When I first wrote this article in 2005, all major OEM’s were adding hybrid clubs to their offerings. These clubs are seen as a replacement for long irons (2, 3, 4 iron) and make it much easier to get the ball airborne off the tee as well as off the fairway. Now we are seeing not only replacements for 5 and 6 irons but complete hybrid iron sets. So, if you have tried a hybrid club or two and not fallen in love with them, we can help add a little romance to the dance. But which style hybrid should you choose and what shaft should you put in it?
Why are long irons so hard to hit? Over the past twenty or so years, manufacturer’s have decreased the loft on long irons substantially in order to attempt to create more distance. A 4 iron from the late 70’s was typically 28 degrees of loft, the same as a modern 5 iron. While cavity backed clubs were designed to help get these stronger lofted clubs in the air, most average golfers still struggle trying to hit a long (39 inch) 3 iron with any consistency. By designing hybrid clubs with wider bodies, the clubs appear “meatier” giving the golfer more confidence. In addition, most of these hybrids have a lower center of gravity thus promoting a higher ball flight. The new slot technology allows any even better ability to get more distance AND higher ball flight from your hybrid clubs. The design of these hybrids from Adams and TaylorMade creates a higher launching ball flight but with much lower spin so the ball carries farther yet lands softly.
Why not just get a 7 or 9 wood? First of all, very few OEM manufacturer’s like Taylor Made, Callaway and Mizuno actually make a 9 wood (usually a 23 degree loft). Most 7 woods are 21 degree lofts which is a good replacement for a 3 iron. So finding a good replacement for your 4 and 5 iron will require a little searching and working with companies like Alpha, and Wishon Golf. These companies will make hybrid clubs in lofts up to 37 degree (8 iron replacement) so you have a lot of options. The first question you need to ask yourself is “where will I use this hybrid club the most? Off the tee or off the fairway and in the rough?” If your answer is off the tee, go for a hybrid iron style like the Royal Collection (think Sonartec), Tour Edge Exotics Hybrid, or Mizuno Hybrid Iron. If your answer is from the fairway or rough, you may want to stay with a 7 or 9 wood or try the Adams Super Black, Mizuno or TaylorMade RBZ Rescue.
Adams (Irons Style)
TaylorMade (Woods Style)
What about shaft options? Interestingly enough, most manufacturers are putting very soft and short shafts in their hybrid clubs. The main reason is to make the clubs easier to hit (shorter shaft) and easier to get in the air (softer shaft). These soft shafts usually result in fat shots and pulls due to the excessive toe droop and closed club face at impact. When we fit golfers in hybrid clubs we normally make the shaft about three quarters of an inch longer than the corresponding iron length (38.75” five iron replacement, for example). We also want the shaft to be the same type as their fairway woods, i.e. graphite, and usually slightly heavier than the fairway wood shafts. This could be as light as 65 grams or 85 gram to 105 gram weight, depending upon the golfers loading factor, body mass and forward-swing time. For most golfers, we like them to approach hitting hybrid clubs like an iron. This is also because most hybrid clubs have the lie angle of long irons so trying to sweep the club off the fairway will result in a hard draw or pull shot.
The bottom line is that you will begin immediately to play better golf and have more fun with the correct style and number of hybrid clubs and the correct shaft in your clubs. So whether you are looking for new equipment or have already purchased a hybrid club but aren’t hitting it so well, look at the shaft first. Since the shaft is the only moving part of the golf club, it is important that it moves correctly for your swing profile. With your hybrid clubs matched to your swing, you will begin to see the consistency in both distance and direction you are looking for this year!