Our annual equipment review features a significant upgrade that will help you pick the clubs that are right for your game
What club should I buy? It’s the question we love to get but are loathe to answer. Why? Because we’ve never seen you swing. Golfers come in all shapes and sizes and clubhead speeds. For 20 years the Golf Digest Hot List has been the definitive guide to help you narrow your choices to a manageable number, yet as we begin our third decade of rating golf clubs, the Hot List is receiving a significant upgrade to further help you answer that ever-present question of what to buy.
Sure, the Hot List still has its guts intact—gold and silver medals and star ratings for our three categories of Performance, Innovation and Look/Sound/Feel. But in testing and presentation, extensive enhancements have been made. Our testing process was expanded to a player panel of 32 men and women of varying abilities, with most of the additional testers being 10 handicaps or higher, to better represent the golf audience at large. Because we believe so strongly in fitting, we upped the number of fitters from our partners at Golf Galaxy from two to five. Data collection also was important as our Rapsodo MLM2 Pro devices captured more than 24,000 full-swing shots. More than 100,000 words of player comments were recorded as well.
That was behind the scenes. What you will see as a result is the most robust presentation of the Hot List ever, both digitally and in print. Instead of presenting wood “families” in aggregate, each individual club is reviewed with comments from players that hit that specific club along with the name, age and handicap of that player—hopefully better connecting with you as a golfer. Ratings we internally refer to as “vectors” will accompany each club as well. We realize each player has their own idea of what they prefer. These ratings will let you know if our testers found the club to be muted or loud, launch low or high, was workable or more forgiving. We invite you to dig in.
With more than 140 clubs making this year’s Hot List it would be easy to feel that making the list is a little like youth soccer where everyone gets a trophy. While not remotely true (close to 300 clubs were considered for this year’s Hot List), we realize that some clubs resonate more than others and often with specific player groups. That's why we have created designations that indicate just that. This will be particularly prevalent in our online presentation, where if you want to know the top 5 highest-flying fairway woods for mid-handicappers or the top 5 best-feeling players irons for low-handicappers, you can find it. Or if you’re interested in what wedges performed best on full shots, around the green or from the sand, we got you covered there as well. For putters, if you want to know the ones that felt firm and which were cushiony, that information is available, too.
And for those who just want to know what clubs won the game, we have included an “overall score” star rating to do that work for you.
We’ve long believed that the Hot List should be like bringing the Golf Digest equipment team with you into the golf shop. What club should you buy? Hopefully, we just made getting to that answer a whole lot easier.