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Hybrid Vs. Long Iron
As an avid golf instructor and club-fitter I am frequently asked, "Should I carry a 3-iron or a hybrid?" For those of you who do not know what a hybrid is - it is the golf club currently hanging from the rafters in all the golf shops in town due to its increase in popularity. The hybrid, sometimes referred to as utility club, is that club that is a morph of a long iron and fairway wood. And, if you currently do not own one of these and are still trying to struggle with a 2 or 3-iron I will explain why you should consider acquiring one for your arsenal of equipment not because I'm concerned for golf's retail market but because I care for golfers enjoyment of the game.
The hybrid has a few advantages over the traditional long iron and I will try and explain them. So if you are one of those golfers who carries a 2, 3 or 4-iron for the sole purpose of hitting the USGA 14 club limit even though their current use is for battling snakes in high grass please read on.
Club-head Design - The traditional iron has transformed from the blade style to a cavity back (perimeter weighted) design. The reason is such that should you strike the golf ball on the toe or the heel of the club-head the club has a consistent thickness from toe to heel so you will have a greater force provided at impact in comparison to a blade style club where the exact center of the clubface needs to be struck for solid contact as the blade gets thinner closer to the heel and toe. Hybrids are constructed with a vast amount of perimeter weighting because the club-head is larger and hollow in design much more so than the latest game improvement cavity-back iron. Therefore, should you have the propensity to hit the clubface off-center (heel or toe) you will be provided a much more consistent contact than the alternative. Also, the majority of hybrid designers have incorporated "roll and bulge" on the club face. This refers to the slight roundness of the face progression from heel to toe. The purpose of this is that should you hit the ball off the heel the ball will produce spin, due to its gear effect, back to the right for right-handed golfers and should you hit it the ball off the toe the ball will produce spin to the left.
Sole Design - The traditional iron was designed with a very slim sole or bottom. The purpose of this was so to allow the club to "dig" into the turf so when swung properly, with the hands ahead of the club-head producing a downward strike on the ball, we could take the proper divot and produce spin on the golf ball. Unfortunately, the majority of golfers have a tough time hitting with this technique and are more inclined in taking a divot prior to striking the ball. This is much more frequent in hitting long irons because golfers attempt to induce more lift to the ball and are susceptible to hitting with their hands behind the club-head at impact or in a "scooping motion". This causes the slim sole of the iron to dig into the turf and hence, the divot flying typically further than the ball. The hybrid's sole is much wider in an attempt to alleviate this problem. With the wider sole the club-head instead "skids" along the turf reducing or eliminating the potential for taking a divot before striking the ball. Also, the hybrid in its larger club-head design and wider sole has more weight lower and further back which produces more lift to the ball. By having a lower center of gravity the hybrid promotes a higher launch angle than the traditional iron.
Shaft and length - The traditional iron set make-up is constructed with steel shafts while the majority of hybrids are constructed with graphite shafts. The reason is twofold. One, because graphite is typically lighter than steel it allows the operator the ability to swing the club faster and produce more club-head speed. This in turns produces a greater spin rate on the golf ball and more carry. And second, the majority of these hybrids are produced with graphite shafts that have a lower flex point. This means that the club flexes further down the shaft and promotes a higher lift or launch to the golf ball. The length of the shaft is also longer than the traditional iron shaft. The reason is because the club-head construction is much lighter with its hollow (perimeter weighted) design, so by designing the shaft longer it allows the golfer to swing the club faster.
In conclusion, if you are one of golf's remaining traditionalists and are content with permission woods and two-wheeled pull carts than disregard all the aforementioned information. If, however, you are tired of using your 2, 3, or 4-irons for the slight occasion of chipping your ball out of the trees use your 15 degree 3-wood and make room for some hybrids. You will be impressed with their ease of performance. While you're at it get them fitted for you by your local PGA Professional.