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Why reviewing golf clubs each year is the most ambitious thing we do

February 13, 2018

At Golf Digest, the annual Hot List review of the newest golf equipment is generally acknowledged as the most ambitious thing we do. But don't take our word for it. Golf Digest senior editors Mike Stachura and E. Michael Johnson have overseen the Hot List since its inception in 2004, and they've got the bags under their eyes to show for it (Sorry, guys).

From meeting with manufacturers to consulting with scientists and retailers to overseeing the annual Hot List Summit in which dozens of player testers hit balls until their callouses start developing callouses, Stachura and Johnson take particular pride in the exhaustive effort that goes into identifying the 121 gold and silver-medal worthy clubs on the Hot List. Their point is that no other golf outlet puts so much effort into reviewing clubs correctly, and yet inevitably whenever you start handing out awards, not everyone comes away happy.

"All these companies are very proud of the equipment they produce. They invest a lot of money in the equipment they produce in terms of horsepower and R&D materials, manufacturing all that goes with it," Johnson said. "And unless they achieve an absolutely perfect score, you are in some ways calling their baby ugly."

In this week's Golf Digest Podcast, we talked to Stachura and Johnson about the array of feedback they receive when the Hot List comes out, how much better equipment is now versus even a few years ago, and why the phrase "best golf clubs" still makes them uneasy.