Bomb & GougeOctober 23, 2009

Hot List Summit Day 6: Drivers and long drivers

MESQUITE, Nev. -- A half dozen or more of those competing in the ReMax World Long Drive Championship here next week were practicing on the driving range at CasaBlanca Golf Club, a timely reminder that drivers are the glamour category in golf equipment.

The other half of the range was occupied by testers here for Golf Digest's annual Hot List Summit, and on Saturday, day six of the Summit, only a few paces from some of the longest hitters in the world, they were hitting and evaluating 24 drivers, using the criteria of look, sound and feel, trajectory, forgiveness and distance.

The day drivers are tested is among the most important in the year-long evaluation process undertaken by the four Hot List judges. The drivers already have been robot tested, their technology analyzed by six scientists, their potential demand discussed by six leading retailers.

But here, on this day, is when the practical application occurs, when the drivers are put in the hands of golfers who will help determine whether their performance measures up to their technology story.

Ultimately, it is about performance, which is why performance is weighted heavier than the other three criteria (look, sound and feel, innovation and demand) on which the judges will render their verdicts.

Wedge testing also took place on Friday, leaving only three more rounds of testing to be completed before the judges return to Golf Digest's offices in Wilton, Conn., to begin their deliberations.

Hybrids, blade putters and super game improvement irons will be tested on Saturday, and though they'll get the same level of scrutiny as the drivers did, they won't measure up to drivers on the excitement meter.

Remember, that wasn't a long putter or long hybrid contest for which they were practicing, those with whom the testers were sharing the range on Friday.

-- John Strege