CRITERIA

Our judges evaluated Hot List candidates in four areas.

  1. Performance ( 45%)
    The utility of a product, or what happens to the ball when it’s struck by the club.
  2. Innovation ( 30%)
    How a club’s technology, including custom-fitting, advances the category.
  3. Look/Sound/Feel ( 20%)
    What the golfer experiences before, during and after impact.
  4. Demand ( 5%)
    The relative interest in a product and its reputation.


All judging is based on a 100-point scale.
97-100 ★★★★★
88-96 ★★★★
70-87 ★★★
51-69 ★★
50 

(L) Low-Handicapper | (M) Mid-Handicapper | (H) High-Handicapper


Callaway Apex


CALLAWAY
APEX

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★★★

VERDICT The Apex focusses on hitting shots to a target and making them stick, thanks to a slightly higher centre of gravity that helps launch shots with a little more spin and height that land at an angle more receptive to staying on the green. The wraparound cupface provides extra face flex.
COMMENTS (L) Dense and stout: It doesn’t feel small in terms of forgiveness. (M)  Its size might scare some golfers – until they hit it.


Callaway XR/Pro/OS


CALLAWAY
XR/PRO/OS

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★★★★

VERDICT The XR hybrid is oversize for more forgiveness and a higher flight. But the larger face also means a more animated trampoline. Inside the head and towards the front of the sole, a wave-like structure keeps the internal weighting lower yet still allows the face to flex on shots hit below the centre of the face.
COMMENTS (L) Low spin, great flight. No drag on turf interaction. (H) A little ting sound lets you know you got it on the screws.


Cobra King F6


COBRA
KING F6

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★★ ½

VERDICT A rear weight chip in the sole does two good things: First, it pushes weight low and deep in the head to improve forgiveness. Second, the deeper position for the weight creates higher shots. Each of the three standard lofts can be adjusted eight ways, providing 24 possibilities from 16 to 25 degrees.
COMMENTS (L) The slightly rounded toe gives it a perfect shape. (M) The white outline on the crown helps my setup.



Mizuno JPX EZ


MIZUNO
JPX EZ

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★ ½
Demand ★★½

VERDICT The accordion-like pattern on the sole helps any hit low on the face get more distance. How? The waves in the sole flow into the heel and toe, so there’s more stability, which means you’ll lose less distance on those off-centre hits. The larger size combines with a shallow face to improve confidence, too.
COMMENTS (L) Mis-hits went a long way, and I never felt any vibration. (M) The shallow face is easier to hit off the ground.



Ping G


PING
G

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★★★★


VERDICT Sometimes the best way to make a hybrid face more flexible is to shift your attention elsewhere.
Inside, the sole stairsteps down towards the face, thinning out the area closest to the face to provide more give at impact. The rear of the sole supports the way the entire structure flexes. It also adds weight in the back for extra stability on off-centre hits.
COMMENTS (L) My favourite kind of trajectory: penetrating and high enough. (M) It feels pillow soft and inspires confidence.



TaylorMade M1


TAYLORMADE
M1

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★★★


VERDICT The danger with adding adjustability to a hybrid is making it clunky and taking away the versatility you need to play a hybrid. Well, that’s not the case here. Most noteworthy are the two movable weights neatly recessed in the rear of the sole. They let better players tweak ball flight away from the natural draw they don’t want, but their deep position provides extra stability that all players need.
COMMENTS (L) It feels strong, heavy: You can blast it out of anything. (M) Stable yet workable.



Titleist 816H/H2


TITLEIST
816H1/H2

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★★★ ½

VERDICT Yes, thze distance technology is substantial (flexing sole channel and a thin, high-strength steel face). But the fitting permutations are even more comprehensive. The nine adjustable heads (18 to 29 degrees) come in two shapes: H1 is larger, more forgiving and higher-launching, and the offset H2 fits those who make more iron-like swings.
COMMENTS (L) The face height is perfect. (M) Nice, pure feel on a small head. Easy to hit the ball high.



Tour Edge Exotics EX9/Tour


TOUR EDGE
EXOTICS EX9/TOUR

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★

VERDICT The two heads offer different looks, but both build distance in high-tech ways. The standard uses a wraparound cupface made of high-strength steel to create flexibility, and the EX9 Tour features a thin titanium face insert. Both faces have variable thickness for better spring on mis-hits. The ribboned sole glides through any lie.
COMMENTS (L) Piercing flight. Even when you jump on it, it didn’t balloon. (M)  I tried to hit it heavy, and I couldn’t. Never fazed it.



Ben Hogan VKTR


BEN HOGAN
VKTR

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★ ½
Demand

VERDICT Fitting a hybrid isn’t merely about getting the right lofts. Shot shape is crucial, too. The four movable weights, which include one at 18 grams, can tweak ball flight left or right and control height and spin. Oh, and about those lofts? There’s a different club for every loft from 17 to 27 degrees.
COMMENTS (L) Love the quick, cracking sound. Easier to hit than it looks. (M) The topline is more iron than hybrid, and it hits like an iron, so it creates a nice transition from your longest iron to this club. Easy to get the ball in the air.



Nike Vapor Fly


NIKE
VAPOR FLY

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★ ½
Demand ★★★

VERDICT The tour-player-inspired compact shape is versatile, but it doesn’t sacrifice the distance and forgiveness average players need. The crown is 30 per cent lighter than last model to increase the perimeter weighting, and the sole channel is deeper so that low-face hits still fly.

COMMENTS (L) Toe, heel and centre hits all went really high and came down soft. (H) It has an old-school shape with nice, compact proportions. You feel like you’re slugging something.



Ping G Crossover


PING
G CROSSOVER

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★
Demand ★★

VERDICT There are hybrids that look like tiny fairway woods, and there are “driving irons” designed so tour
players can hit penetrating bullets off the tee. And then there is something that falls in between. Like this. Extra internal weighting in the toe improves off-centre hits, and a flat face makes it easier to work the ball. The high-strength steel in the face and a thinned-out sole improve face flex for more distance.
COMMENTS (L) A solid, muted sound. (M) It’s basically a jacked up 3-iron, which is what I need.



TaylorMade M2


TAYLORMADE
M2

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★ ½
Demand ★★★★★


VERDICT Face it: Any club longer than a 7-iron is difficult to hit. That’s why the emphasis here is on forgiveness. The head is larger and more stable on off-centre hits, and the shallow face inspires confidence. (So does the 28-degree option.) But the real source of forgiveness is the longer sole slot, which helps the face flex so shots launch with more velocity and height with less spin on low-face impacts.
COMMENTS (L) Has a good kind of quiet sound. (M) It hit a high ball and was very easy to turn over. Glides through the turf.



Wilson FG Tour F5


WILSON
FG TOUR F5

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★
Demand ★★

VERDICT There’s a hot, high-strength steel face for distance and a low-forward internal weighting for less spin, but it’s the ease of adjusting the head that makes this hybrid special. The three lofts each come with six settings that can change loft by a degree up or down. That’s 18 potential hybrids across a range of 16 to 24 degrees. Even better, the lightweight hosel lets you make any change without removing the head from the shaft.
COMMENTS (L) Soft, soothing shape, like a hammer hitting a nail. Flat, high trajectory. (M) You really feel like you can hit the kind of shot that you want because it’s more shallow front to back.