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Volume 26 No. 105
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Weekend Plans With Golf Digest's Mike Stachura & Mike Johnson

The annual Golf Digest Hot List is the most extensive golf equipment review process in the industry, put together by MIKE STACHURA and MIKE JOHNSON after over 100 days of testing and a countless number of shots. The pair are in Orlando this weekend as they finish up their reviews on golf balls ahead of the PGA Merchandise Show that begins on Tuesday. Stachura: “I read long ago that people spend more time trying to decide on which clubs to buy than which house to buy, so we want to get them properly educated so they can get what’s best for them.” Stachura and Johnson caught up with THE DAILY to discuss the process behind the Hot List, what’s on tap for them at the PGA Merchandise Show and their plans this weekend.

BEHIND THE PROCESS:

Stachura: We’ve done this dance a few times. It’s one of those weird things where we’ve seen 95% of the products that are going to be talked about at the PGA Merchandise Show and, in many cases, will be in the Hot List. So, there’s this excitement for our project coupled with the excitement of the industry about all their new innovations. One of the main objectives of the Hot List has always been to educate the golf consumer because it is such an overwhelming marketplace, akin to buying a new TV or new car.

Johnson: We want to give you guidance within those pages to help you narrow down and make it readily evident to you, "Okay these three or four are probably clubs that fit me and I’ll take it from here."

NO REST FOR THE WEARY:

Johnson: The weekend leading into the show for us consists of a little prep and it’s kind of the last chance for us to have some fun. We’re hoping to squeeze a little bit of golf in. This year, we have over 65 product introductions that we have to write about, and there’s probably another 20 or so during the week of the show. So, we’re going to be heavily involved with writing those in advance, scheduling those to be posted on our website at the appropriate time. Also for me, part of my job is covering equipment seen on the pro tours. So, Sunday night when the final putt drops at The American Express, I’ll be chained to my computer typing up what the winner had in his bag.

Stachura: This weekend is not exactly the down time you would hope for. We’re still putting the finishing touches on the web version of the Hot List. On top of that, we’re debuting a new feature this year for the first time on our digital Hot List. It’s a generated user-interactive feature where you can go to a specific club category and answer a few questions to determine what’s best for you. That’s the big step forward for us with the Hot List this year, and it allows us to give people a better sense of direction about which clubs they might want to focus on.

Johnson: We’ve found some pretty nice hidden gems over the years. Sometimes you find yourself with four to five free hours -- we’re golfers like our readers and want to get out there as badly as anyone else. A couple of years ago, we played a municipal course in Orlando called Dubsdread, which is a pretty outstanding, really old-school course. I haven’t played Winter Park Golf Course, which is a cool little 9-hole course in the area, but I’ve got my sights set on that if opportunity allows.

Stachura (l) and Johnson love to explore new courses in the Orlando area while they are in town
Photo: golf digest
Stachura (l) and Johnson love to explore new courses in the Orlando area while they are in town
Photo: golf digest
Stachura (l) and Johnson love to explore new courses in the Orlando area while they are in town
Photo: golf digest

THE WEEK AHEAD:

Stachura: The show is a week-long event and my week starts by spending a day with Accra as they debut new shafts. I’ll play a round of golf and spend the day with about 100 of the best fitters in the country and pick their brains. Tuesday is demo day, where you have hundreds of manufacturers out with their products and we’re walking the range for 6-8 hours. There are a lot of meetings that are scheduled where you’re learning some of the newer products that might be coming. Some of that time also is spent looking for something you haven’t seen before.

Johnson: For me personally, part of it is I want to find some things I wasn’t aware of. I’ve stumbled across things before like a launch monitor for putting or a mini motorcycle you can use to get around the golf course. The other half of it is re-establishing some relationships. Part of writing and reporting is having relationships where you can rely on people to give you information, and there’s no better way to get people comfortable to do that than to see them face-to-face. We’re so tuned in these days to email and texts, but in our business, people need to be comfortable with you and trust you, and the PGA Show is a great way to further re-establish that.

Know of someone who should be featured in Weekend Plans? Shoot a note over to lsmith@sportsbusinessdaily.com.