Editors' BlogJanuary 5, 2009

Hot List Hot Stove

The Hot List has landed and so have the first of your comments:

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Dear Editor:> >

I always enjoy reading about the new clubs and technology in your annual equipment issue. But really, it's hard to find anything negative about ANY club in ANY of the club categories. Every tester only has glorious remarks about EVERY club they hit. Come on guys, EVERY club cannot possibly be "the straightest and longest club I've ever hit in my entire life!" We all know the only way to truly evaluate the real performance of all of the latest and greatest clubs is to put them on the mechanical swinger at an independent test lab and determine what the true quantitative performance really is, versus a 12 handicap player like me telling your readers, "This baby is going directly into my bag this afternoon!" Let's get the real performance numbers so your loyal readers can make the best informed decision relative to what new club they want to spend their hard-earned dollars on. I'm sure the manufactures that provide their latest and greatest products and spend big bucks on ads in your magazine, wouldn't mind also hearing their product is 20 yards shorter and hits it sideways, as compared to their arch rival competitor! Let's us club technology nuts decide what club we are going to buy this spring based on the testing facts, not dramatized opinions.

Bill Schlegel

Cornelius, NC

Here is Golf Digest Equipment Editor Mike Stachura's response to Bill's letter, which addresses both the questions of no negative player comments and human versus mechanical testing.

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Those comments are generally positive because 1) the products that make the list represent approximately one-fourth of the total set of clubs considered (471) so it should come as no surprise that the clubs received disproportionately positive comments from our panelists; and 2) a product that earns its place on the Hot List shouldn't have that position called into question by one negative comment. As for the reality check provided by a critical comment, we believe the NOT statement, which comes solely from our editors (the only people who have a vote on the Hot List), reflects a legitimate concern about each product.

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As to the idea about robot testing, I can only tell you that from my research, comparative robot testing of huge multiples of clubs results in inconsistent data at best and flawed conclusions at worst. Most manufacturers I know only use robot testing when comparing two variables, not the 30-40 we routinely have in a category like drivers. Even to do the limited robot testing we do requires two weeks, not counting retesting. And that's at only one clubhead speed. Given that to research all current product for the February issue requires that all robot testing be done by mid-October and given that many new products do not reach us until late September, it is only possible to do limited robot testing anyway. More importantly, I find it very meaningful that the USGA almost never relies solely on robot testing anymore in its evaluations of clubs and balls. Bottom line: Golfers use golf clubs, robots do not.

Finally, let me emphasize this point in as clear a set of terms as I possibly can: Advertising in Golf Digest, in and of itself, has no bearing on where or whether any product finishes on the Hot List.

The Hot List is, and always will be, a qualitative exercise based on the four criteria we think define truly superior products. I appreciate your comments because they inspire us to do better work, but do not think for a minute that our effort to produce the Hot List is anything other than highly rigorous. Our goal is to produce a meaningful list that a reader can use to BEGIN his or her search for new equipment. I do not believe we have failed in that regard. Mike Stachura.

Thanks Bill, thanks Mike.

--Bob Carney

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