One of the biggest changes in golf equipment in recent years has been the switch from long irons (#s 2-4) to the hybrid clubs. Technological changes in both clubs and balls made this come about, and almost by necessity.
For one, the advent of the longer, low-spin golf balls of today has made long iron shots really only feasible for players with extreme club head speed. Meanwhile, advanced club making technology has led to the development of wide variety of hybrid clubs that allow the casual player to get distance and loft from these shots when they need it. The great long iron players of the past like Jim Barnes and Sam Snead -- who carried driving irons, cleeks and midirons -- could hit both the low-running long iron (especially necessary on links-style courses) and a high trajectory shot which landed softly. The wound ball of that era had the spin rate to allow both types of shots. The multi-layered ball of today has a much lower spin rate, so the high-lofted long iron shot has effectively become a thing of the past for the casual player. To replace it, hybrid club makers moved the center of gravity of the club back and down from the face of the club, so shots are launched at a higher angle with less spin. This allows for shots that carry a greater distance but roll less. This type of club works much better for people with slower swing speeds than the hard to hit and control long iron.
The down side to hybrids, however, is that these clubs are not as effective in hitting lower, more boring shots that have the ability to roll a long way, such as the shots that Tiger Woods has played repeatedly off the tee on his way to winning several of his British Open Championships. The swing used with the hybrids is different than with the long irons. Typically the ball position is toward the front foot and the swing path is a shallow, sweeping motion, similar to a fairway wood. Then the ball is struck like a fairway wood with no divot.
Hybrids today come in many different shapes and lofts. But even if you decide to add several to your set make up, still allow your irons to be part of your arsenal of shot-to-green club choices. In any matters of equipment, remember that it will truly pay off to consult your PGA Professional first. He or she has the trained expertise to help you not only decide which clubs best fit your game, but also to work with you on the types of swings you will need to make with each new club you add to your set. With hybrids in particular, many people have made the mistake of expecting magical results based on the "easier-to-hit" promise, only to come away disappointed because they are not making the necessary swing adjustments.
To locate a PGA Professional and find instruction programs and/or league play in your area, visit www.PlayGolfAmerica.com and use the zip code search. Until next time, here's to better golf!