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Behind The Hot List

How hard it could be to test golf clubs all day? Our Surviving the Hot List video series provides the answer

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February 01, 2023

“Blood, sweat, tears and Red Bull.”

These are just a few of the things required to survive the annual Hot List Summit, where across two four-day sessions, 29 testers hit nearly 300 club models from every club manufacturer you’ve ever heard of—and some you haven’t.

The lucky group comprised of golfers ranging in ability from a plus-4 to an 18 index— hit approximately 30,000 balls to evaluate the newest clubs on the market. It is a physically grueling, mentally taxing four days that produces the most rigorous, independent club review in the business.

After 20 years of Hot List Summits, one might think that the team has everything down to a science. And to an extent, they do. But there’s no controlling Mother Nature, as the team learned the hard way this year.

“Unless it’s raining horizontally and fire is falling from the sky, these guys are undeterred,” said Mike Stachura, Golf Digest's Senior Editor, Equipment. “And if they were slightly whiny about the weather, I’ll just make them run laps.”

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J.D. Cuban

Luckily for Stachura (and the testers) lap-running was not necessary this year, but there was still plenty to overcome during the group’s time in Arizona. For a full understanding of what it takes to pull off the most ambitious project on our calendar every year, we chronicled the testing experience, and brought along a couple of special guests—actor Michael Peña and retired NFL star Danny Woodhead—to take part as well.

"You think you know about equipment, and then you come here, and you're like 'Oh I don't know jack,'" Peña said. "Some people want to play in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which I totally understand. I've played and it's fantastic. But I think this should be on a bucket list, too."

Watch the full series below:

Episode 1: Roll Call

Episode 2: Riders on the Storm

Episode 3: Gearheads

Episode 4: You Don’t Have to Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here