Hybrids Continue To Be Widely Accepted and Deliver on their Promise – Easy to Use and More Options Than Long Irons.
By: Dr. Barry Lotz
The fairway has been buzzing with the word “utility,” the name for a new type of club that is transforming the strategies of amateur golfers, and even pros on Tour, for whom hitting a long iron is a major challenge.
Most manufacturers’ R&D departments started pondering the question; why not combine the fairway wood’s features with those of a high-precision iron, to make middle range (under 200yard) shots easier, too? Like an iron, it would make setting up easier and give better directional control, even when driving against strong winds. The result was the Hybrid concept – the answer to many golfers’ prayers.
Hybrids are a combination of an iron and wood, incorporating various features of each into one product to replace hard-to-hit traditional irons. These new hybrids offer significant advantages over traditional irons and, as a result, have experienced impressive growth in recent months throughout the golf industry. Manufacturers love them because they do not require exotic materials – steel heads work perfectly- and the consumer gets an affordable club.
Most golfers struggle with their long irons (3, 4 and 5 irons) for a couple of possible reasons. The long irons have a relatively small sweet spot compared to other irons, and even more importantly MANY golfers don’t generate enough clubhead speed to get an adequate “launch angle” for the longer irons.
These hybrids are designed primarily for a player who has difficulty getting the ball airborne and with distance from trouble lies, or even the fairway. Most hybrids have a low center of gravity to enable getting the ball up quickly. The majority of pros don’t use hybrids for the same reason they don’t use high lofted drivers, cavity back “game improvement” irons, alien sand wedges and 11 woods– the ball goes too high.
But, as always, there is an exception to the rule – Todd Hamilton and Tim Petrovic are just two Tour winners who are both converts and proponents of the hybrid. The acceptance of the genre by touring pros, especially on the Champions Tour, has been somewhat of a revelation. The long irons once were the clubs that set professional golfers apart, but the benefits of hybrids have been too significant even for the best players to ignore.
The key to swinging a hybrid correctly is to look at what club(s) the hybrid has replaced. Because most hybrids are designed to be iron replacements, you will be well advised to swing your hybrid as you would yourr middle irons.
As such, remember that it’s not necessary to try and scoop the ball upward (as many feel they have to do with low-lofted irons). Instead, you need to allow the low and deep CG of the hybrid to work its magic and launch the ball at a high and optimal angle. The trick? Don’t be afraid to swing down and through as you would with a mid- or long iron.
Hybrid irons provide the playability of a fairway wood coupled with the accuracy of an iron, giving even average golfers more airtime on the difficult long approach shots. These new utility clubs are making shots in the 200-yard range so much simpler. Hybrids can be used on any lie where irons are used.
In technical jargon, because the center of gravity is farther back, usually because of a wider profile, there’s a higher launch angle (ball therefore stops quickly on the green) and because of the flat face, the ball spin rate is higher versus a regular iron head. It is also true that the ball may carry slightly farther for average and lower swing speeds and the roll distance may also decrease.
These conditions are therefore ideal for many slower swingers and for those golfers who do not consistently hit the center of the face.
So, should you switch to hybrids?
Then hybrids may be your answer to better golf shots and more enjoyment of the game.
We have identified the six best models, out of 32 tested, that you should consider in choosing a hybrid – the “gotta haves”. As always, the object of the exercise is to be custom fitted or to properly select a hybrid so as to allow you to hit the ball the same distance as a perfectly hit long iron. A well-selected hybrid will also give you far more height, ease and repeatability than using those difficult to hit long irons.
One other bit of advice – find the best shaft that works for you with your hybrid. There is a difference. Numerous shaft manufacturers have specifically designed hybrid shafts. These are the most popular: UST’s Irod, Aldila’s Gamer and Blue ByYou, Mitsubishi’s ECU, Graphite Design’s AD, Aerotech’s Steel Fiber, Penley’s Heater, Mitsubishi’s Diamana and Fujikura’s Banzai shafts.
Tour Edge Exotics CB 2
Possibly the best of all the hybrids tested!
After revolutionizing the game with the introduction of the Bazooka JMAX Iron-Wood, the Houdini hybrid, Tour Edge has more magic up their sleeves, with the new Exotics CB Max2 hybrid utility club. This is a “ultra-hybrid” club that fits in between a hybrid iron, a fairway wood and a hybrid wood with tendencies of that of a short-shafted 7-wood-like club with wide and low profile faces and lots of forgiveness.
This sleek and powerful state-of- the art hybrid features a low profile design and a moveable weighting system, kit included, that simply outperforms 99% of hybrids on the market.
The CB2 combines a forged, lightweight 15-3-3-3 beta titanium cupped face that is chemically bonded to a heavier hyper-steel body. Chemical bonding eliminates the need for welding around the face area to promote greater feel and longer carry and roll. The offspring of the wildly popular Exotics fairway wood, the CB2, shares the same distance-enhancing technology.
The hybrid also features a cold-rolled titanium cup face that is computer-milled around the edge of the cup with a high precision rim. The remaining body is precision cast to include an interlocking channel. The steel body and the cupped face are chemically treated, pressed together, and vacuum heat-cured for permanent bonding without heavy welding.
The CB2’s remarkable distance is also the result of multiple face thickness (MFT). With MFT technology, the perimeter of the face is thinner and the center is thicker. The slender edges allow the face to flex and rocket the ball at impact. The resulting distance and feel is not only desirable but also exceptional.
The CB2 has two weight ports with removable 6-gram screws. For enthusiasts looking to dial in their ball flight, the screws can help hit a draw, fade, or even eliminate a slice. The optional weight kit comes with four additional screws (2-gram, 4-gram, 8-gram, and 10-gram) that can be employed to fine tune the CB2 to any swing.
The CB2 boasts a Tour Edge X-Quad Graphite Design shaft. Developed with Graphite Design to improve the performance of the CB2, the X-Quad. The CB2 produces more distance, as much as 12 yards, that the majority of the hybrids now on the market.
Lofts: 16°, 19°, 22° and 25° are available. The CB2 Hybrid is available in right hand only in Graphite Design X-Quad, Aldila NVS Hybrid graphite and Nippon 950 GH steel shafts.
The club’s optional weight kit includes: a tuning wrench, 2-gram weight, 4-gram weight, 8-gram weight, and 10-gram weight.
MSRP: $219.99 per hybrid $29.99 weight kit
Adams Idea Pro iWood
This extremely popular hybrid has long been the favorite of many pro players especially on the Champions Tour. Adams Golf has built a solid reputation in game-improvement clubs and this new generation of hybrid will continue to solidify their reputation.
The Idea Pro iWood features pull face construction with a custom steel face that creates lower spin and increased ball speed and an adjustable weight port for swing weight and shaft adjustment.
The club sets up square to the target line rather than closed and is extremely easy to hit and is very responsive from both the fairway and rough. It is also “sneaky” long and very forgiving. Our testers really enjoyed playing this club and especially its different color scheme.
The Adams Idea Pro hybrids come in loft offerings of 16°, 18°, 20°, 23° and 26° and with the Aldila VS Proto Blue ByYou Graphite in all flexes.
One of the pioneers of the hybrid genre, Sonartec has gained acceptance of their hybrids for the past few years by Pros and amateurs alike. Since their original introduction of the Sonartec Md Transition club their newest model is the new, high-launch, low spin HB-001. The HB-001, which features its battle-tested rail technology, has a neutral face angle, which promotes a square clubface at address.
The 455 stainless steel head provides a solid feel and crisp sound, reminiscent of Sonartec’s fairway metal roots. Its perimeter weighting and deep CG produce a high MOI for maximum forgiveness.
With its lower flight and compact head, this club is a low-handicapper’s dream. It features a slightly deeper face, which allows punch shots, a feeling of power and stability at impact and has a superb feel on chips – heavy, dense and substantial; bad swings are punished.
Sonartec Golf teamed with Graphite Design International and created the “ONiN2” hybrid shaft to match the HB-001 head for additional accuracy and distance and it works well!
Available lofts are 17°, 19°, 21° and 23° and in left handed 19° and 23° with availability in October.
Nickent 4DX Iron Wood
This innovative company has, over the past two years, become one of the predominant players in the golf industry.
Having John Hoeflich, formerly of TaylorMade, and Clay Long of Nicklaus fame, as designers, have rocketed their tour usage and sales at retail. In addition to their outstanding drivers and fairway woods, their original Genex hybrid and 3DX hybrids and fairway woods, not to mention their irons, Nickent is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with on the Tour level as well as at retail.
Nickent, who developed the first hybrid to utilize a patented brazing technology that fuses a titanium crown with a steel body; all while making the crown the thinnest it has ever been on a golf club head, has combined this technology into the 4DX hybrid.
The 4DX Iron Wood now features a titanium crown rather than a steel crown previously found in the older hybrids, which has saved approximately 50% of the weight in the crown. The .4mm crown is also half as thick as on the 3DX DC hybrids, so when both attributes bare combined, the new crown configuration weighs almost 4 times less than the crown of the 3DX DC hybrids.
The face height of the 4DX is 2mm taller than the 3DX models, giving the 4DX less spin and a more penetrating ball flight. This design change creates a perfect trajectory that fights the wind and lands softly from long distances, while catering to every swing speed.
XW Inserts, which have become the driving technology behind nearly every Nickent product in the 2007 line, are made of Tungsten Polymer to reduce vibration and to be used for swing weight adjustment. Nickent espouses, “it’s like having moveable weights without the hassle and without relying on bulky screws that add a harsh feel at impact”. You be the judge.
Available lofts are 13°, 15°, 17°, 19° and 21°
MSRP: $179.99 Steel $199.99 Graphite
TaylorMade’s Burner Rescue Hybrid
Simply put, nobody in the golf industry is as good at what they do as TaylorMade. Their R&D division is simply the best in the golf industry.
Headed by Dr. Benoit Vincent, TaylorMade continues to introduce golf products that simply make playing golf so much fun these days.
The leader of the pack and the most popular of all hybrids period, are the TaylorMade Rescue clubs.
The TaylorMade Burner series of clubs are the fastest selling clubs today at retailers. Led by the Burner Driver, the new Burner Rescue Hybrids are finding their way into many golfers’ bags.
Why? Simply because they are extremely easy to hit, forgiving, offer a higher launch angle and a longer carry than most other hybrid models AND they are well priced. They are also beautiful to look at on setup being a one-piece head. The crown features TaylorMade’s distinctive SuperFast Technology crown markings.
TaylorMade’s Burner Rescue Steel Shaft features an extremely light total weight with a light shaft and light grip, which promotes a faster swing speed for added power. The steel clubhead and Pull-Face construction provide high MOI and high COR for tremendous forgiveness and a faster ball speed.
The steel clubhead is 7% larger than the Rescue Dual in volume, and has a 13% larger footprint to give a higher MOI and tremendous forgiveness for long, straight results on off center hits. Its shallow clubface design moves the CG position lower and farther back which makes the club easy to launch high and long!
Don’t be surprised to find yourself laying up off the tee box just to have an excuse to put the club in play!
Available lofts are 19°, 22°, 25° and 28°
Stock shafts: TaylorMade RE*AX SuperFast 50 Graphite (A, R, S), TaylorMade T-Step 90 Steel (R, S)
MSRP: $159.99 Steel $179.99 Graphite
E21 – Emc² Hybrid
In 2004, the golf industry was introduced to a brand new metal, developed originally for space applications, called Scandium (The 21st Element on the Periodic Table). Scandium has been introduced to the golf industry in shafts by the e21 Golf Company. Very light and very strong, with a 70% weight to strength advantage over steel and 40% over graphite, Scandium was considered to be a material of strategic importance and only recently has been de-classified for civilian use.
The strength and weight superiority of Scandium makes it a serious competitor to the steel and graphite shafts of the past. This superior material uses space manufacturing techniques, creating perfectly round, seamless shafts. The quality of the Scandium shaft is 99.5% as compared to some of the best steel shafts that average around 85%. The torque of the Scandium shaft is 1.4, which is the lowest in the industry, and results in “bulls-eye” accuracy and phenomenal forgiveness on off center hits.
E21 Metal shafts are manufactured using a proprietary 25-step production process to create seamless, extruded shafts. Because of the advanced manufacturing techniques used to create E21 Scandium a vibration dampening technology called “ShockBlokª” was invented which reduces shaft vibration up to 300% compared to steel and contributes to the shaft’s unprecedented soft feel.
The internal steps in a Scandium shaft redirect the shock waves away from the golfer’s hands, elbows and shoulders and back into the clubface for added distance. Scandium seems to incorporate all the best features of steel and graphite into one shaft, and take distance and accuracy to a whole new level. In recent months a number of high profile golf professionals have switched to or began testing E21’s Eagle One shafts.
The sleekly designed E21 Hybrid features a louvered crown for laminar flow stability and as an alignment aid and has shape integrity at impact as well. The club also features a high recoil liquid polymer packed cavity. As with all other hybrids, it has a low center of gravity to launch the ball easily.
Its open face angle enables users to control straighter shot patterns for a wider range of players.
Available lofts are 18°, 20°, 23° and 26°
High Lofted Fairway Woods
(Nine woods, eleven woods, thirteen woods….)
If you still struggle with your long and mid irons, or even if you struggle with your short irons, you might want to consider high lofted fairway woods:
Try a nine wood or an eleven wood. You will absolutely hit it more consistently than the equivalent iron. Numerous manufacturers have the 9 and 11 woods available. These higher lofted woods are available from Golfsmith and BANG Golf.
Barry Lotz, J.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the California Golf Writers Association, and serves both as a Consultant and Mediator to the golf industry. He is also the author of numerous books, including “333 Best Web Sites for Golfers” and his current book, “How to Build Business Relationships Through Golf” is in the Top Ten Golf Business Book’s best seller list.