Bomb & GougeOctober 18, 2010

Hot List Summit Day 2: Questions and answers

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- Journalists often consider themselves the smartest people in the room, but the golf journalists in this room at the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa here were under no such illusion (or delusion). Hence the questions.

Over the first two days of the annual Golf Digest Hot List Summit, 25 questions were presented to six of the brightest minds in North America, each belonging to a scientist on the academic panel. The Hot List judges, each of them an editor at Golf Digest, rely on their expertise to help them evaluate the technology in golf equipment under consideration. Sometimes the answers can be blunt. Scientists want data, which occasionally is missing.

"We're supposed to be scientists, not fortune tellers," one of them said.

The questions might seem mundane, but in order to accurately evaluate equipment, it is essential they're asked. For instance:

-- In a stainless steel iron, how thin does the face have to get to have a significant spring-like effect vs. the relative non-springiness of a traditional iron? Is that effect only true for really high [swing] speeds?

-- What is the best execution of the new groove rule, more grooves that are shallow or fewer grooves that are deeper (see the next post)?

-- Is the best driver one whose face area aspect ratio (height vs. width) is as close to 1:1 as possible, while still remaining sufficiently large?

The ensuing debates are often wildly amusing before usually producing a consensus. Then there are those issues that produce the aforementioned blunt responses.

"This is false," one said of a particular product and the technology story the company was telling. "You should not talk about this any more. It's false."

Or when the discussion turned to the psychology that some manufacturers attempt to address in designing a club that might promote confidence for the golfer.

"I'd like a putter that plays Mozart. It would have a very calming effect on me," one scientist said, sarcasm among his many talents.

They'll be missed, these eggheads.

On deck: The retailers. Six of the leading golf equipment retailers from around the country, on and off course, arrive for two days of meetings to help the judges evaluate how the equipment under consideration will fit into the marketplace.

-- John Strege