Playing golf in Indiana, USA a little over 10 years ago I was in the market for a new fairway wood. Talking to the local pro he talked me through the options and then started talking about hybrid clubs as an alternative for my long shots.
I must confess I wasn’t even thinking about them as an option but he persuaded me to take a look and even lent me one from his own bag to give it a try. 18 holes later I was hooked and have had one in my bag ever since.
Why? Put simply hybrid irons are easier to hit than long irons and a great option for everyone – even the pros! Here are 7 reasons why you should be adding hybrid irons to your golf bag.
[If you want to take advantage of all the benefits hybrids can deliver to your golf game you can check out the best hybrids according to Golf Digest, Golf Monthly and Today’s Golfer on Amazon here:
- Callaway Golf Mavrik Max – 7 loft, 3 shaft options
- Cobra King Speedzone – 4 loft, 3 shaft options
- TaylorMade SIM Max Rescue – 4 loft, 3 shaft options]
Hybrids are More Forgiving and Instill More Confidence
Hitting long irons well has been a challenge for golfers since the game began. Even the best golfers in the world have always found this part of the game difficult.
Indeed Lee Trevino, six-time Major champion, and one of the best players ever to play the game once remarked that “Not even God can hit a 1-iron!”
So if you find your long irons difficult to hit you are in good company.
The reason it is difficult to hit long irons well is that a golfer has to hit the ball square on a club face which has a very small hitting surface.
Long irons in particular also require players to strike down on the ball but because they do not have much loft amateur golfers will very often try to sweep the ball up off the ground in an effort to generate some height and therefore do the opposite of what’s needed.
And as the loft in long irons has been reduced over the years by golf club manufacturers this problem has gotten worse. So it’s little wonder regular golfers find it hard to hit long irons.
The good news though is that the introduction of hybrid clubs has made the average players life much easier.
Hybrids are specifically designed to be much wider and thicker than standard irons. This bigger club head allows much more perimeter weighting which means a lower centre of gravity further back from the clubface than a standard iron.
These club head features combined with the lighter shaft design help the average player with both impact and control.
As a result, and unlike long irons, hybrids can work much better with varying angles of attack and therefore produce a better result for more golfer’s swings.
A hyrbid has the distance capabilities of an iron, but the ease of flight and the dyamics of the way a wood plays … so, there’s a combination of a lot of different things which is making them easier to hit.Former World Club-Maker of the Year Derek Murray of Fore Golf
And if something is easier to hit that inevitably leads to more confidence. If you are playing an important shot and staring down at a 3-iron or 4-iron, knowing in the back of your mind that your margin for error is small, then the pressure will inevitably increase.
And as we all know the last thing we need when playing golf is more pressure. Golf is already arguably the hardest sport mentally to play so why make it any harder on yourself by not choosing a hybrid which gives better odds of hitting a better shot?
If you think a club is easier to hit you are much more likely to make a more relaxed and good swing. And relaxed golf swings are usually better and lead to better results!
That is not to say long iron design has not also come a long way in recent times.
The days of the long iron that looks no thicker than a knife are long gone and modern long irons are now also designed with more perimeter weighting and cavity backs to make them more forgiving of those bad shots.
But they are still not as generous to the average player as a hybrid. So unless you are lucky enough to be blessed with enough time to hone a great swing over hundreds of hours of practice which lets you hit those less forgiving long irons consistently well it’s probably time to take a look at a hybrid.
I for one need all the help I can get and hybrids are a great start.
Hybrids are Designed so All Golfers Can Hit the Ball Higher
It stands to reason that the lower the loft a golf club has the more difficult it is to hit the ball high.
Generating height with standard long irons therefore is clearly going to be a challenge as they don’t have much loft and unlike a driver you typically don’t have the benefit of a tee to help to get the ball airborne.
The best technique to combat this and get your long irons soaring high like the pros is high swing speed and striking down and through the ball.
The problem as we’ve already talked about though is your average golfer finds it hard to not try to ‘scoop’ their long irons off the ground rather than strike down on them and will typically have very much lower swing speeds than very good golfers.
This then makes it harder for average players to get a good height on shots with their long irons.
Again the design of the hybrid comes in to help here.
The increased thickness and centre of gravity further back from the club face not only helps with impact and control but also helps players get the ball up into the air on a higher trajectory than a standard long iron.
And this happens with the hybrids having the same loft as their comparable long irons.
And why does hitting the ball higher matter?
One reason is simply that that getting the ball airborne will help you clear any hazards in your way. But perhaps more importantly a higher shot will give you a better chance of staying on the green and hitting more greens in regulation.
The majority of average golfers will only hit their long irons to a height range of 50-60 feet which results in a landing angle somewhere between 20 and 30 degrees.
And the lower the height of the shot and landing angle the less chance you have of stopping the ball quickly enough to stay on the green and so by being able to hit a higher shot with a hybrid you will give yourself a better chance of hitting the green.
If you are playing to an elevated green this additional height becomes even more important as the landing angle is further reduced as the ball naturally has less time to descend from its peak height before it hits the putting surface.
Hybrids therefore offer a great solution to increase both the height of your longer shots and your chances of hitting the green.
Less Swing Head Speed – Less of a Problem with Hybrids
The better the golfer the higher the swing speed. The average swing speed of your average golfer is typically much lower than their low handicap counterparts. In addition, and naturally as we get older, one of the things that is the hardest to maintain is swing speed.
Slow swing speed as we have seen though is an enemy of good long iron play.
The slower your swing speed the flatter the launch angle of the golf ball will be and the lower the ball will fly – both bad things if you want to stop the ball on the green. On most occasions also, and especially when you are hitting long shots, adding height increases distance.
The good news though is that hybrids are better for those with slow swing speeds.
Tests of such players using hybrids show shots are launched with faster ball speed and flew higher when compared to standard long irons. And because hybrids are easier to hit than irons on average they will also typically give you a bit of extra distance.
In addition as hybrid golf club design gets more advanced the options for players of different swing speeds are also increasing.
Hybrids today are generally split into 2 distinct categories – wide body and narrow body.
Wider body hybrids are the best choice if you have a slow to medium swing speed and are looking for the easiest and longest option available.
Designed based on the same principles as more lofted fairway woods the wider club head launches the ball higher and makes it spin more to help maximise carry distance.
Combined with graphite shafts that are lighter – and therefore easier to generate more swing speed, than the steel shafts typically found in standard long irons – wide body hybrids have lots going for them and are considered a good choice for the vast majority of recreational golfers.
One thing to look out for though is that wide body hybrids are typically biased towards producing a draw.
Narrow body hybrids by comparison are targeted at players with faster swing speeds and are set up with a more neutral bias to make it less likely the ball will go left.
They are also less forgiving compared to their wide body counterparts as their design is more closely matched to a standard set of irons.
The reduced spin the narrow heads produce however allows better golfers to hit lower, more controlled shots which can be particularly helpful in windy conditions.
Hybrids = More Distance & More Fairways & Greens Hit
How far you hit the ball is obviously determined by both the loft of the club and how well you hit it.
Because hybrids, and particularly wide body hybrids, are easier to hit due to their design you can typically expect between 5-20 yards of extra distance on your shots compared to the equivalent long iron.
And this is even taking into the account the reduced ball roll hybrids deliver by virtue of them flying higher.
With the additional height and added spin offered by hybrids a softer landing angle is also produced which stops the ball from running too much when it lands and off fairways and greens. And as a result you have more accuracy and therefore more greens and fairways hit with hybrids.
And this increased accuracy is backed up by the statistics.
The experts at Shotscope have done the analysis and identified just how much more effective the average golfer is playing with a hybrid compared to a standard long iron.
Their data shows that when it comes to hitting a green in regulation (GIR) from over 200 yards a hybrid is close to being twice as effective than a long iron.
The increased accuracy of hybrids is again evidenced for GIR’s hit from between 180-200 yards with the effectiveness gap only narrowing for shots to the green from between 160-180 yards.
So it would seem clear that the majority of recreational golfers should be seriously thinking about using hybrids for all their shots over 180 yards.
And the evidence that this trend is indeed happening would seem to be backed up by the data which not only shows a 3 hybrid as the most commonly used hybrid amongst handicap golfers but also a 50/50 split between golfers choosing 4 irons and 4 hybrids.
Hybrids Provide Options for Every Iron
For those golfers that do decide to go down the hybrid route some additional questions inevitably follow?
Is it as simple as just replacing the irons you want to change with the equivalent number hybrid? Is there such a thing as too many hybrids?
The first of those questions is much more straightforward to answer. Golf club manufacturers have made things easy and hybrids have the same loft and are numbered exactly the same as their comparable long irons.
So if you are thinking of replacing your 3 iron with a hybrid the choice would be for a 3 hybrid. If it was a 4 iron that you were considering changing it would be a 4 hybrid and so on and so on.
|HYBRID CLUB||HYBRID LOFT||EQUIVALENT IRON / WOOD|
|1 Hybrid||14-16 degrees||1 iron / 4 wood|
|2 Hybrid||17-19 degrees||2 iron / 5 wood|
|3 Hybrid||19-21 degrees||3 iron / 7 wood|
|4 Hybrid||22-24 degrees||4 iron / 9 wood|
|5 Hybrid||25-27 degrees||5 iron / 11 wood|
|6 Hybrid||29-31 degrees||6 iron / 13 wood|
|7 Hybrid||32-34 degrees||7 iron / 15 wood|
As to how many hybrids you should consider carrying in your golf bag that is much more of a question of personal preference and will vary from golfer to golfer.
One simple way to approach things is to honestly ask yourself which is the longest iron you hit with confidence? For better players it may be a 3 or 4-iron but for others it can be a 6-iron or maybe even an 7-iron.
Once you’ve established this work your way down from there and consider choosing a hybrid below that number.
There will definitely be a hybrid out there for whatever your own game needs but as a general rule of thumb the higher handicap you have the higher number of hybrids and fairway woods you should consider carrying in your bag. As a rough guide:
- 5 handicapped players or better should consider starting their set with a 4-iron
- 6-12 handicappers should consider starting with a 5-iron
- 12-21 handicappers should consider starting with a 6-iron
- 22+ handicappers should consider starting with a 7-iron
Golf club manufacturers are now increasingly getting in on the act.
Whereas a standard set of iron only a few years who would have started with a 3 or 4-iron manufacturers are now increasingly producing sets of irons with forgiving wide-body hybrids replacing 3, 4 and 5-irons .
So the trend for carrying more hybrids is well on its way.
The key thing – particularly for players approaching and getting into single figures – in the decision as to how many hybrids you should consider is to keep your ego out of it.
For better players to start considering replacing a 5-iron and even a 6-iron with a hybrid, can feel like weakness. One for which they will likely also be teased about by their playing partners!
But as the old saying goes ‘it’s not about how but how many’ and if you end up hitting a 5 or 6-hybrid further and more consistently than its’ iron equivalent why wouldn’t you choose it?
There are today a huge amount of hybrids out there, capable of replacing virtually every club in the bag, so if a bunch of hybrids give you more confidence and lower your scores why fight against it?
Even Pros are Convinced by Hybrid Clubs
Do the Pros also use hybrids? Are hybrids really legal on the PGA and European Tour?
The answer to both questions is a straight forward yes.
Every player through the ages, even Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, has struggled at one point or another with their long irons for the simple reason that they are the most difficult clubs in the bag to hit consistently well.
Through years of scientific advances and advertising hype … some constants in golf remain: long irons, like the 2- and 3-irons, have bedeviled even the most proficient golfers …New York Times
Tour professionals today are no different and as a result you will find hybrids have become commonplace on the PGA, European, LPGA and Champions Tours for the simple reason that as with amateurs some pros find them easier to hit than standard long irons.
So hybrids are most certainly not just for average golfers and beginners.
3-time Major Champion and 2020 European Ryder Cup Captain, Padraig Harrington, has been a long term advocate of hybrid clubs and has famously used them to hit key shots down the stretch in both his 2007 and 2008 British Open Championship triumphs.
Jimmy Walker, the 2016 PGA Champion, has also consistently carried hybrids in his bag as does Phil Mickelson.
Pros do tend to mix and match their clubs selecting specific clubs for specific conditions and specific course and these include driving irons which are basically part long iron / part hybrid
But traditional hybrids are definitely one of the options many pros frequently turn to and although they will use them less than your average golfer they have a clear place in the modern tour professionals bag.
Women pros and players on the Champions Tour in particular have adopted hybrids in large numbers to the point where the vast majority of LPGA and Champions Tour players use at least one hybrid club.
Hybrids Can Come to the Rescue More Often
The final but by no means least reason to use a hybrid is their versatility.
Not that long ago hybrids were known as ‘rescue clubs’ for the very reason that players found them a great option to rescue them from trouble.
The design features we have talked about – the perimeter weighting and lower centre of gravity – make hybrids much more versatile than standard long irons from difficult lies.
Unless you’re a really staunch iron player, effectively the three-iron is gone. The four-iron is next to go because the hybrid club will hit the ball much easier off the deck, it’ll hit it out of the rough much easier and it will hit it off the tee much easier. The advantage of the hybrids is their greater versatility.Former World Club-Maker of the Year Derek Murray of Fore Golf
They can be hit from the rough, from bad lies, off the tee, from the sand, from pine straw and can even be used to chip with.
A bump and run up and onto the green can be great shot a hybrid can be used for which can’t be as easily played with a fairway wood.
And it is this versatility that is another key selling point of the hybrid club.
For some golfers also their hybrids are their go-to clubs. Padraig Harrington often uses a hybrid when the pressure is on and he needs to make a shot.
And they’ve helped him win 3 majors, including 2 British Opens and a PGA Championship.
When it comes to golf club innovation the hybrid is considered to be comparable to the big-headed driver and lighter shafts when it comes to advances which can make significant improvements to swing speed.
The fact that they make it easier to hit long shots for those of us who don’t have hours and hours to spend on the practice fairway has proved a major factor in their growing place in the average players golf bag.
I for one need all the help I can get and although they are typically more expensive than standard irons if your long game is where you are struggling the most the extra forgiveness a hybrid can give could very well make it worth every penny.