Golf hybrids have been one of the great success stories of golf club designers over the last number of years.
Since the game of golf was invented players of all standards have struggled to hit long irons consistently well and as a result the creation of a club which focused solely on trying to solve that problem has benefitted golfers hugely.
But while the invention of the hybrid iron has eased the pain of long iron shots the fact that they now provide options for every iron the inevitable question which follows for golfers is – what hybrids should I have in my golf bag?
Amateur golfers should carry 2 to 3 hybrid irons in their golf bag to replace clubs like the 5-wood and 3 and 4-irons. The total number of hybrids any golfer needs is best determined through measurement of club head speed, distance gaps between clubs, personal preference, playing goals and budget.
Usually the stock reply about what hybrids you should carry is that it depends on an individual’s players personal preferences and their knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses.
Which is all true but not particularly helpful.
So in this article we’re going to talk about just why you should definitely have at least one hybrid in your golf bag and also take you through some practical guidelines, including the ’24/38 rule’, to help you answer the question about how many hybrids you need.
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The Debate About Hybrid Irons is Over
After they started to emerge on the golfing scene in the early 2000s hybrid irons have now established themselves as one of the key pieces of equipment in the golf bag of the vast majority of amateur golfers.
There should really be no doubt in your mind now as to whether you should have hybrids in your golf bag but just in case there still is here is a list of reasons why you should be using them.
1. Hybrids are more forgiving than long irons
The bigger head on a hybrid allows much more permeter weighting which then means a lower centre of gravity further back from the clubface than a standard iron.
These features combined with a lighter shaft design deliver a club that is much more forgiving than a long iron which requires a more precise hit on a smaller hitting surface.
2. Hybrids allow all golfers to hit the ball higher
With their low lofts it makes sense that a lot of golfers find it difficult to generate height with long irons.
Again the design of the hybrid helps here.
The increased thickness and centre of gravity further back from the clubface not only helps with impact and control but also helps with getting the ball into the air on a higher trajectory than a standard long iron of the same loft.
And why are we worried about hitting it higher? For the simple reasons it helps us clear hazards and gives us a better chance of staying on the green when we hit it.
3. Hybrids perform better for golfers with lower club head speeds
The poorer the golfer the lower the club head speed in general.
Unfortunately slow club head speed is the enemy of consistent long iron play as it leads to a much lower ball flight.
And low ball flight almost always means less distance and difficulty stopping the ball on greens.
Tests however show golfers with slower club head speed that use hybrids launch the ball faster and higher with hybrids.
And because as we’ve already seen hybrids are easier to hit than long irons that also means they will typically give you a bit of extra distance.
4. Hybrids mean hitting more greens from longer distances
With the added height and spin that hybrids offer to more standards of golfer a softer landing angle is also produced which stops the ball running too much when it lands on the green.
As a result you have more accuracy and therefore more greens hit with hybrids than long irons.
And this increased accuracy is backed up the stats.
The experts at Shotscope have crunched the numbers and found that from over 200 yards a hybrid is close to being twice as effective as a long iron.
Arccos‘ analysis of more than 200 million shots from 3.8+ million rounds has also found that the greens in regulation (GIR) % was higher for every handicap category when using a 4 hybrid vs. a 4 iron.
And more importantly their data also showed every handicap bracket also saw a lower score when using the 4-hybrid off the tee compared to a 4-iron.
5. Hybrids are much more versatile
Because of its design features hybrids are much more versatile from difficult lies than long irons.
They can be hit much more easily from rough, bad lies, from the sand or pine straw and can even be used to chip with.
Todd Hamilton famously won the 2004 British Open by frequently employing a bump and run shot onto the green with his hybrid again demonstrating how useful hybrids can be for all kinds of shots.
The pros are convinced by hybrids and you find them a common sight on the PGA, European, LPGA and Champion Tours for the simple reason that as with amateurs many pros find them easier to hit than standard long irons.
Yes, it is true that very good golfers, particularly those who naturally hit the ball high can find hybrids hit the ball too high for them and are often too easy to hook off the tee.
However that almost never means those players don’t consider hybrids at all and there seems little reasonable debate as to whether or not the vast majority of amateur golfers should have a hybrid in their golf bags.
The only real question is how many hybrids you should have.
Look at Clubhead Speed and Distance to Begin the Hybrid Experiments
Before the explosion of golf technology in the last 20-30 years putting a set of clubs together for golfers was a pretty straightforward task.
You grabbed 3 woods (Driver, 3-Wood, 5-Wood), 9 irons (3 through 9 plus a pitching wedge and sand wedge) and the only decision anybody really had to make was whether they added a 1 or 2-iron or an extra wedge.
Today it’s all different.
The driver and putter are really now the only clubs in the golf bag which are the staple of all regular golfers and the makeup of the rest of the set is up for debate.
The introduction of gap and lob wedges have led to a lot of players carrying 4, and sometimes even 5, wedges while hybrids have led to many golfers deciding to bin their long irons (2 to 4-iron) and often their 5-wood as well.
Indeed some golfers have even chosen to replace almost every club up to their very short irons with hybrids.
While all these new club designs and technology advancements have been a fantastic development for the amateur player, more options have inevitably led to more decisions needing to be made around which clubs to carry in your bag.
And one of these key decisions is of course now how many hybrids should I have in my bag?
The simple answer is of course that this is a matter of personal preference and each individual will find their own combination by experimenting.
That is undoubtedly true but it always helps to have some useful guidelines to help you make the decision around hybrid numbers in your bag.
“My recommendation is for most golfers out there you should be carrying at least 2 hybrids, maybe 3. Much easier to hit than a long iron, much more forgiving and much easier out the rough. A great way to boost your bag is to carry one or two more hybrids.”Golf Top 100 Teacher Gary Weir
For this we can turn to PGA Master Professional, Dennis Clark, one time PGA Tour player who is also now recognised as one of the leading teachers by all the major golf publications
When it comes to choosing where to start with your hybrids experimentation Dennis asks golfers to start with the ’24/38 rule’ and consider first and foremost your clubhead speed.
The ’24/38 rule’ stipulates that the majority of golfers lose consistency with an iron that has less than ’24 degrees’ of loft and is over ’38 inches’ long.
Years ago that used to be a 3-iron but following all the advances in golf club design over the years the ’24/38 rule’ now applies to many 5-irons as club manufacturers have added stronger lofts and some length to irons at the same time as making them easier to hit.
Indeed today many 6-irons are close to 38 inches long on average with 31 degrees of loft meaning they too frequently come close to the point where most golfers will struggle for consistency.
And stronger lofts and longer clubs mean one thing for the average player.
It makes it harder for them to get the ball into the air because lower lofts require higher club head speeds to get the ball up in the air.
And that’s where hybrids come in because as we have discussed above they have been specifically designed to cope with this problem.
Less club head speed is less of a problem for hybrids when it comes to getting the ball airborne because their increased thickness and centre of gravity further back from the clubface assists getting the ball up in the air on a higher trajectory than a long iron of the same loft.
And hitting it higher not only gives us a better chance of clearing any trouble on our way to the green but also a better chance of staying on the green when we get it there.
Given how important club head speed therefore is Dennis Clark recommends golfers measure their club head speed with their driver as the starting point for their hybrid experimentation:
- Under 85 MPH driver club head speed – look at hybrids for everything below your 7-iron.
- 85-90 MPH driver speed – look at hybrids for everything below 6-iron.
- 90-100 MPH driver speed – look at hybrids for everything below 5-iron.
- 100+ MPH driver speed – pick a set you are most comfortable with but make sure consider hybrids for the long irons.
Not everyone is able to get their driver club head speed measured however so Dennis also gives some distance guidelines based on how far you hit a 7-iron:
- 140 yards or less with your 7-iron – consider hybrids for everything below the 6-iron and experiment with starting your set with a 7-iron or even an 8-iron!
- 150-160 yards with 7-iron – consider hybrids for everything below 5-iron.
- 160-170 yards with 7-iron – consider hybrids for everything below 4-iron and experiment with starting set with 5-iron.
- 170+ yards with 7-iron – the set make up is up to you but don’t forget about hybrids. Even the pros use them!
We have talked before on Golfing Focus about offering guidelines based on you handicap – e.g. scratch to 5 handicap players should consider starting their set with a 4-iron, 6-12 handicappers with a 5-iron and so on – but as we all know your handicap is not always the best guide as to how you actually strike the ball and how far you hit it.
The club head speed and distance guidelines above therefore should be much more specific to your individual game and as a result give you a better starting point for where you can start experimenting with hybrid irons.
5 Points to Consider Before Making the Final Hybrid Decision
Now that you have a starting point for where to begin your experimentation with hybrid irons there are some key points which you should bear in mind before deciding which ones are right for you.
So here is a list of 5 things to consider when finally deciding which hybrids you should carry.
1. Loft and distance gaps
Golf club manufacturers have done their best to make things easy when it comes to replacing your irons with hybrids by giving them the same loft and number as their comparable irons.
But that does NOT mean if you are thinking of replacing your 3 and 4-irons you should simply switch them out for a 3 and 4-hybrid.
What distance you want and can you get with each club is the key question.
Golfers often get to a certain loft of club where on paper the club should go further because of its lower loft and longer shaft but because they lose a bit of launch angle they lose carry and so the 3-hybrid doesn’t automatically go further than the 4-hybrid for example.
So it’s not always as black and white as just getting a comparable hybrid replacement for your equivalent iron and as such it is vital that you measure what distance you are getting with the mix of hybrids and irons so you make the right choices.
A big distance gap between your last hybrid and where you irons start is a particular thing to look out for and avoid.
2. Fairway Woods and Driving Irons
The question which then invariably arises is what about fairway woods and hybrids of similar loft? Which ones should I carry? Should you carry a 5-wood or 3-hybrid for example?
Distance gaping is again the key thing to look out for here and then the choice simply comes down to which club gives you the results you want.
Remember fairway woods are longer than hybrids which are designed to be only slightly longer than their comparable irons so that’s something to check you don’t mind.
Do you want a club which you are going to use as an alternative to your driver off the tee or is it going to be focused on approach shots in which case the higher trajectory of the hybrid may suit better?
If you play a lot of your golf in the wind also a driving iron may be a better alternative to an extra wood or hybrid.
Or if your course contains a lot of areas of thick rough you might consider switching out more irons for hybrids to help you get through the tough grass better.
Whatever you decide just remember to watch out for the distance gaps!
3. Wide body vs. narrow body hybrids
Hybrids today are split into 2 general categories – wide body and narrow body.
Narrow body hybrids are targeted at better players with typically faster club head speeds and are set up with a more neutral bias to make it less likely the ball will go left.
The reduced spin the narrow heads produce also allows better golfers to hit the ball lower which can be very helpful in windy conditions.
Their design is also more closely matched to standard irons and as a result they are less forgiving than their wide body counterparts.
The wide body versions are by comparison better suited to golfers with slow to medium club head speeds.
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.
Often combined with lighter graphite shafts wide body hybrids are a good choice for a lot of recreational golfers who are looking for the easiest and longest option available.
One thing to look out for however when it comes to the wide body versions is that they are typically biased towards producing a draw.
So considering your general standard of play and what type of trajectory you are ideally looking for is another key point when making your final decision.
Golf is very much a confidence game and players can often find confidence simply by the way one club looks compared to another.
Whether a hybrid gives you more confidence when compared to a comparable iron or fairway wood is therefore a crucial component of any decision and one you should not ignore.
Just because the stats on the launch monitor say one thing does not automatically mean you are going to step up to that next shot and look down on your new hybrid with confidence.
If it just doesn’t feel good or right in your hands that will likely remain a problem.
As with every golf club decision you can not look at it without considering the price tag.
If you have a budget you should stick to it.
If you only play a few times a year it would be difficult to justify spending a lot of money on replacing a lot of your irons all at once if you think hybrids are the way forward.
Also if you do want to spend some money on overhauling your bag with some new hybrids just absolutely make sure you remember to bear point 1 above in mind about lofts and distances.
The last thing you want to do is to spend good money on a great hybrid which makes more than 1 other club in your bag redundant because they all go the same distance!
At the end of the day although we hope all the guidelines we’ve discussed above will help you with the final decision as to how many hybrids you should carry the final decision will always come down to personal preference.
Whatever your standard of golf however we hope you are convinced by now that you should have at least one or two hybrid irons if not more in your golf bag.
The ideal thing to help you make your decision is of course to get to a pro or custom fitting centre, get on a launch monitor, find out what your club head speed is and go from there.
But where that’s not possible just start by hitting some hybrids side by side with your irons. Hit at least 10 balls with each club and note the accuracy, distance and ball strike quality on every shot.
Watch also how high the ball travels and how much confidence you have at address with each club.
You may end up deciding your irons still work better for you but if the hybrids give you better results there are options for every iron in your bag right up to your wedges.
More great articles related to this topic
- Are Hybrid Irons Easier to Hit? 7 Reasons to Choose the Easy Way
- Should I Play Blades or Cavity Back Irons? Use Your Head
- Are My Golf Clubs Too Old? It’s Performance Not Age That Matters
- Going the Distance? How Far Should Beginners Hit A Golf Ball?
- Should Beginners & High Handicappers Use a Driver? Yes & Yes
- How Many Clubs Does a Beginner Need? Save Your Money to Start With!
- What are the Best Wedges for Spin? You Need to Get Into the Grooves