Are Hybrids Easier to Hit Than Long Irons?

Introduction

The simple answer to the question is yes, hybrids are easier to hit than long irons. I think the fact that the majority of touring pros have ditched long irons in favor of hybrids is a gigantic clue.

If the best players in the world are choosing hybrids over long irons then it unlikely that you should be doing the opposite.

Let’s take a look at the reasons why hybrids should replace long irons in your golf bag.

Note that traditionally long irons were considered as numbers 1 to 3, mid irons were 4 to 6 and short irons were 7 to 9 plus any wedges.

If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.

Lee Trevino

Clubhead Speed

To get the best out of your long irons you need to have a decent amount of clubhead speed. In order to generate a decent trajectory with such little loft on the clubface, you’re going to need a bit more oomph to generate the necessary spin. The majority of amateur and recreational golfers don’t swing the club fast enough to produce a decent ball flight with the longest irons. Hybrids, however, will have slightly longer shafts and that will help translate into a little more ball speed. That will help you achieve a better trajectory.

There are going to be two advantages to improving the flight characteristics of your golf ball.

1. You’ll probably end up hitting the ball further in the air

2. You’ll increase the angle of descent and therefore improve your chances of the ball stopping on the green when hitting approach shots.

Do you still need convincing?

If you look at the bags of most of the ladies playing on the LPGA tour you’ll see many of them have quite a few hybrids. The main reason is that they know their clubhead speed isn’t sufficient for them to hit the shots they want with long irons.

It is often said that recreational golfers would be better off trying to watch LPGA players and how they play. Their swing speeds are more comparable rather than players on the main men’s tours who have clubhead speeds well over a hundred mph with a driver.

It is also an unfortunate fact that clubhead speed is likely to drop as we age. Senior golfers may find that hybrids might be a better choice even as far down as mid irons.

Center of Gravity

In general hybrid clubs will have a lower center of gravity than an equivalent long iron. This makes it easier for players to launch the ball on a higher trajectory. If you’re hitting approach shots into a green then this will be an advantage since your higher ball fight means it is less likely to roll off the back.

Peripheral weighting

The size of a hybrid clubhead gives designers much greater scope to improve forgiveness on off-center hits. They can increase the peripheral weighting features of the club when compared with a long iron.

Gear Effect

Hybrids will tend to have faces with a little role/bulge. This means off-center hits will have a tendency to be not quite as bad as if you’d hit the shot with a straightfaced iron.

Versatility

The nature of hybrids makes them much more versatile than a long iron. Trying to escape from the rough or bad lies is much more achievable with a hybrid than with a long iron. This is even more true with the slower swing speeds of a handicap golfer. You could also use a hybrid for chipping in certain situations. Todd Hamilton at the Open Championship springs to mind, he used his TaylorMade hybrid extensively during his win.

Improved Accuracy

Numbers provided by shotscope show hybrids are more accurate than long irons for approaches from over 180 yards. Indeed for some handicap categories, you could be talking twice as many greens hit during around. That’s pretty much guaranteed to save you several shots every time you go out.

Are hybrids easier to hit long irons

Less Intimidating

For beginners and even for more accomplished players your typical hybrid will appear a lot less intimidating than a long iron.

More Forgiving

The wider sole means you may still get an acceptable shot even if you hit the turf before the ball. This would be less likely with a long iron, where hitting the ground first would lead to a less favorable outcome. If you tended to catch the ball thin with a long iron then the results wouldn’t be very good while a similar shot with a hybrid may still work out okay.

Improved Gapping

Gapping is just having consistent distance changes from club to club. Tour pros like to know to the yard how far they are going to hit each iron and have their clubs set so that they get a consistent change from club to club. They don’t want to be in a situation where they have two clubs going essentially the same distance. Many amateurs unfortunately don’t tend to think about such things.

The majority of iron sets that you would buy off the shelf would have a 4° gap between each club. If you hit shots with the shorter more lofted clubs you might find you have consistent distance separation. You may find with your longer clubs, 5-iron, 4-iron and 3-iron that there isn’t such a big difference.

This could be down to several factors such as your clubhead speed and accuracy with which you strike those particular clubs. If you did a bit of analysis you may find that actually your 3 and 4-iron only vary by a couple of yards and so you are essentially wasting a club. What you need to do is fill the gap between your mid irons and your fairway woods with one or more hybrids that cover the distance between them.

I found myself that my 3-iron really wasn’t traveling that much farther than my 4-iron. I decided to replace them with a 22° 4-hybrid which I could hit with a much better flight and consistency than either of the clubs it replaced.

I also found it possible to escape from certain positions in the rough which I could never have managed with a 3 or 4-iron. This is because I don’t have the necessary swing speed.

You need to know your carry distances If you are going to improve your golf.

High handicappers

Just the Stats

Shotscope data shows that approaches from 180 yards or more are significantly more accurate with a hybrid than with an iron. This difference is more pronounced as you go up to the handicap categories.

These are the sort of distances people would be using long irons or their equivalent hybrid. That would suggest most players would be better off ditching their long irons in favor of the equivalent hybrid.

Data collected by Arccos shows that in terms of distance, a 4-iron and a 4-hybrid are very similar when used off the tee. This is not surprising since the 4-hybrid is meant to replace the 4-iron.

The accuracy data also favors the 4-hybrid although not by as much as you would expect. Clearly, the extra loft on the 4-iron compared with the long irons makes it that little bit easier to hit.

There is another reason why you might struggle to hit irons from 1 to 4. The lofts on all irons have been decreasing as part of the marketing effort by manufacturers to show that their clubs hit the ball further!

The table below shows typical lofts for each iron and also the length of shaft that manufacturers typically used. This shows that some irons are now as much as 6° stronger than they were. While this will undoubtedly help you hit the ball further you are unfortunately not comparing like with like.

Iron1970s LoftCurrent Loft1970s Shaft LengthCurrent Shaft Length
324203839
4282337.538.5
532263738
6363236.537.5
740343637
8443835.536.5
948423536
PW52463535.5

Manufacturers tended to work to the 24/38 rule. An average male golfer would have been expected to hit a 24° club with a 38-inch shaft 170 yards. That still holds true today but the difference is the number printed on the bottom of the club is now 4 or even a 5 rather than a 3.

One of the reasons you may be finding it more difficult to hit long irons is that they have become less lofted than they used to be.

Ideally manufacturers should print the actual loft on each of their irons. Given the implications for their marketing campaigns, I don’t think they will be in any great rush to do that.

This also ties in with the fact that most sets of irons now start at 5-iron rather than 3-iron. In reality, they are still 3-irons just with a 5 stamped on them. The strengthening of lofts on irons over the past 30 years or so has meant that a 3-iron would have effectively have the loft of 1-iron from the 70s.

As Lee Trevino famously said, “not even God can hit a 1-iron”.

Are Hybrids Easier to Hit Than Long Irons: Conclusion

Hybrids are sometimes known as rescue clubs and hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why they could rescue your iron game.

I’ve laid out the reasons why hybrid should be replacing your long and in some cases mid irons. The best thing for you to do to go out there and test some hybrids for yourself.

FAQ

Should high handicappers use hybrids?

Undoubtedly yes.

High handicappers, in general, will not have sufficient clubhead speed or accuracy of strike to effectively use long irons. These are exactly the sort of players that hybrids are designed for. Wider soles and perimeter weighting make them much more forgiving than the equivalent iron.

Do you need a 3-wood and 3-hybrid?

Ideally what you want to achieve is consistent distance gaps between each of the clubs in your bag. Depending upon your ability and clubhead speed I would think that you are likely to need both.

A 3-wood would typically have a loft of around 15° while a 3-hybrid is likely to have a loft of around 20°. The 3-wood would also have a slightly longer shaft. Both of these factors combined mean you would expect to hit your 3-wood quite a bit further than your 3-hybrid.

The best way to check your gapping would be to use some form of launch monitor while hitting a number of balls with each club.

If a launch monitor isn’t available to you then you could try hitting 10 shots with a club and pace out the distance to where most have finished.

Repeat this for each club and hopefully you will see a similar distance between each of your irons.

You then need to check your hybrids, fairway woods and driver as well. Don’t be surprised if you find two clubs are hitting the ball to similar distances. This could be due to poor technique, lack of clubhead speed or even a defect with the club.

Struggling to hit hybrid

Remember that a hybrid is designed to be hit more like an iron, so play the ball forward of the center of your stance and try to hit down slightly on the ball.

Don’t try and scoop the ball into the air as this will be a disaster with any club. Unlike your driver where you are usually trying to maximize distance, a hybrid needs to be hit a consistent distance and also accurately.

Are hybrids easier to hit than fairway woods?

Certainly, a 3-hybrid should be easier to hit than a 3-wood since it has more loft and a shorter shaft.

Comparing two clubs which you might expect to go a similar distance is probably a more realistic comparison. I would tend to think of a 3-hybrid and a 7-wood as being roughly equivalent in distance terms.

These clubs have similar lofts and probably similar shaft lengths and hence they will tend to hit the ball similar distances. It would probably then come down to a question of which type of club a particular golfer prefers.

The value of confidence should never be underestimated when playing golf.

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