Hybrid golf clubs were developed in the late 1990s to help golfers hit higher, more accurate shots. They have become popular with a broad spectrum of players, including some top professionals. Although improved loft, not distance, was the clubs’ original goal, the potential distance a club can attain is always an important consideration.
Hybrid clubs are numbered and are generally designed to replace the iron with the same number – for example, a 3-hybrid would replace a 3-iron. However, a typical golfer will likely hit the ball a bit farther with a hybrid than with an iron of the same number. In many cases, a hybrid will outperform the same-numbered iron by 5 to 8 yards. PGA professional Rick Martino, writing on the PGA website, says the hybrid's lower and deeper center of gravity relative to a comparable iron "allows for shots that carry a greater distance but roll less." The maximum distance a golfer can hit a ball with a particular club will vary widely, depending on the golfer’s experience and skill. However, the LPGA estimates that men typically can hit a 3-iron or 3-hybrid a maximum of 170 to 220 yards, while women can hit the same clubs a maximum of 125 to 180 yards. The 4-iron and 4-hybrid estimates are 160 to 210 yards for men and 120 to 170 yards for women. The 5-iron and 5-hybrid ranges are 150 to 200 yards for men and 115 to 160 yards for women, while the 6-iron or 6-hybrid ranges are 140 to 190 yards for men and 110 to 150 yards for women.
Hybrid clubs are more tolerant of mis-hits than their counterpart irons, so a casual player will likely hit the ball farther, on average, with a hybrid than a standard iron. While your longest 3-hybrid shot probably won’t travel much farther than your longest 3-iron shot, an average golfer will likely reach her peak distance more often with a hybrid than with a standard iron. For many players, therefore, it may make sense to replace a specific iron with the next-highest number of hybrid – for example, to replace a 3-iron with a 4-hybrid.
Hybrid clubheads are larger than standard iron clubheads and boast a lower and deeper center of gravity. These traits make it easier to hit the ball in the air with a hybrid than with its counterpart iron. For example, your typical 3-hybrid shots will have a higher trajectory than your typical 3-iron shots. As a result, the hybrid is usually better for approach shots, as the higher trajectory gives your shot a better chance to hold the green. Properly hit irons may be better for a second shot on a par 5, because the lower trajectory typically allows the ball to roll farther, assuming you keep the shot in the fairway.
While hybrid clubs offer many advantages, they must be used correctly. In the fairway, hybrid clubs should be played as if they were irons, rather than woods. Set up with the ball in mid-stance and swing down on the ball, taking a divot just beyond the ball’s position. Tee the ball up lower than usual when using a hybrid for your tee shot, with no more than a quarter of the ball above clubhead level. When hitting a hybrid off the tee, swing as if you were hitting a fairway wood – with a level, sweeping motion – rather than hitting the ball on an upswing as you would with a driver.