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.
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:
- The center of gravity is farther back and lower, which helps lift the ball into the air.
- 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.
- 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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The Wedge Guy: How many wedges?
From the feedback I get, many golfers are not entirely confident…or are completely confused…about how many wedges they should carry. Those of you who know my work and writing over the past 25 years or so also know that I am a proponent of carrying a carefully measured “set” of wedges that give you the shotmaking control you need in prime scoring range. But what I’ve learned over those many years is that the number of wedges that is “right”, and the lofts of those wedges can be very different from one golfer to another.
The reason I think getting this right is so important is that your scores are more heavily influenced by your play from wedge range into the green, and your shotmaking around the greens, than by any other factor. The right “set” of wedges in your bag can make all the difference in the world.
As I repeatedly preach, taking your guidance from the PGA Tour players might not help you achieve your goals. These guys spend hundreds of hours each year perfecting their wedge play, and you simply cannot do that. The good news is that you can add some science to your wedge set make-up that can help you have more shot choices when you are in scoring range or trying to save par from a missed green.
My basic premise on the subject is that the answer can be approached scientifically for each golfer, and it is a multi-step process
- Begin by knowing the loft of the 9-iron and “P-club” that came with your set of irons, as optimum gapping begins there. The industry challenge of producing longer-hitting irons has led most OEMs to strengthen lofts throughout the set. Along the way, it was apparently decided to widen the gaps between the short irons to 5 degrees from the traditional 4 that stood for decades. What this does is increase the distance differential between your 9-iron and “P-club” from what I would consider optimum. For golfers of slower swing speeds, that 5-degree gap might well deliver a 10-12 yard differential, but my bet is that most of you are getting a difference closer to 15 yards, or even more. That just will not let you get the distance control precision you want in prime scoring range.
- The second step is to be honest with your distances. I am a big proponent of getting on the golf course or range with a laser or GPS and really knowing how far you carry each of your short irons and wedges. Hit a number of shots from known yardages and see where they land (not including roll out). My bet is that you will find that your distances are different from what you thought they were, and that the differentials between clubs are not consistent.
- Figure out where to start. If your actual and real distance gap between your 9-iron and “P-club” is over 12-13 yards, maybe the place to start could be with a stronger P-club. You can either have your loft strengthened a bit or make the shaft 1/4 to 1/2” longer to add a few yards to that club.
- Figure out what lofts your wedges should have. From there, I suggest selecting lofts of your wedges to build a constant yardage difference of 10-12 yards between clubs. Depending on your strength profile, that may require wedges at four-degree intervals, or it might be five – each golfer is different. Those with very slow swing speeds might even find that six-degree gaps deliver that distance progression.
- Challenge the traditional 52-56-60 setup. Those lofts became the “standard” when set-match pitching wedges were 48 degrees of loft. That hasn’t been the case in over 25 years. Most of today’s P-clubs are 45 degrees, which leaves a very large distance differential between that club and a 52-degree gap wedge. Some enlightened golfers have evolved to carry a wedge set of 50-54-58, which is a step in the right direction. But you can get whatever loft precision you want, and you should do that. At SCOR, we made wedges in every loft from 41 to 61 degrees, and our wedge-fitting tool prescribed lofts of 49-53-57-61 to many golfers, based on that 45* “P-club” and their stated distance profile. Those who took that advice were generally very happy with that change. We fitted and sold many sets at 49-54-59 as well. Though no company offers wedges in every loft, you can bend even numbers to hit your numbers exactly. Just remember, bending stronger reduces the bounce and bending weaker increases the bounce.
What many of you will find with this exercise is that it suggests that you should be carrying more wedges. That’s probably true for the vast majority of recreational golfers. I have come to realize that more wedges and less long clubs will usually improve your scores. After all, long or short by 25-30 feet is great at long range, but not acceptable in prime scoring range.
If you have more clubs at the long end of your bag (longer than a 5- or 6-iron) than you do at the short end (9-iron and up) then you should consider an honest self-appraisal of how often you use each club between your driver and putter. My bet is that it will be an enlightening analysis.
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