The 2012 Golf Digest Hot List might already be in your hands, or it might be just about to arrive, but one thing that often gets overlooked in our extensive coverage is how exhaustive our process is. One of the biggest misconceptions we fight is that every product that gets submitted to our process makes the list. Hardly. Fact is, the 98 products named to the Hot List this year reflect only about a third of the total number of products we considered in a process that began when companies start nominating clubs in July.
We internally evaluate every product across our four criteria: Performance (45 percent), Innovation (30 percent), Look/Sound/Feel (20 percent) and Demand (5 percent). Those evaluations take place over several stages, culminating in our annual Hot List Summit. We believe only the truly exceptional products made it to our final list of 98 products on the Hot List this year.
Still, to give you an idea of the range of products we considered, here is a list of the 286 clubs we evaluated:
John Solheim, chairman & CEO of Ping, believes golf's distance debate is about to heat up again, and he thinks he has an idea that might help cooler heads prevail.
With the PGA Tour driving distance average surging past the 290-yard barrier for the first time, Solheim is concerned about how golf's ruling bodies, the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, might react.
John Solheim's proposal for dealing with distance surges would require three separate golf balls. Photo by Getty Images
"It worries me what might happen with our rulemakers when they see something and how they're going to react to it," Solheim said Friday in an exclusive interview with GolfDigest.com. "I wanted to put this idea out there to give them something to think about. This is an idea that works without bifurcation."
Solheim's proposal, which he has presented to manufacturers and sent to golf's ruling bodies, calls for changing from just one overall distance standard for all balls to a "ball distance rating," or BDR, system that would include three types of balls. The three balls in Solheim's proposal include one that is the same as today's current standard, a second ball that would be as much as 30 yards longer and a third ball that would produce distances 30 yards shorter than current balls. Courses, tournaments, tours and even individual players could choose their ball based on the course they're playing or the skill level of the players in the event. Solheim equated the BDR system to varying tee boxes. He envisioned a system which even might allow opportunities for average golfers playing their home course to have slower swingers using the longer-distance-standard ball while faster swingers would play the shorter-distance-standard ball with both players teeing off from the same marker. To make this work from a competitive standpoint Solheim suggested the handicap system incorporate a "ball rating" element. (Read the full proposal here)
The follow-up to TaylorMade's highly successful white R11 and Burner SuperFast woods was officially unveiled today by TaylorMade and the name of the product line is certain to raise a few eyebrows: RocketBallz.
Although the moniker (originally conceived by the R&D team when they wrote the name on a prototype after gathering some impressive test data) is different, the technology goals of the clubs remain true to TaylorMade's focus on creating speed for golfers. Specifically, the fairway woods and hybrids each boast a slot in the sole designed to enhance the flexibility of the head and face.
The clubs (which boast a slightly deeper face) are cast from stainless steel and feature a web-like crown structure that gets as thin as 0.4 millimeters. The weight saved from the crown is then used to create a center of gravity position that is low and forward to create a faster ball speed with low spin.
To illustrate the club's performance, TaylorMade has provided a video of Dustin Johnson testing the RocketBallz fairway wood, complete with ProTracer graphics:
Dr. Benoit Vincent, TaylorMade's chief technical officer, explained the slot was positioned in the sole because it is an area that is normally not very flexible due to the amount of weight positioned there. The other benefit, he said, is that golfers tend to make contact with fairway woods and hybrids low on the face. Placing the slot in the sole adds speed to those shots.
Lofts on the fairway wood (street price: $230) are 15, 17, 19, 21,
21 and 24 degrees while the hybrid (street price: $160) comes in 19, 22,
25 and 28 degrees. A Tour version of the hybrid is available in 16.5,
18.5, 21,5 and 24.5 degrees.
fairway wood and hybrid are non-adjustable, the RocketBallz driver has
an adjustable hosel with eight loft/lie angle settings, making it an
attractive proposition at the $300 price point. The driver does not
feature the slot technology (drivers have larger, springier faces that
are already close to the USGA limit on flexibility and therefore a slot
is not needed),
The club also continues
TaylorMade's work in the area of lightweight clubs (299 grams overall
including a 50-gram Matrix Ozik XCON 5 shaft) with thin crowns and
inverted cone technology in the face. The shaft, at 46 inches slightly
shorter than the Burner SuperFast 2.0, is still long enough to help
boost swing speed.
Two versions of the driver
are available. The standard model features a larger appearance at
address with a standard face height and a slight draw bias while the
tour model appears slightly smaller with a deeper face and a neutral
face angle. Lofts are 9, 10.5 and 13 degrees on the standard model and 9
and 10.5 degrees on RocketBallz Tour.
the RocketBallz woods serve as the headliners, TaylorMade unveiled
several other notable products. Rounding out the RocketBallz line are
two irons models -- RocketBallz and RocketBallz Max.
game-improvement RocketBallz set features 3-, 4- and 5-irons that are
made from a high-strength steel alloy and feature a hollow construction
to optimize distance. The large face is as thin as 1.8 millimeters in
some areas to boost the springlike effect. The clubs (which come with
85-gram steel shafts as well as the ability to bend the hosel for lie
and loft adjustments) cost $700 for a set of eight.
seeking distance in irons may gravitate to the RocketBallz Max iron set
($1,400). The strong-lofted irons use tungsten weights that are located
inside the hollow areas of the sole (primarily in the heel and toe
areas) to improve forgiveness. Designers also stiffened the clubface in
the toe area to help promote a slight draw bias.
also followed up its R11 driver with the R11-S. The 460cc club ($400,
two lofts: 9 and 10.5 degrees) have the same three areas of
adjustability however the soleplate now offers five positions. In all
the club boasts 80 combinations -- that's 32 more than last year's R11
that cover a range of 3 degrees of loft, 6 degrees of face angle and
four millimeters of CG movement.
fairway woods come in five lofts (14, 15.5, 17, 19, 22 degrees) and
feature a thin crown that saves weight that is used to move the center
of gravity forward in an effort to reduce spin and provide more ball
speed. The club ($250) has an adjustable hosel and rotating soleplate
provide 24 options. All RocketBallz and R11-S clubs will be available at
retail Feb. 1.
In one of the worst kept secrets in golf, Callaway today unveiled its first driver with movable weights and an adjustable hosel. The RAZR Fit, which has been on the USGA's conforming list since early October and has been used in professional tournaments since the Frys.com Open on October 6 by Ernie Els and recently by Fredrik Jacobson in a second-place finish at last month's HSBC Champions, is expected to be in stores by mid-February.
The club features two weights in the heel and toe of the sole (a 12-gram and a 2-gram weight) and a movable hosel that adjusts to three settings: square, 2.5 degrees open and 1.5 degrees closed.
"This is simple adjustability that matters," said Alan Hocknell, Callaway senior vice president of research and development, who indicated that the RAZR Fit is Callaway's effort to respond to the different kinds of golf consumers in the marketplace. "Our goal was to make it easier for every golfer to find the optimum setting for his or her game." Besides the obvious adjustability features, the club also looks to advance the bar from past Callaway drivers in ways the golfer can't see. According to Hocknell, the redesigned variable thickness face, which features 166 points of variation, saves four grams from previous designs while improving ballspeed on off-center hits. Also unseen is its research in aerodynamics. Callaway engineers say that the the drag force on RAZR Fit is 66 percent less than some drivers of just a few years ago. Finally, the head also features the company's lightweight composite material in a crown piece that is designed to save as much as 10 grams over an all-titanium crown. The driver also features a more compact footprint and cleaner look at address, missing the prominent shelf on the crown near the face that was found in previous Callaway drivers.