Hybrid clubs have rapidly become popular across the golfing spectrum in the 21st century. Originally designed to help amateur golfers improve their games, hybrids have found their way into many professional golf bags, including those of PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. Despite their popularity, some casual golfers may wonder if they’re sacrificing distance when they swing hybrid clubs.
Hybrids were originally intended to replace long irons, because many players have trouble hitting the ball in the air with the less-lofted clubs. Additionally, in an effort to achieve more distance, golf manufacturers have decreased iron club lofts over the years and have also decreased golf ball spin. Both trends have made long irons almost unplayable for many casual golfers. Hybrids are more forgiving than the irons they replace, featuring larger sweet spots and a deeper center of gravity, which helps you get the ball into the air.
The longest hybrid clubs -- the hybrids that replace the longest irons -- typically feature 15 to 17 degrees of loft. A player with a 90-mph swing speed can expect to hit the ball about 190 yards with a long hybrid. A similar player should hit a 21-degree hybrid about 180 yards, a 24-degree hybrid roughly 175 yards and a 27-degree hybrid approximately 160 yards.
If you swing at 90 mph and make solid contact with a 1-iron -- something very few players attempted, even in pre-hybrid days, because of the club’s skimpy 5 degrees of loft -- you would expect to hit the ball 205 yards. More realistically, however, the long hybrids typically replace 2- and 3-irons. A 90-mph swinger should hit those clubs 195 and 185 yards, respectively, or about the same distance as the longest hybrid. The same golfer would hit each succeeding iron -- from the 4 through the 9 -- an average of 10 yards less apiece, resulting in a 175-yard average with a 4-iron and a 125-yard average with a 9-iron.
If you want to replace your long irons with hybrids, club designer Tom Wishon recommends that you select a hybrid you can hit about the same distance as the iron it’s replacing. The idea here isn’t to gain more distance on your best shots. Instead, your motivation should be to use a club that you can hit consistently well, so you’ll achieve the maximum distance more frequently and with better accuracy.