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10 reasons you should switch to hybrids

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Well, the time has come for me to admit that I’m NO longer a long-iron carrying player. I’m a hybrid convert! And I’m not ashamed to admit it, because hybrids help me play better.

My approach shots with my hybrids (which replace my 2, 3 and 4 irons), fly higher, land softer and stop quicker. And when I do mishit these clubs, the results are much better and, more importantly, findable. My only dilemma is that my bag now looks like I have a traveling puppet-show in tow.

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My current bag includes three hybrids!

I strongly suggest you follow my lead, and to support my suggestion here are my Top-10 reasons you need to play hybrids!

You need hybrids in the bag if you…

If your handicap is higher than 3

Higher handicap golfers must use hybrids because, generally speaking, they don’t have the club head and ball speed to use long irons effectively. Shots with long irons that don’t have ample speed will come out too low, have too little spin, and run off the back of greens. Remember that hybrids are designed to launch the ball higher, spin more, and come into the green softer; all things that the average player will find supremely beneficial.

The higher your handicap, the more fairway woods and hybrids you should have. A general rule of thumb:

  • 25+ handicappers should start their iron set with a 7 iron.
  • 12-25 handicappers should start their iron set with a 6 iron.
  • 10 handicappers or less should start their iron set with a 5 iron.
  • 5 handicappers or less should start their iron set with a 4 iron.

If you’re a flat-ball hitter 

An LPGA Tour players’ average apex height with their driver is roughly 75 feet, and most amateurs never even get close to that height! I would say that most of my average players hit their long irons in the 45-60-foot range, with landing angles in the 20s and 30s. At that height, golfers simply do not hit the ball high enough to hold the green, which leads to hitting less greens in regulation. 

If your misses tend to be thin and right with long irons 

The thin miss with a long iron comes from the player trying to lift the ball into the air, causing the hands to flip prematurely. This moves the low point of the swing too far behind the ball, and in an effort to avoid pounding the club into the ground, the player catches the ball thin. 

There’s three reason why hybrids help to eliminate this miss:

  1. The center of gravity is farther back and lower, which helps lift the ball into the air.
  2. They’re less intimidating. Golfers know, from experience, how much easier and more forgiving higher-lofted woods and hybrids are to hit up into the air, which instills confidence.
  3. Vertical gear effect, will help increase spin on shots hit low on the face.  

If you’ve noticed your club head speed lagging over the last few years

While losing a little swing speed isn’t earth shattering, hybrids will be more convenient as your speed decreases. The slower your swing speed, the less ball speed you can achieve, and the flatter the ball will launch; all bad things if you need to stop the ball on the green. Most of the time, and especially in this circumstance, adding height increases distance.

If the course you play has mostly elevated greens

Whenever you’re hitting into an elevated green, your ball is naturally coming in flatter due to the rise of the slope and the reduced decent time of the golf ball from its apex. Therefore, a golf ball coming in higher will help offset the negative effects of the slope on your approach, and the ball stop quicker on the green. Hybrids offer that solution. 

If your long irons tend to chase off the back of the green after landing

Whenever you have a lack of speed, a lack of apex height and a lack of spin, you will have a flatter launch angle and thus, a flatter angle of descent into the green. Why would you want your longer irons chasing? Hybrids will allow the ball to stop because it counters all the above factors. However, if you play in hard and windy conditions, then it might be a good idea to have the long irons handy, because if it gets too blustery, a high and spinning shot will balloon. Approach shots are all about controlling angle of descent.

If your course has tight fairways

Hybrids for the average player are easier to hit, we know, and this helps a player make better swings on more difficult driving holes. Your worst long-iron swings are almost always worse than your worst hybrid swings. Hit 1,000 shots off the tee with each, and I’ll bet you put more hybrids in play.

From a more scientific standpoint, the softer landing angle and added spin produced by a hybrid will keep the ball from running too much when it lands. Tour pros use driving irons (which are basically part long iron/part hybrid) because they have a touch more versatility than hybrids when it comes to shaping shots and changing trajectory. The tour pros don’t need the forgiveness, they need the control — but we aren’t tour pros. 

If you play a “distance” ball

If you play a distance ball, chances are that you don’t have the club and ball speed necessary to spin the ball and get the ball up high enough. The carry distance between irons should have consistent separation throughout the bag. The last thing you want to see during gap testing is your shots separated by 7-12 yards in all your irons until you reach a certain length of iron, then have your carry distances close in while the run out increases. Once you start seeing the plateau, that’s where you should start adding in hybrids. 

If you struggle hitting the ball solid with your irons

Hybrids can work with varying angles of attack unlike long irons — some good players are more sweepy, while others are a touch more diggy.

As discussed, hybrids are designed with this in mind: they have a wider sole, a lower and further back center of gravity, plus bulge/roll on their faces, which aids gear effect. These are all great designs that help the average player with impact and control. From a psychological standpoint, if you think something is easier to hit, you will make more relaxed golf swings. Relaxed swings are usually better, and most importantly, lead to shots that are findable!

If you want to play better

As little as I play (about 10-15 times per year if I’m lucky!), and the frequency of my practice time (zero), I need all the help I can get. Hybrids do this for me — they make it easier for me to find my shot around the green, not off in the rocks or desert. 

I need something that does not require me to hit a million practice shots in order to have some idea where the ball is going to land — not to mention the fact that I just don’t hit long irons high enough for them to be useful under typical playing conditions. I am very honest about my abilities and Trackman has shown me what weaknesses I have. Why fight it when there are clubs that can help?

Golf is hard enough without letting our egos get in the way!

Related: The Best Hybrids of 2015

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. Don Golfo 2018

    Oct 15, 2018 at 2:07 am

    There is a lot of bravado going on here in the comments. The question is not can you hit a 3 iron well. Really it’s can you hit it as consistently as an equivalent hybrid. I’ve seen lots of amateurs hit great 3 iron shots on one hole and then see a big drop off on the next hole. I think that if they swallowed their pride they’d find that the poor strikes with a hybrid would have been far less damaging. I know a lot of guys will be reading this thinking I don’t make bad strikes, but that’s just delusional.

  2. Travis

    Jun 6, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I love all the comments here about people saying “learn to hit long irons” when the vast majority of Tour Pros nowadays are going to easier-to-hit long clubs. Look in the bag of even the best in the game and you’ll see a hybrid of some sort in the 3-iron/21*-ish spot. Numerous pros don’t even start their true iron sets until the 4 or 5 irons. They’re all using hybrid clubs in the long irons now. Some are chunky “driving irons”, some are hybrids, but whichever way you spin it, they are all hybrid clubs to some variety whether they be more iron-like or wood-like.

    If the best players in the world are going for easier to hit alternatives of their 3 and 4 irons, and starting their real irons at the 5-iron, then I think a lot of us should take notice.

  3. Rick

    Nov 9, 2016 at 6:36 am

    I have only been playing golf since I retired (5 years) and I was advised to get rid of my 3 and 4 irons and use a hybrid. I believe I have been using it reasonably successfully for the last two years (despite criticism from mates who have been playing for the last 40 years), to drive the last 150 metres to the green, chip the ball onto the green from 15 metres out etc. It has proven to have been an invaluable club and I get a bit pissed off when people tell me I should be using an 8 or 9 iron onto the green, and I should use anything but my hybrid! I think it is time they moved on and started to get with the modern game.

    I believe there is more skill in using a hybrid from various distances than supposedly using a 7, 8,or 9 iron as the occasion calls!

    Each to his own I guess!

    Rick

  4. Richard

    May 14, 2015 at 11:24 am

    The handicap analysis at number 10 is absolute baloney. It is all about strike and not your handicap. I play off 16 and according to flightscope and trackman, I get far better numbers off long irons than I do a hybrids. It comes down to whichever you happen to strike better and ultimately what you prefer looking down on. There is no general rule of thumb in golf just people trying to cover their backsides…..

  5. Nard_S

    May 6, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve adopted an alternative perspective. Learn how to hit a long iron and every club in your bag becomes easier to hit. 3-irons off the tee are a higher percentage shot than any wood or hybrid once you dedicate.

  6. Phat

    May 6, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Cheers Tom. I play a similar about to you so it was also time to get realistic about what I can actually hit consistently. Favorite clubs in my bag the past two years have been an s300 shafted 585h 21* followed by my old Aussie blade PW. Recently added a 24* hybrid. These two hybrids are definite performers for me both on 150+ yard par 3s and par 5 fairways. Problem clubs for me are fairway woods (removed from my bag recently), low lofted drivers (read. gave away my 9.5 and shortened my 910d to 44″ and set to 13* draw – much more consistent and even drove the green on a par 4 last week…) as well as hot faced perimeter weighted shorted irons (hit my 25 year old Hogan Redline 7-E more consistently than anything out there. There is a lot to be said for idiosyncratic club set ups and seems strange that there aren’t more unusual PGA WITBs.

  7. Bigleftygolfer

    May 6, 2015 at 10:18 am

    So any advice for a low handicapper who is getting older really wants to use a hybrid for his three iron but just can’t seem to find one I can hit consistently? I currently play miura Tournament blades I hit them fine unless my knee hurts and sway and end up hitting a pull however aside from old age I have a higher ss 115 with driver. Does anybody have a suggestion for a lower HC HYBRID every time I try a HYBRID I hit a balloon ball And I can’t seem to flight them at all my 3 iron goes high and lands soft but I no longer hit it over 225 so I have learned from fellow players that hybrids go a bit further than a normal blade. I have seen this on trackman but can’t find a head that suits my eye or playing needs I typically play local state events and private clubs that usually have greens in the 10 -12 range I also play in all conditions so ability to flight and shape the ball is important to me. Please help as I have swallowed my ego years ago but can’t find the right club!

    • Dave S

      May 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      I would try the Adams Pro A12 (from a few years ago) for a few of reasons: (1) They are a smaller-headed hybrid that will probably be a better transition from iron to hybrid for a low handicapper, (2) because they are geared toward the better player, they have very little off-set (which means you’ll have an easier time converting to them using your standard long iron swing, (3) they come with very good stock shaft offerings (Aldila RIP Phenom or Matrix Ozik White Tie), and (4) You can get them for very cheap now (b/w $40 and $80 on ebay)… don’t get sucked into buying the new version that’s $180. I game the 20deg to replace my 3i and an Adams DHY 24deg to replace my 4i. Loving them. Cheers!

      • MHendon

        May 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm

        Yeah I use the 20 degree A12 also but to replace my 2 iron. And I bought a 22 degree tour issue Adams Pro black head and had the same shaft as the 20 degree installed in it. The Matrix shaft. The pro black has a very small head and actually feels like an iron. Flights the ball like an iron but longer and more forgiving. It’s great out of difficult lie’s and even for chipping around the green.

    • Phat

      May 6, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Could be worth trying a stiff, steel shafted 21* hybrid… I picked up a very well used titleist 585h 21* (shafted with an s300) a couple years ago for $20. It plays so well that I professionally refinished the chipped paint on it head and now bag it for every round. Can’t imagine a more consistent 3i substitute.

    • Obee

      May 20, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Absolutely. As a low-handicapper myself (0 to +2 during the season, usually) who plays a LOT of hybrids (my longest iron is an 8-iron!), the key for better players who want to use hybrids is that the shaft should be heavy (75 or more grams) and should have minimal torque (3 degrees or less?). Find a hybrid shape that you like and put a heavier, stouter shaft in it, and I’ll bet you fall in love. 🙂

  8. Jeffrey

    May 6, 2015 at 3:54 am

    What if you do not like the look of Hybrids? (like Me) and therefore have never had them and never will. I will stick to my Fairway woods and long irons regardless of handicap.

    • dapadre

      May 6, 2015 at 5:28 am

      Have you tried Hybrid irons.

      • Dave S

        May 6, 2015 at 1:34 pm

        Incredible clubs… game the Adams DHY Proto XTD from last season in 24deg as a 4i replacement and I absolutely love it. They are miles more forgiving on mishits. I’m not joking that I hit the club 200 yds on the nose out of the first cut of rough, uphill (walked this off with GPS)… I would have never come close to that w/ my old 4i. Everyone but low single digit HCPs would benefit from these clubs.

  9. Alex

    May 5, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Long irons are SO MUCH EASIER to control in the wind. If there’s a 10+ MPH wind in my face, putting a hybrid club in my hands is like suicide. I like having the two extremes of a long iron (3) and also carrying a 7 wood. They’re the same loft, but are useful in two completely different situations.

  10. Graham

    May 5, 2015 at 3:32 am

    Can we please put aside the arbitrary “if your handicap is…” rules when they have zero relevance to the topic at hand? So people above a handicap over 3 should carry hybrids because they generally don’t have the clubhead and ball speed to use long irons effectively? Why not then just say “if your average driver clubhead speed is not 105” or something that actually pertains to the topic at hand? Sorry to rant, but as a high handicap (12) with high clubhead speed (avg ~110) these blanket statements that somehow magically relate clubhead speed and ball-striking to handicap are just plain wrong. Over 60% of the shots on a golf course are taken inside 100 yards, and it’s those shots that prevent some of us from reaching your magical arbitrary 3-handicap , not the fact that we do or don’t carry hybrids…

    • Carlos Danger

      May 5, 2015 at 10:24 am

      While I agree with the overall message of this article in that 95% of golfers have no business with anything higher than a 5 iron in their bag and if they took the time to practice with a hybrid they would have better results.

      I do agree with your comment regarding the blanket statements about what you should play based on your hdcp. Im a 5 and If you were to watch me hit the ball off the tee and out of the fairways…you would think I was tour player. I have just always had a really good swing and been a good ball striker, but like most people…my weak point is on and around the greens. There are many guys that I lose to that I crush it past and hit it alot better than that make up so many strokes on the green. So if you want to say anyone over XYZ hdcp need to play this…that is not accurate.

      I think the further breakdowns in this article regarding your average miss, ball flight, club head speed, etc…are much better indicators

    • Joe Golfer

      May 6, 2015 at 12:06 am

      Excellent point about the relationship to handicap and the need for hybrids.
      I happen to hit the ball fairly well with five iron on up, but like you I lose strokes on the short game due to lack of available practice time and facilities.
      One problem I don’t have with my hybrids is ballooning. That may be because my hybrids are rather old. They are Sonartec MD hybrids, probably the first company to popularize the hybrid. It still gives a penetrating ball flight, but it is much easier to hit than a three or four iron.
      That said, they don’t stop as fast as some of the current hybrids that give a much higher ball flight, but I’ll take the happy medium.

    • TR1PTIK

      May 19, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Absolutely agree with the sentiment here. I play off an 18 handicap with an average swing speed of 102 – 105 (according to my most recent lesson with Flightscope). I can play from pretty much any tee on the courses near me (they’re all quite short) and score roughly the same. I lose it all in penalties (usually OB from slicing my driver) and the short game.

  11. Travis

    May 5, 2015 at 3:18 am

    This article is spot on.

    I replaced all irons 3-6 with Cobra hybrids. I have noticed very good results as Im not long off the tee. Even if my 2nd shot is 170m out I can hit the green about 1/3 of the time and if I miss have a short chip.

    Before anything +160m and I would completely botch the shot maybe 1/3 of the time. Have to play the percentages. 3iron vs 3 hybrid not question what is easier to hit – for me

  12. Greg

    May 4, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    I picked up a Mizuno JPX Fli-Hi Hybrid #4. Its a long iron replacement so it fits right in to replace that iron…same length. Its not longer like a normal hybrid. Mine fits right into my G25 irons set. It’s 1/2″ shorter and a 2* flat lie. So you can customize them. It is soooooo much easier to hit than a typical 4 iron. It’s so much easier for me to hit that I just ordered a #5. I have one regular hybrid and its a 20* Ping G20. Easily the easiest and most consistant hybrid I’ve ever hit. These clubs aren’t leaving my bag. Seriously…..if you’re considering switching out a 3, 4, or 5 iron for a hybrid check into the Mizuno JPX Fli-Hi’s. They’ll change your golfing life 🙂

  13. Pablo

    May 4, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    I can hit a 3 wood 250 yards, I pee standing up, and I play a hybrid. Michelle Wie — US Women’s Open champion — pees sitting down, drives the ball further than most members of GolfWRX (even though everyone here drives it over 300 each time lol), and she uses hybrids as well.

    Oh, the plight of the macho man and his fragile sensibilities! Lol

    • MHendon

      May 6, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      LOL I’m with you Pablo

    • Tweedie

      May 6, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      Given the way she bends over while putting, I wouldn’t like to guess how she pees!

  14. Philip

    May 4, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Personally, whenever I suck at my long irons, I suck at hybrids; and when I smoke my hybrid, I smoke my long irons. Thus, I’ll continue to improve my swing and game overall instead. I still have one 20 hybrid and am looking for a 23/24, but I do not find any real differences between irons and hybrids, for myself – they play the same.

    • Jack

      May 6, 2015 at 12:21 am

      The main benefit for me is that for the same hybrid club that replaced an iron, I can swing easier knowing that it will fly just as far. That’s a huge plus already. Unfortunately I feel like my missing with hybrids are worse than my irons. I didn’t actually test that but it just feels like it.

      • Philip

        May 11, 2015 at 2:29 pm

        That’s the thing. For sure the average person “me included” can get a ball airborne with less effort using a hybrid, but my it is the misses that causes me the most grief. I suspect by the time I am able to rock a long iron, my hybrid will become steady too. At least I hope so. Personally I enjoy my hybrid more for the saves I can pull off with it over just a long iron replacement. Around the green, in the sand, in the woods – you name it – I find so many creative uses for a hybrid. I may even pull a wedge to keep my 3i and use my hybrid mainly for emergency recovery situations.

  15. Mr. K

    May 4, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    There should be an asterisk next to this article, applies to a few. You don’t need hybrids, if you hit them well then sure by all means. But it’s not the end all be all that it’s portrayed to be.

  16. MHendon

    May 4, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    I think one point you left out Tom is the very low spin rates of the new golf balls. I’m 45 now and my club head speed is still with in a mile and hour or two of when I was 30. Back then I not only carried a 3 iron but also a 2. The higher spin of the ball 15 years ago allowed it to climb easier off that low launch angle you get with long irons. Not long after the introduction of the PROV1 I replaced my 2 iron with an 18 degree adams hybrid. About 3 years ago I realized the carry difference between my 3 and 4 iron was only about 7 to 8 yards so I replaced the 3 iron with a 22 degree adams hybrid. Now my gaping is much better. Just for sake of reference I’ve been using the same Irons since 2001 Mizuno MP33’s and my club head speed usually comes in around 112. Oh and I’m a 1.6 handicap and feel know shame in carrying two hybrids because not only are they better from good lies, they’re far superior from bad ones.

  17. Jang Hyung-sun

    May 4, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    I don’t like hybrid Traj. For me, nothing like hitting my Miura MB-001 3 iron…butter soft. Anything longer its PRGR fairways paired with Oban Devotion- so easy it’s automatic. Once I no longer hit Miura 3 iron perfectly I put on skirt rather than hit pickle on stick looking hybrid.

    • Cliff

      May 7, 2015 at 10:18 am

      I’ll take my hybrid from the thick rough over your Miura 3i any day of the week.

  18. Martin

    May 4, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    4/10 apply to me, I gave up on my 3&4 irons over 10 years ago.

    I used to love hitting my 3 iron, but reality is even when my Driver SS was 102-105 (now low 90’s), hybrids were just so much easier to hit higher and straighter.

  19. Lowell

    May 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Totally agree with your recommendation of switching long irons for hybrids. I myself picked up a hybrid to fill in the gap between my 3 wood and 3 iron. My 3 hybrid hits about 230 and my 3 iron is right at 215. Great way to pick up yardage when needed on those longer par 3’s.

  20. Jim

    May 4, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    As a PGA Teaching Professional and accomplished player, I definitely agree!!!! Best thing to happen to golf in a very long time!!! If you haven’t tried them you should. If you are “too good”” for them well I hope your ego doesn’t mind throwing a few shots (or dollars) away each round! If it’s legal and it makes it easier……why not?!?

  21. Lucky Intervale

    May 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I do have a 17* H2 that I hit well, but I love the idea of the hybrid iron… best of both worlds. I game an MP H5 3 iron bent to 20* with a lighter weight version of my irons’ shafts… money. Wilson’s new hybrid irons are sweet as well…

    • David

      May 4, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Lucky, I’m on the same boat as you. I’ve tried many hybrids and no luck. Tried again over the last month and my Mizuno MP-H4 2-iron continues to win out. The heavier and SHORTER shaft definitely help me with my accuracy. But, Tom, I fully understand your position and encourage others to go the hybrid route.

      • sgniwder99

        May 5, 2015 at 7:52 am

        I’m with both of you on the H4 and H5s. I have a full set of H4s right now. But come on, let’s not fool ourselves. The H4 and H5 long irons ARE essentially hybrids.

        • David

          May 5, 2015 at 11:12 pm

          Yes, I would say they are a cross of a hybrid and an iron. Say one part fairway metal and two parts iron (if a hybrid is only one part of each). Very forgiving due to their large cavity, but steel shaft, shorter shaft, and minimal offset really benefit those with some higher swing speeds that are looking for forgivenes.

          • tony

            May 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm

            I love that as you get better, you can get player Mizuno irons and still use the MP-H4/5 series for the long irons. Pretty much like mizuno does with their split sets.

  22. Brutus

    May 4, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I hate comments like “if you’re a 3 handicap or higher”. I had 2 hybrids in my bag (21 and 25 degree) and recently starting this season put my 4 iron back in the bag over the 25 hybrid. I play to about a 9 handicap, but I was rewarded with several excellent 4i shots into the wind in the first several rounds this year that the hybrid is too unpredictable in handling. I found that distance control with hybrids in general is harder than with a iron too, even in calm condidtions. That said, the 21 hybrid is one of my favorite clubs to hit. Arbitrary rules are meant to be broken arbitrarily.

  23. Golfraven

    May 4, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    btw, if you don’t like chunky hybrids try a Ping iSeries or even Adams. Ping i20 hybrid is still one of my favourites – even compared to my new 915h. If you want to go back in time, buy the Ben Hogan CFT hybrid. Had this one for over 8 years in the bag – those still sell well on ebay.

  24. Golfraven

    May 4, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    What about replacing your short Fairway woods with hybrids? I have just kicked my 4 FW out and put a H2 instead in the bag – guess which of those I hit better off the deck and fairway/semi. You still see lots of folks with FWs but think they would have less work swinging a Hybrid.

  25. Mke

    May 4, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Have a 3 wood and 5 hybrid. Feel like I used to hit the hybrid better but lately been money with the wood.

    • jcorbran

      May 4, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      those are normally 4 clubs apart. 3w/1i, 5w/2h/2i, 7w/3h/3i, 9w/4h/4i, 11w/5h/5i.

  26. Jeff Smith

    May 4, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    That idea doesn’t apply to everyone and most of your numbers are meaningless and not accurate

  27. Tom D

    May 4, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    For the record, I pee sitting down. Easier than remembering to constantly adjust the toilet seat. I also play hybrids instead of long irons. I am quite consistent with long irons – consistently short, consistently bad. With hybrids I am inconsistent: occasionally bad, usually pretty good, once in a while brilliant. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

    • SJ

      May 6, 2015 at 8:51 am

      Sitting down is just more comfortable. Why society decided we have to stand is beyond me!

  28. Bob

    May 4, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I hit a 21* hybrid (similar to a 3-iron) at a demo day about twelve years ago. The first three balls I hit were the best 3-iron shots I had ever hit, and all in a row. Maybe one out of three actual 3-iron shots would have flow like that, and I did that with the hybrid every time. Instant convert.

    All you have to do is swing the club and stay out of its way. I even use a 17* hybrid that I hit very straight and let it eat up the yards. I can still hit my 4-iron, but the hybrid is so much less work, there’s no point in not using it.

    9.5 handicap.

    • jcorbran

      May 4, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      most manufacturers have a 17* 2 hybrid, 19* 3 hybrid and a 21/22* 4hybrid, so it sounds like you were hitting the 4 hybrid better than your 3 iron, looks like a keeper as long as your gapping is good.

  29. Charles

    May 4, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Tom, great article as usual, but I have a question. What loft is a long iron for you? When I played my best in 1972-74 my iron set, Wilson Staff forged, had a 1 iron of 17* of loft, 5 iron had 32* loft, this is almost my current 8 iron. Going this way the golf club companies will release in 2020 a Pitching wedge of 36* loft.

    • Nolanski

      May 4, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      36 degree PW? Ha! Thats too funny. Eventually they will have to stop strengthening club lofts right? Its kind of insulting that golf companies think they can pull a fast one on consumers with their whole disappearing loft shenanigans.

      • MHendon

        May 6, 2015 at 5:51 pm

        That’s because most golfers are egotistical male hacks who only care how far they hit it. However it’s funny when they can hit there super strong 8 iron as far as mine but are then 50 yds behind me off the tee.

  30. rob

    May 4, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Tom, great advice, its good to hear someone of your stature finally talking sense!!! Rob

  31. Charles

    May 4, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    In the end of each hole you just write a number, you don’t tell stories. It doesn’t matter if you are a super macho fueled by steroids or a delicate lady, in the end you just write a number. And just to remember the objective of the game is to score the lowest possible in accordance with the rules, it is totally independent if you pee stand up or seated.

  32. Myron miller

    May 4, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    This might be good advice but i don’t believe its true for everyone. Personally I’ve tried well over 100+ hybrids and have yet to hit one consistently. One I hit pretty good but still had my usual problems with it – chunking it. Whereas my 4 iron may not be as high although its higher than many 4 hybrids I’ve hit but is way more consistent. And there is no comparison to how well I hit a 5 iron versus any hybrid – higher/longer/more consistent contact.

    A couple of 4 hybrids I tried I couldn’t get over about 6-10 feet off the ground no matter what. I think the highest shot was 10 feet and many were not more than 5 feet. Granted my 4 iron is about 20-30 feet but the 5 is about 50-60. Driver is close to 100

    And i’m definitely shorter and less swing speed than years ago. But I’ve gone to a 5 and a 7 wood and am looking for a 9 wood with the correct shaft. i use both the 5 and the 7 wood a lot and am very comfortable hitting them.

    I think he missed the point by recommending only hybrids and not higher lofted woods. Not everyone can hit a hybrid where they could hit a fairway wood and others would definitely hit a hybrid easier than a fairway wood. It most assuredly is not a one set of hybrids fits all situation.

  33. dapadre

    May 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    So very true! I have seen the results of this with a playing partner. He asked me for some advice as a recent golf convert. Since he had played for about 2 years he saw little improvement. I told him ditch your 3 – 6 irons and use hybrids. he was really hesitant at first, but did it. That summer he dropped from a HCP28 to 16! He is now a HCP 12 an his highest iron is a 6. What many fail to take into consideration is for one the lofts have gone wacky. Note that what you is being sold as a 5 iron now is probably a 4 or even a 3 iron not to long ago. Also for some especially newbies, they dont have the swing speed to get the long irons airborne to a good height. I can hit a 4 iron quite well, but 5 is my longest iron.

    Some food for thought, most senior tour players have 5-6 as longest irons. Lydia Ko’s longest iron is a 6. She is lighting up the LPGA. For the guys that may look down on that and say LPGA or Senior, if you had an LPGA/Senior game, you would be one heck of a player.

    • Paul Clarke

      Dec 18, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Excellent comments, could not agree with you more. I run three hybrids, a 3 set at 20 a 4 set at 24 and a five set at 28 my Mizuno irons come in with a six set at 32, which by the way used to be the typical 5 iron, and 4 degree gaps all the way to 60 lob wedge. While I appreciate that removing long irons from ones bag is considered by some to be less than completely heterosexual, I find that the results speak for themselves. So I shall continue in my own little world with my 6 handicap and enjoy the game for what it is meant to be, namely, fun.

  34. Jm

    May 4, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I definitely believe most players should be playing less long irons and more hybrids/fwy woods.

    2 good reasons are the new balls and the new irons

    The newer balls typically spin less off long irons than even the balls of 10-15 years ago. Also the new iron lofts make a 4 iron play at the same loft as previous 2/3 irons

    What are your thoughts on choosing hybrids over fairway woods?

    I have seen data that shows players hit hybrids better in regards to yards off line left to right (better directional control) and typically hit fwy woods better in regards to how close to pin high (more consistent distance control)

    I believe some of this can be equated to shaft length differences and I believe most people would actually be better off with fairway woods that are cut to the corresponding hybrid length

    • Adam

      May 4, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      It’s interesting what you said about new balls and new irons. A lot of equipment accommodates higher handicap players so when they start to get better, different adjustments need made. If a new player needs a low spin ball to help keep the ball straight, what do they do when they have to stick balls on greens? Is that what you were getting at? I guess that wouldn’t solve the landing angle problem though.

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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Akshay Bhatia

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with rookie phenom and Walker Cup Player Akshay Bhatia.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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