Bomb & GougeOctober 17, 2010

Hot List Summit, Day 1: It's all academics

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- One has a Ph.D. in Thermodynamics and Kinetics of the Oxygen Sublattice Phase Transition in the Y-Ba-Cu-O Superconductor. Another is a rocket scientist. A couple are physicists. All are Ph.Ds.

What does this have to do with golf? They make up the academic panel that opened Golf Digest's Hot List Summit on Sunday at the Wigwam Resort here in this Phoenix suburb. More than 2,700 pounds of golf equipment was shipped from company headquarters in Wilton, Ct., to Arizona. More than 1,000 clubs were part of that shipment.

Golf Digest's Hot List judges -- Mike Stachura, Mike Johnson, Stina Sternberg and Max Adler -- rely on the panelists' scientific expertise to help them evaluate the technology employed in the clubs. Suffice it to say, the panel raises the average IQ in the room by no small margin.

David Lee is an associate professor of physics at Gordon College and has a Ph.D. from Caltech (and the aforementioned Ph.D. in Thermodynamics and Kinetics); Martin Brouillette also has a Ph.D. from Caltech and is a professor at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Ontario, Canada (and is the aforementioned rocket scientist); Thomas Lacy Jr. has a Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and is an associate professor of aerospace engineering at Mississippi State; John Axe is a retired physicist who earned a Ph.D. from Cal Berkeley; and John McPhee is professor of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada).

They're here for two days, the first of which largely was spent dissecting drivers. One conclusion regarding off-center hits -- "they're all pretty good," one panelist said -- doesn't begin to address the breadth of their analyses, designed to identify differences in the clubs, however minute.

There were discussions of beveled perimeters, adjustable clubheads, lighter and longer drivers, linear torque profiles and round (or roundish) clubfaces.

Heavy discussions from a panel of academic heavyweights.

-- John Strege