Bomb & GougeOctober 21, 2009

Hot List Summit Day 4: An identity crisis

MESQUITE, Nev. -- Golf Digest's annual Hot List features three iron categories, and typically no more than a cursory glance of an iron clubhead has been necessary for the four Hot List judges to conclude which of them any particular iron will be consigned.

Players irons generally are obvious from their smaller head size and thinner sole, and often they're forged, too. Super game improvement irons tend to be larger, with wide soles and thick top lines and often are offset. Game improvement irons historically have fallen somewhere in between.

On day 4 of the annual Hot List Summit at the CasaBlanca Resort here, the panel of six of the finest equipment retailers in the country debated the blurring of these lines, both from the standpoint of how to slot the irons and how to determine from which category should a consumer be buying.

When some PGA Tour players today are using what in the past might be considered game improvement irons, it soon occurs that the categories don't necessarily delineate so cleanly.

The Hot List players iron category has grown, despite the fact no blade irons are included any longer. In fact, the players category now has more irons under consideration than the super game improvement category, though the pool of players that ought to be shopping in the super game improvement category is larger than those who ought to be buying players irons. Irons that once would have been considered super game improvement irons have seeped into the game improvement category.

Other subjects discussed on Wednesday: the viability of adjustability in clubs other than drivers -- fairway woods, hybrids, even wedges, among them; and an ongoing debate about grooves on putters and how the market perceives them.

On deck: Player testing of clubs begins Thursday, an arduous three-day exercise. There are three groups of players -- low handicappers, including teaching professionals; mid-handicappers and high handicappers.

-- John Strege