Every year there is a fair amount of discussion around the Golf Digest Hot List – an “uncensored” (?) guide to the latest and best clubs. The 2011 Hot List Panel consisted of four judges, six scientists (hey, it beats being in the lab for the day, right?), eight retailers and twenty players.
To give a sense for the level of player evaluating equipment for the Golf Digest Hot List, below is a graph comparing the handicap indexes of the judges and players in the panel (we are showing only the men’s graph as only 2 out of the 24 total judges and players in the panel were women) against USGA handicap index statistics. As easy to see, your play may not be quite the same level as the players who are ranking the clubs (who have an average handicap index of 5!), so take this into consideration when evaluating the Hot List if necessary.
Fortunately, the Golf Digest Hot List provides player comments from low, middle, and high handicappers. Assuming we can divide the 2011 list of players evenly into three groupings, “low” handicappers in the panel have an index of +1.4 to 2.8 (whoa, that IS low), mid-handicappers of 4.2 to 8.7, and high handicappers have an index of 8.8 to 18. Therefore, even if you are a single-digit handicapper, you may find information most relevant to you listed under “high-handicapper” comments. Golf Digest is currently searching for players for their 2012 Golf Digest Hot List panel, and requirements include a handicap index of 15 or better. As a result, next year the high handicappers may even cap out with an index below 18, which already is lower than over 30% of USGA members. Yikes!