Look up "hybrid" in the dictionary and it tells you that the word means "something made by combing two different elements." Unsurprisingly, that is precisely what a hybrid golf club is; a combination of a fairway wood and a long iron.
For decades players battled with their fairway woods and long irons, trying to hit greens from the rough or stopping the ball quickly on the green from long distance. Necessity being the mother of invention, companies grew wise and began addressing that need with the invention of the hybrid.
Many manufacturers are now making sets of irons from 5-PW to allow players to fill the gap with one, two or more hybrid clubs. The look and performance of the various hybrid clubs on the market can differ greatly based on the type of golfer its designed for.
Here is some information to explain exactly what a hybrid is and how to go about selecting the right one for your game.
The most common version of a hybrid is wood-style club, sometimes also referred to as a rescue club after the first TaylorMade hybrid of the same name launched in 2002.
The long, hollow head design makes it easier to hit from tough lies than either a fairway wood or a long iron. The narrow, smaller area on the head means there is less club to get caught up in longer grass. Therefore hybrids produce better contact from tough lies than using a conventional fairway wood or long iron.
In general hybrids will create less ball spin that a fairway wood but more than an iron because of the head design. This means that they are more likely to stop on approach shots into greens than the equivalent iron so players who don’t have high swing speeds may find the hybrids offer better results for them than irons.
The design of the head is also suited to certain types of lies around the green. With more forgiveness than an iron it can hit shots from the fringe that are easier to control and run low towards to the hole.
Because hybrids are essentially long-iron replacements, their lofts tend to mirror the lofts of the longer irons in your set.
The majority of hybrids will sit somewhere between 18 and 27 degrees. Some hybrid sets of irons may offer higher lofted models designed to replace mid irons.
It is important to understand that, for example, a 21-degree hybrid will not produce the same distance as a 21-degree fairway wood or 21-degree long iron. The size and construction of the heads and length of shafts mean the hybrid will travel closer to the distance of a long iron than a fairway wood.
Another key influence in distance is the shaft and shaft length. The majority of hybrids will come fitted with a graphite shaft to reduce weight and add distance.
One of the secrets of the utility club is its shaft length. Unlike a fairway wood, the utility club is shorter and much closer in length to a long iron. Typically, hybrids will be around 2 to 3 inches shorter than a fairway wood with the same loft.
The reason behind the difference in length is that the shorter the club, the more control you have over your shots.
Like drivers and fairway woods, several hybrids now offer adjustability. Most concentrate on adjusting the loft, offering a range of 3 to 5 degrees, to best suit the distance or flight you are looking for.
Some models may also allow adjustments to the face angle to offer a open, closed or neutral look at address. Whilst few hybrids have the need or space for adjustable weights, some do have interchangeable weights in the sole designed to influence the club's centre of gravity
The idea behind a driving, or utility, iron is pretty self-explanatory: it is an iron used primarily for driving. Its design creates a low-launching, low-spinning ball flight that is better suited to high swing speed players like low handicappers and Tour players.
A driving iron is typically a larger, more forgiving version of a long iron. A driving iron may feature a cavity back design or hollow head construction. The head shape and construction produces a low-spinning flight that is longer than an iron but will launch lower, run further and be more accurate than a wood-style hybrid.
For that reason, driving irons are ideal for tee shots on hard, links courses or shorter, tight courses that place a heavier emphasis on accuracy off the tee. Whereas, they are not as suited to land softly and stop quickly on a green.
The majority of driving irons will range from 16 degrees to 22, mirroring the lofts of traditional 1, 2, and 3 irons, although some 4 and 5 iron models are now appearing.
Unlike hybrids, most driving irons will come fitted with a steel shaft as standard. Steel produces less flex and therefore less dispersion. Again, the heavier, stiffer nature of a steel shaft demands a decent level of swing speed, but should be more accurate.
For more information on shafts, go to the Golf Shafts Buying Guide
Hybrid Or Driving Iron?
With modern drivers and fairway woods getting stronger whilst irons remain fairly consistent and concentrated on forgiveness and launch, there is a growing distance gap in many golfers’ bags. So how do you fill that gap? Do you need a driving iron or a hybrid?
Essentially it comes down to where and when will you be using the club.
If you are looking for a club to hit primarily off the tee, and you are comfortable launching the ball a little lower, then a driving iron will fit that need. High ball speed players may also prefer driving irons for long shots into greens as they can generate enough ball speed to get the ball to stop.
However, if you are looking for a club that is easier to hit than a long iron and can be used to hit onto the green, you may be better suited shopping for a hybrid.
Watch Our Video on Getting Fitted for Hybrids