The hot list 2006.

Mike Stachura

The Place to start

Four hundred seventy-five. > It’s not Tiger’s average driving distance (316.1, precisely). It’s not the length of the par 3 the U.S. golf association is extending for the 2007 U.S. Open (285, give or take). It’s not even the number of drives of 375 or longer on the PGA tour in 2005 (227, actually). No, that’s how many models of new clubs and balls we at golf digest looked at in the past 12 months. In truth, when you factor in all the different irons, different driver lofts and shaft flexes, that number adds up to 1,299, or 1,339 if you count the 40 golf-ball models we also hit. It’s all part of the preparation for golf digest’s 2006 hot list, our annual guide to the best stuff to put in your bag.

As bleary-eyed as all those mailbox-size drivers and kitchen-utensil-like putters might have made our equipment team, we never lost focus on the mission of the hot list. The hot list exists as a service for you, the overwhelmed shopper, to get the exploding equipment universe down to a manageable number. It’s our way of cutting through the merely good stuff to get to the truly exceptional. It’s a full-year occupation for our five editors responsible for equipment coverage (see page 124). What we’re ultimately after is a way of answering the most common question we get: “what should I buy?”

On the following pages you’ll find a start to that answer. There are 131 products listed here, the best of the best. If it’s on any list in these pages, it’s great. The products highlighted here are exceptional. They go beyond routine innovations. They show dramatic and unique ways to make this hard game easier through technology. Now, about those Editors’ Choices. In every case, narrowing to one was difficult. And it was our choice, not necessarily yours. So above all use the charts to apply your own priorities. For example, in drivers there were four that were very close. The editors’ Choice has more loft options and a low price–a real benefit to the amateur market. Of course, if those factors aren’t vital to you, then you might make a different choice. Remember, the entire list is hot. Use the charts to find out what’s hottest, based on the criteria that matter most to you. And however you come out after reading everything here, try several.

Some other key changes this year:

* New sub-categories in drivers, the most technologically sophisticated component in the game. We know certain player types and swing types might require individual attention, and we know that club designers have earmarked some of their ideas to solve specific problems. The result is a page of player-specific designs spotlighted for their unique solutions.

* A third sub-category in irons. It will be easier for you to place yourself in the proper neighborhood, whether it be player’s, Game-improvement or the new category Of super game-improvement irons.

* A change in the percentage breakdowns in our hot list criteria. We now place slightly less emphasis on the marketplace and more emphasis on technology and innovation. Although strength in sales and tour use won’t be ignored, strength in fresh thinking has been elevated. The latter should spur the former, and it’s our job to identify that kind of game-changing innovation as soon as possible. Therefore, Buzz Factor (formerly called Market Forces) has been reduced to 15 percent of the vote, and Technology/innovation gets 30 percent.

* No separate designations for “highly Recommended” and “recommended.” The message should be clear: each product On these pages receives our highest Endorsement.

* A new advisory panel of average players in the 10- to 18-handicap range. Super Game-improvement irons are best assessed by those who need more improvement, not less. Our new group complied on that front, and its input matched the quality contributions of our elite players, teachers, retailers and scientists. As in the past, each of these advisory panels provided thoughts, commentary and insight, but not a single vote. the judges/editors cast the only ballots.

Here, then, is the culmination of a year’s effort, geared to taking that indecipherable equipment market and making it clear. We know you don’t know which way to turn. our advice is simple: start here, and stay here. What follows are 131 guarantees that you’ll get better this year. Not the manufacturers’ guarantees. Ours.


MIKE STACHURA * Senior Editor/Equipment, golf digest … member of staff since 1992 … 13-handicap.

E. MICHAEL JOHNSON * Equipment Editor, Golf World … golf writer for 20 years … 6-handicap.

STINA STERNBERG * Senior Editor, Golf For Women … past member of Swedish PGA … Former golf retailer.

PETER FINCH * Senior Editor, Golf Digest … Editorial Director, Golf Shop magazine … 12-handicap.

JOHN STREGE * senior writer, Golf digest … 20 years covering Golf, based in California … 9-handicap.

FRANK THOMAS * Chief Technical Advisor, Golf Digest, non-voting member … Former USGA technical director.


The Hot List voting is based on a 100-point Scale with the following percentages:

Buzz Factor (15 percent): a product must be in demand. We look at market share, tour use and customer satisfaction, as well as retailer reaction for new products.

Performance/playability (25 percent): based on interviews with our panelists and other sources, does the product work in a unique and significant way?

Technology/innovation (30 percent): Based on interviews with the company and study of its technical documents, as well as discussion with our academic panel, we look at these questions: is the design innovation new or different? Is it meaningful? How well does the company explain its technology?

Personal preference (20 percent): In the individual judge’s opinion, does the look, sound and overall presentation resonate with our individual interpretations of what this specific product should be? In short, does it move us?

Value (10 percent): what does the Product deliver in relation to its price?


At the conclusion of every section is a chart that breaks down the ratings for each product based on our five hot list criteria. (Note: the colored circles represent a range of scores within each criterion. For example, a score of 13.5 to 15 receives an “Outstanding” designation in the Buzz Factor criteria. That score is designated by a red circle in the chart. A plus sign in the center indicates a higher position within the “outstanding” scale, a minus symbol represents a lower position within the scale and a solid circle indicates a middle position within the scale.)

In addition to the scores, the chart also shows various head measurements made on representative clubs by Golf Digest editors and contributors. Also, in cooperation with retail clubfitting leader Hot Stix Golf, Tom Mase, mechanical engineering professor at Michigan State University and a member of the Golf Digest Hot List Academic Advisory Panel, measured moment of inertia (heel-toe stability) on our collection of putters. Although there can be differences from club to club and different ways to measure clubs, these listings are meant to illustrate the relative differences in shape and properties among products.


We learn by asking, especially asking the right people. Our panelists are inquisitive (scientists), inspired (retailers and teachers), and enthusiastic (players). These 24 minds made our judges that much smarter.


MIKE DAVIS * Dir. Of Instruction, Walters Golf. Ranked No. 3 Best Teacher in Nev.

DON HURTER * Golf Professional, Castle Pines. Ranked No. 2 Best Teacher in Colo.

TODD KERSTING * Dir. of golf, Puerto Del Sol G. Cse. Ranked Best Teacher in N.M.

MICHAEL MARION * Dir. of golf, Promontory G.C. Ranked Best Teacher in Utah.


JOHN-PAUL BOUFFARD * 12-Handicap. Neuropathologist, Baylor Univ., Dallas.

RYAN BURKE * Plus-1 handicap. Golf enthusiast for 30 years, from Westport, Conn.

LEEANN FAIRLIE * Plus-2 handicap. Three-time Okla. Women’s Mid-Am Champion.

JOHN GALLY * 18-handicap, golfer for five years. Deutsche Bank associate, New York.

BOB GREIG * Plus-1 handicap. Nine-time club champion at Riviera (Calif.) C.C.

JIM JONES * 14-handicap. Retired airline pilot from Park City, Utah.

DONNIE LUPER * 1-handicap, has played for 37 years. DDS, Endodontist, New Bern, N.C.

IAN SHEA * 17-handicap. Dir. of planning and operations, Replay TV, San Francisco.


KIM BLAIR * Ph.D. Founding director, Center for Sports Innovation, MIT.

MARTIN BROUILLETTE * Ph.D. Prof. of Mechanical Engineering, Univ. of Sherbrooke.

JACK HU * Ph.D. Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan.

DAVID LEE * Assoc. Professor of Physics, Biola Univ. Former Liquidmetal R&D Director.

TOM MASE * Ph.D. Visiting Assoc. Prof., Michigan State Univ. Owns five golf patents.

GEORGE SPRINGER * Ph.D. Paul Pigott Professor of Engineering, Stanford Univ.


LEIGH BADER * Founder,, Joe & Leigh’s at Pine Oaks, South Easton, Mass. 100 Best Shop.

CASEY BAKER * Owner/Vp Operations, Miles of golf, Ypsilanti, Mich. 100 Best Shop.

CHRIS BARTLETT * First assistant, Butler National G.C., Oak Brook, Ill. 100 Best Shop.

BILL DIXON * Retail manager, Haggin Oaks G.C., Sacramento, Calif. 100 Best Shop.

DALE ROBBINS * Owner, Dale’s Winning Edge, Knoxville, Tenn. 100 Best Shop.

SUSAN ROLL * Owner, Carlsbad (Calif.) Golf Center. GFW Top 25 Pro Shop in USA.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Golf Digest Companies

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

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