Bomb & GougeOctober 24, 2009

Hot List Summit Day 7: Friendship and fatigue

MESQUITE, Nev. -- It isn't a buddies trip, nor is it even a golf trip in the traditional sense. When the equipment testers arrive for Golf Digest's annual Hot List Summit, not much actual golf will be played.

It is a diverse group of 16 from various parts of the country, and none of them knew one another before they joined these panels, yet what emerges is indefinable camaraderie shared among a group of men and one woman who likely won't see one another until this time next year.

"These guys are a lot of laughs," said one veteran tester, Jason Shipley, from the Baltimore area. "It's a good group."

The testers include low handicappers and teaching pros, and a variety of those with higher handicaps. Don Hurter, the head pro at Castle Pines Golf Club in Castle Rock, Colo., once the site of the PGA Tour's International, is also a prominent teaching pro who has been here since the Hot List Summit began. Each year, he brings a swing that, in words that another veteran tester, Jim Jones, might use, is prettier than a homecoming queen and more fluid than water, which helps explain his having won the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in 1978.

Jones has been the heartbeat of the Hot List Summit. He is a retired Delta Airlines pilot from Park City, Utah, whose incessant banter makes him an easy target for the needle, all in good fun, of course. No doubt he hasn't stopped talking yet.

Another teaching pro, Jason Guss, also brings to the testing a swing to envy. Guss is a teaching pro at the Rick Smith Academy at the Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich. LeeAnn Fairlie played college golf at Oklahoma and has been part of the low-handicapper panel from the outset and has a swing that is a model for tempo and repeatability.

Another Hot List Summit closed on Saturday at the CasaBlanca Resort, and after three days of rigorous equipment testing in the heat of a Nevada desert, all were bone tired, preparing to return to their respective homes, but having shared in an experience that has bonded them to the extent that all are hopeful that they'll be invited back.

In the end, it is a buddies trip after all.

--John Strege