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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

2012 Golf Digest Hot List Player Panel: How Do You Compare?

2012 Golf Digest Hot List Player Panel: How Do You Compare?

Winter is here, and for many that means little or no golf for a number of months. But that’s no reason to get down! Buck that seasonal affective disorder by building a roaring fire and curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and good book. You may substitute “build a fire” with “turn on the gas-powered fireplace with your remote”, “hot chocolate” with “Starbucks double tall non-fat latte picked up on the way home from work”, and “good book” with “iPad with the tablet edition of the Golf Digest 2012 Hot List“.

With the holiday lull in golf news, the 2012 Hot List is great way to pass the time. And though golf season may still be months away, with the Hot List you can get a jump on figuring out which of the latest clubs will take your game to the next level in the upcoming season.

It’s useful to note how your game stacks up against the Hot List panelists so you can determine which player comments are the most relevant to your level of play. Unfortunately there isn’t any information on the 19 players on the panel beyond sex, age and handicap (there is no information at all on age and handicap for the 6 scientists, 7 retailers, 2 player teaching pros; index is provided for the 4 Golf Digest writers on the panel) to help you figure out how you compare. Just comparing your handicap index to the panel isn’t going to tell you whether you have the same swing, and will have the same experience as a panelist for a particular club. For example, perhaps your handicap is slightly above the USGA average…you’ll fall into the section of observations on the Hot List with players that have “high” handicaps (this grouping consists of 4 men with handicaps of 15 or 16 with ages between 51 and 69) – which may or may not be the best comparison group if you are in your 20s with a high swing speed, for example. Handicaps are a reasonable proxy, though – I can only imagine the complexity of trying to categorize panelists by “type” of swing instead of handicaps…

So on to the comparison. First comment goes to the ladies: sorry – there are no women included on the player panel. There is one female teaching instructor, one retailer and one Golf Digest writer, but no average Janes. Bummer! Quantcast.com estimates that 37% of the visitors to golfdigest.com are women, so it’s a shame there aren’t women included in the player panel, though I have to believe this will change in the future.

As for the men, the average Golf Digest player panelist has an index of between 9 and 10, with 16 as the highest in the bunch. Compare this to the USGA handicap statistics, which show an average index of approximately 14.5 (as reported by GHIN). While Golf Digest “low” handicappers (0-4) in the testing process represent 7% of USGA handicaps they making up a whopping 25% of the panel (!). “High” handicappers (15+) make up 48% of the USGA players but only 18% of the panel (at handicaps of 15 and 16 only). There are still 35% of players that have an index higher than 16, and it’s unfortunate that this group isn’t represented in the Hot List testing process. Our guesses are that either Golf Digest finds that its readers are on average more likely to have lower handicaps than those included in the USGA statistics, and/or that Golf Digest believes players with extremely high handicaps, such as in the high teens (yes, I’m kidding here…I don’t consider that a high handicap), either can’t consistently evaluate clubs, or the equipment matters far less to these players. As an aside, 3 of the writers took 1-2 points off of their index last year (did you think we wouldn’t notice?). We can only assume it was due to clubs that were Editor’s Choice on the 2011 Hot List!

2012 Golf Digest Hot List Panel Handicap Index Chart
Click image to enlarge

One last note: the Hot List may help narrow down the list of clubs you want to consider for purchase (or not, if you only consider the major manufacturers anyway), but whatever you select, and even if you have already decided on your club of choice, we firmly recommend that all players have a professional clubfitting. The opportunity to test clubs from a number of manufacturers to see what feels and fits your eye best under the watchful eye of the clubfitter (preferably with a TrackMan launch monitor) will be a great help in determining the clubs that perform best for you. If you don’t know where to begin, check out our experiences with a number of clubfitters.

Any comments on the 2012 Golf Digest Hot List player panel? Let us hear about it!