me, below, teeing one up and aiming at a spot about three fairways over (on purpose, thank you very much, that sun was killer). That was one of about 30 different soon-to-be-released drivers I hit today as part of a mini-shoot for an upcoming video. It was sneaky exhausting, but in the grand scheme of things, not a bad way to end the day.