Hybrid to the rescue: The evolution of utility clubs 1


    We’ve all heard the story, if you are ever caught on the golf course in an electrical storm; hold a one-iron towards the heavens because “even God can’t hit a one-iron.”
    For a lot of weekend players, hitting long irons cleanly and accurately has always been a challenge. The lower loft of longer irons and smaller faces makes finding the sweet spot difficult for many golfers. Some players opted for higher-lofted fairway woods such as the 5-wood and 7-wood. The drawback of these clubs was the longer shaft and their limited ability to be played out of the rough.

    The resulting Catch-22 between long irons and fairway woods eventually spurred one of the biggest innovations in golf-club design – the development of the hybrid golf club, which also is sometimes referred to as a “utility” club.

    A hybrid essentially looks like the love child of a long iron and fairway wood. The clubhead doesn’t extend as far back as a traditional wood, but provides a larger sweet spot thanks to a lower and deeper center of gravity. The hybrid provides a higher trajectory than a long iron, resulting in less roll than traditional long irons.

    Most hybrids are designed with a shaft slightly shorter than a traditional fairway wood, and slightly longer than a long iron.

    The hybrid’s popularity with weekend players led to a revolution in what was inside our golf bags. The 2,3 and 4 irons were taken out, replaced by the corresponding hybrid. Eventually, many PGA Tour players put their pride aside and added a hybrid or two to their bags. Today, two-thirds of golf iron sets sold have replaced at least the traditional 3-iron with a hybrid club. Many iron sets now contain 5-iron through pitching wedge, allowing players to supplement their game with their own hybrid of choice.

    Hybrid to the rescue: The evolution of utility clubs 2
    The hybrid club is now a part of major championship golf lore. Y.E. Yang struck a gorgeous 3-hyrbid into the 18th hole at Hazeltine to seal a one-shot victory over Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship.

    With all their popularity, it’s fair to ask the question – which person or company can be credited with the creation of the hybrid? A quick Google search will demonstrate that this is a difficult question to answer.

    Cobra Golf launched the “Baffler” utility metal in 1998, which was a spin-off of their Baffler utility wood whose design dated back to the late 1970’s. The Baffler fairway wood had a patented sole-design engineered to help players hit the ball from difficult lies.

    TaylorMade’s “Rescue” clubs made their debut in 2003. While there were “hybrid” clubs that predate their release, TaylorMade was certainly one of the companies that can be credited with creating the mass appeal that these clubs now enjoy.

    Adams was also an early pioneer in the hybrid game and by the mid-2000’s Adams would make the claim that their clubs were in more PGA Tour player’s bags than any other hybrid.
    While the debate may go on as to who “invented” the hybrid, one thing for certain is that hybrids are here to stay as they continue to grow in popularity and use – even among some of today’s best players.