It wouldn’t be quite right for us to comment on Golf Digest’s Hot List without making a few remarks about Golf Magazine’s ClubTest at the same time. Golf Magazine’s March 2011 issue is focused on drivers, and we eagerly flipped open our copy to see what insights we would find.
Golf Magazine took 40 “Average Joes” with handicaps ranging from 2 to 21 and broke them into three groups to test different categories of drivers: Tour, Game-improvement and Max Game-improvement. They also partnered with Hot Stix Golf (look for our upcoming article on the Hot Stix fitting process) and used a TrackMan launch monitor to capture swing and ball flight data.
We are happy to see Golf Magazine’s division of drivers into these different categories, and likewise their grouping of players based on handicap, with some overlap between handicap ranges. Each group then smartly focused on a specific driver category that matched their skill level. Of course there are high-handicappers that will play “Tour” clubs, and low-handicappers that will play “Max Game-improvement” clubs, but for the most part this segmenting seems to work. Even better, Golf Magazine features a distribution of players in their ClubTest that is much more reflective of the average player than Golf Digest Hot List panel, as shown in the chart below.
While Golf Magazine set up a sound testing process, and had a strong research team from Hot Stix at their side, we were disappointed they chose not to provide the data captured during the testing process. With so much shot information at their disposal, it would be great to not just read a quick overview of the drivers tested and player impressions, but dig into a deeper level of detail based on the testing results. It would be fantastic to be able to go to the Golf Magazine website, for example, select “ClubTest 2011: Drivers” and “Max Game-improvement” and then have the website display the relative shot grouping from TrackMan for the relevant clubs. Better yet, if I happen to know my swing speed (and perhaps even other swing information such as attack angle), let me enter that information and then see the test results from similar Average Joes. Make a nice flash-based website or a sweet application using Adobe AIR, and let us have at it. Now that would be useful!
Instead of any data, we are unfortunately left with simply marketing-speak: discussion of a driver that “…produces a steady pattern of consistent results,” but without accompanying data to show what kind of results (hey, I consistently put drives O.B., but that’s not what I’m looking for in a driver. If the testers are hitting dead straight, just show me the data from their current driver and the test driver).
And I have to be honest, I want to shred my copy of Golf Magazine into little pieces when they tell me that for one driver “a number of testers indicate they hit it significantly longer than normal while a few others rate it about the same as their own.” Seriously, did I just read that? This provides me with no information whatsoever. Drivers with the same handicap can have wildly different swings, so I need the next level of detail: what type of player hit it significantly longer? For example, was it someone with a fast swing or a slow swing (just assume the difference in drive length is based solely on this factor)? “Game Improvement” players in the Golf Magazine ClubTest have an extremely wide range of ball speeds – from 126 up to 155 mph (as an aside, we know this isn’t the same as swing speed, but it is the closest information provided by the magazine)! And no, not all players will know this type of swing information, but they very well may. And if they don’t happen to know it nor do they have access a local course with a pro or equipment to estimate their swing speed, they can always invest in a TaylorMade TR3 Speed Stik or Medicus Power Meter to get this information. Hey, nothing wrong with a (relatively) small investment before dropping a few Benjamins on a new driver, right?
If readers can narrow the group of testers with swings that are most similar to their own, then the information starts to become useful. And exposing the data from the testing (in an easily digestible manner, of course) will help Golf Magazine readers with their decision making process much more so than today.