Hybrid clubs aren't just for replacing long irons anymore.
More golfers are realizing the benefits of using hybrids – which combine characteristics of irons and fairway woods – instead of mid-irons and even short irons. In fact, some manufacturers make entire sets comprised of these best-of-both-worlds clubs.
If you own one or more hybrids, you're already familiar with their advantages (easier to hit than long and mid-irons, higher ball flight, great from the rough etc…). But who should use them in place of short irons – 8-iron through the wedges -- generally considered the easiest clubs for golfers of all levels to hit successfully?
Any golfer who lacks clubhead speed can improve the distance and loft of their shots with hybrids. For example, if you hit a pitching wedge less than 75 yards on average (not including roll), consider replacing your short irons with hybrids.
Hybrids can also help those who tend to sweep the ball off the turf rather than hitting down and taking a divot. The hybrid's deep, rounded sole and low center of gravity make it easier to get the ball up without making a descending blow. You may even hit fewer thin shots than with your standard short irons.
Hybrids are a Good Short Iron Alternative for Some Golfers
When you think about hybrid clubs, you probably think about long clubs that are intended to replace your long irons or fairway metals. It is true that most hybrids you will see on the course today fall into this category, but there are also hybrids on the market designed to replace your short irons. If you have trouble hitting quality shots with traditional short irons, you might be able to benefit from using hybrid clubs in place of your nine iron, pitching wedge, and more. In fact, you could fill out your entire bag with hybrids if you so choose. While this might not be the traditional approach to creating a set of clubs, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the score you write down on the card. If you find hybrid clubs to be the best way to record a good score, then you should have no hesitation in taking this path.
There are a variety of potential benefits that can be enjoyed by switching your short irons to hybrids. Many golfers will find that hybrid clubs are easier to hit on a consistent basis, especially from tight lies in the fairway. Some amateur players have trouble with hitting the ball fat when they play from a tight lie in the fairway, causing them to come up short frequently on approach shots. With a hybrid club in your hand instead of a traditional short iron, you will be far less likely to make this mistake. The forgiving design of a hybrid club head includes a 'softer' leading edge, meaning the club is less likely to dig into the turf behind the ball. Instead, it will skim across the top of the grass, allowing you to make good contact and send the ball on its way successfully.
Another advantage that can be enjoyed by using hybrids instead of short irons is the consistency that you can enjoy throughout your bag. Instead of having to switch from hybrids to normal irons at some point in the set, you can simply keep swinging the same kind of hybrid club from the long clubs down to the short clubs. This consistency could help you to perform better from shot to shot and from round to round - especially if you don't have time to practice the various swing techniques required to use different types of clubs. Get comfortable swinging your hybrids and you will be ready to play your best out on the course.
While using hybrid clubs in place of your short irons is a viable option for many players, it won't necessarily be the right choice for you. Prior to making the switch, you need to think carefully about the current status of your game. Is your short iron play a problem? Are you wasting shots on a regular basis because of your poor play from inside 150 yards? If the answer to those questions is yes, then you might benefit from making a change.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
It's All About Reliable Performance
Hitting a single great golf shot during a round doesn't actually do you a lot of good. While it is certainly fun to watch your ball sail through the air prior to settling right next to the cup, that great shot will only save you a stroke or two in your overall score. No matter what you do, it is impossible to create an entire great round through a single swing. Instead, you have to play well from the first hole to the last if you hope to card an impressive score at the end of the day.
With that in mind, think about your performance with the short irons that you currently carry in your set. Are you consistent with these clubs, or do you hit the occasional great shot surrounded by plenty of bad ones? If you are happy with your consistency at the moment, you probably don't need to look into the possibility of using a full set of hybrid clubs. However, if you are only seeing good results from time to time, using hybrids as a replacement for your short irons could be a decision that saves you several shots in your very next round.
The reason that hybrids are so much easier to hit than traditional irons is because they have so much more club head volume coming down behind the ball. Regular short irons are thin in design, where hybrids have a shape that is closer to a fairway metal. The sheer size of the club head means you will enjoy more forgiveness at impact, allowing you to get decent results out of a less-than-perfect swing. Making the switch to hybrid short clubs is really all about minimizing the damage on your poor shots. You will get great results from your good swings no matter what kind of clubs you use – it is the bad swings that you are hoping to make a little better through the use of hybrids.
Make no mistake – no golf club on the market today is actually going to do the work of hitting your shots for you. Whether you use traditional short irons or hybrids, you are still going to need to work on your swing and you will still have to execute that swing under pressure to play good golf. The point of picking out the right equipment is simply to give yourself the best possibility for success. By putting the right clubs in your hands to match up with your skills on the course, you will be in a position to play well. From there, the rest is up to you to actually make it happen.
Get the Ball Up in the Air with Ease
One of the most-common complaints from amateur golfers is that they aren't able to get the ball high enough into the air to stop it on the green with their approach shots. Indeed, one of the most important skills to have on the golf course is the ability to hit the ball high, because it allows you to put your ball in positions that simply wouldn't be accessible with a low shot. In order to stop your ball on the green and set up makeable birdie putts on a regular basis, you are going to want to be able to put the ball high up into the air with your short clubs.
For some, this can be a challenge with traditional irons. Specifically, those who lack swing speed coming through impact are going to have a difficult time moving the ball up into the air with a standard iron set. Backspin is needed when hitting regular irons in order to get the ball high in the air, and it is hard to generate that backspin when you aren't coming through the ball with very much force. For golfers with low swing speeds, even well-struck shots tend to fly low to the ground and continuing bouncing and rolling well after they have landed.
To correct this problem, you may want to consider using hybrid clubs to get the ball up higher into the air. Hybrids generally have a low center of gravity, making it easier to get the ball climbing right off the face of the club. While it would still help to have more speed through impact, the design of a hybrid short club will give you a chance to add elevation to your approach shots. Hopefully, this will lead to shots that come down softly on the green rather than shots that take big bounces when they hit the putting surface. It is hard enough to get the ball close to the hole when is lands softly – it is nearly impossible when you have to account for large bounces and a long roll out.
Not only will hybrid short clubs help you get the ball in the air from the fairway, but they can also help you with the same task out of the rough. Playing from the rough is another challenge for golfers with low swing speeds, but hybrid club heads to a good job of sliding through the longer grass while lifting the ball up into the air. Of course, you aren't going to be able to play great approach shots very often from the rough – it is meant as a penalty for missing the fairway, after all – but you should be able to at least get back in play the majority of the time.
As you gain experience using more and more hybrid clubs in your set, you should develop the ability to read your lie in the rough and determine what kind of shot is possible. If the rough is only an inch or two deep, you should be able to hit a nice approach shot just as you would from the fairway, with only a little bit less backspin. However, when the rough is deep, you should focus only on getting the ball out so you can play your next shot from the short grass. No matter what kind of clubs you decide to use, course management is an important skill, and being overly aggressive from the rough is simply asking for trouble.
How to Swing a Hybrid Club
Hybrid clubs can make for a great replacement for your short irons, but you will have to know how to swing them correctly if you want to achieve the best possible results. You can't swing a hybrid club the same way that you swing a traditional iron, even if the two clubs in question are the same length and have the same loft. Hybrids and designed differently than regular irons, and they require a different swing technique as a result.
So what needs to be different about your swing when you use a hybrid club as opposed to a traditional iron? The following points are a good place to start –
- Flatten out your plane. The biggest difference in the two swings is that you should be using a shallower swing plane when you are striking the ball with a hybrid club as compared to a short iron. With a short iron, you want to hit down through the ball at impact, taking a divot out of the turf along the way. To do so, you need to make a steep swing, with the club high above your head at the top of the backswing. That is not the case with a hybrid. Instead, you want to swing the club around your body so that you can sweep the ball off the top of the turf when you make contact. Rather than hitting down, you want the swing to be flat at the bottom, much like it would be with a driver or fairway metal. If you try to take a major divot with a hybrid club, you are not going to be happy with the results. Shallow out your swing plane to sweep the ball off the turf and you should be able to hit plenty of high and soft approach shots.
- Keep the ball forward in your stance. One of the standard fundamentals used by most golfers when hitting regular short irons is to place the ball right in the middle of the stance. This is a ball position that promotes a downward hit, such as the motion described in the previous point. Of course, you don't want to hit down on the ball with your hybrid club, so you will want to move the ball forward in your stance as a result. Place the ball halfway between the middle of your stance and the inside of your left heel at address. This ball position will enable you to sweep the ball off the turf without having to reach your arms out at the moment of impact in order to make contact. Practice carefully positioning the ball properly on the driving range so that you can repeat the correct position over and over again on the course.
- Make a long backswing. Short irons usually require short backswings, but you will want to make a longer swing when you are using a hybrid. A longer swing will generally be a flatter one, which goes right along with the first point in this section. Also, making a long swing will enable you to build speed gradually without having to force the action down at the bottom of the swing. If you were to make a short swing only to force acceleration near impact, you would have a hard time striking the ball solidly. Allow your swing to flow naturally from start to finish and you will find that your ball striking improves dramatically.
The three points above are pretty simple, but they are extremely important when it comes to successfully using hybrids in place of your short irons. By playing with a flatter swing plane, a forward ball position, and a longer backswing, you should find that your new hybrid short clubs do a great job of putting the ball up into the air from a variety of lies around the course.
The Mental Side of Short Iron Play
There is an important mental component to your short iron game that should be understood by golfers of all levels. Regardless of whether you are using traditional irons or hybrids to play your short approach shots, you need to have a sound mental approach to this part of the game. Since these shots are frequently seen as being 'easier' than long shots, they can be taken for granted by some golfers. Don't let yourself make that mistake. Each shot that you hit throughout a round needs to be given the same level of attention and preparation. With the right mental approach to go along with your new short hybrid clubs, you may find yourself with more birdie putts than ever before.
One of the first things to understand about the mental side of the short iron/hybrid game is that you should not necessarily be aiming for every flag just because you have a short club in your hands. This is a mistake that is made by a wide range of golfers, from beginners to accomplished amateurs and even some professionals. If you are over-aggressive with your short clubs, you will cost yourself far more shots than you save. Even when playing from 100 yards or closer, your number one objective should be to get the ball on the putting surface. Of course you would like to get it close to the hole to set up a birdie, but at the very least the ball needs to come to rest somewhere on the green.
For example, imagine that you are 120 yards from the hole, right in the middle of the fairway. The pin is located on the left side of the green, and there is a deep bunker waiting if you miss the green off of the left side. With your lofted hybrid club in hand, you decide to aim right at the hole since you have such a great lie and a short distance to cover. While you strike the ball well, you pull it slightly to the left and it hops into the bunker. Now, instead of an easy par with the possibility of a birdie, you are left with an extremely difficult up and down for your par – and you will likely wind up walking away with a bogey. Suddenly you have turned a hole where you hit a great drive into a hole where you wasted a shot.
Instead of blaming the swing that you made, you should be blaming your strategy in this case. Rather than aiming right at the hole, you should have been aiming comfortably to the right, into the big part of the green. A straight shot on that line would still set up a birdie putt, and you would have taken away the risk that comes along with aiming directly at the hole itself. You should never plan your shots with only the best case scenario in mind – you should be thinking of all possibilities when you select a club and a target line. Obviously you are always trying to make good swings, but golf is a hard game and the ball doesn't always come off like you expect. By picking conservative targets, you can keep your ball in play and avoid wasting shots as in the scenario above.
Another key to the mental game on short approach shots is to favor the low side of the hole when selecting your target. Not only do you want to aim away from potential trouble, but you also want to keep your ball below the hole so you can chip or putt uphill for your next shot. Playing short game shots uphill is almost always easier than playing them downhill, so think about that fact in the fairway while selecting a target. In fact, you may encounter some situations in which it is better to be chipping uphill than it is to be putting downhill. Golf is a game of position, so think carefully about where you want to play your next shot from before you pick a target and swing away.
Hybrid clubs are not just for long shots anymore. You can now find hybrids in a variety of lofts, including some that will do the job of replacing your short irons if you wish. Short irons are crucial to scoring on the course, so it would be wise to look at using hybrids if you aren't able to strike your short irons with the kind of consistency required to put together a good round. Hybrid clubs are suitable for use from a variety of lies, and their club head design makes them great at helping you get the ball up into the air on approach shots. If your short iron game has been struggling lately, you should give serious consideration to the idea of swapping out your traditional short irons for a set of lofted hybrid clubs.