For all the debating that occurs each year over the Golf Digest Hot List, one thing is for certain: there is no more Value in it. Zero. This isn’t anything new, however. “Value” as one of the Hot List criteria was removed back in 2009, with more significance given to the Look/Sound/Feel of the equipment.
The chart below shows the evolution of criteria that goes into evaluating clubs for the Golf Digest Hot List. The criteria has changed over time, with the weighting on club performance increasing and the value of equipment dropping from consideration entirely. We’re all for raw performance contributing in a significant way to the Hot List, but it’s a shame that the value of the equipment is no longer considered (bummer for us bargain hunters!). We’ll leave it to others to debate if the lesser-known brands have the same level of quality and performance as name-brand products. Innovation has continued to be a significant component of the Hot List scoring since inception, and demand has slowly dropped as a portion of the overall score over time.

Golf Digest Hot List Criteria Evolution

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Golf Digest does include the “scoring” (1-5 stars) for each criteria, which helpfully allows readers to choose how to weight the criteria on their own. As a great example, if you are looking for a blade putter and are most concerned with Performance and the Look/Sound/Feel, check out the Bettinardi Studio Stock putter. The Bettinardi received the top 5-star rating in each of those categories, outscoring 6 of the 7 Gold award recipients in Performance, and topping all 7 in Look/Sound/Feel. Overall, however, the Studio Stock only received a Silver award due to relatively poor scoring in Innovation and Demand (two categories that we wouldn’t weigh heavily).

The chart above uses 2011 Hot List category names. Based on Golf Digest definitions, we categorized the 2005-2008 “Buzz” criteria as equivalent to the current “Demand” criteria. “Performance” was categorized as “Performance/Playability”, and “Innovation” was categorized as “Technology/Innovation” prior to 2009. “Look/Sound/Feel” was referred to as “Function” in the 2008 Hot List, and as “Personal Preference” from 2005-2007.
Percentages of scores are unavailable for 2004, but total score was based on: Market Forces, Technology/Innovation, Performance/Playability and Personal Preference.

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