Tee Off with Hybrids to Improve Golf Course Management

Hybrid clubs: They're not just for rescue missions anymore.

Some golfers still think of hybrids as specialty tools, since early versions were often labeled “rescue” or “utility” clubs. If you only use your
hybrids to escape trouble, though, you may actually be finding more nasty spots than necessary.

Arguably the most versatile clubs in the bag, hybrids are perfectly suited to hitting off the tee. Think about how often you hit the driver during a normal round, given that most courses feature 10 par 4s and four par 5s. Do you pull the driver all 14 times, without hesitation? Occasionally gear down to the 3-wood for added accuracy or to avoid running through a fairway?

During your next round, chart your tee shots for accuracy and determine how many strokes you lose by driving into a hazard, trees or rough. On those holes, would you have been better off in the fairway, even 30 yards short of where your driver would carry? If so, hit the hybrid next time and compare results with the costly wayward drive.

Here's a handy fact: Accuracy correlates much more closely to success among amateur golfers than with professionals. Why? Because pros have the strength to hit the ball on the green from thick rough and the skill to escape fairway bunkers and even trees without damage. That's why hybrids should be a big part of your tee-game strategy, unless most of your golf is played on very wide-open courses.

Hybrids make great weapons on par 3s, too. Any one-shot hole that requires you to hit a 3- to-5-iron is likely better approached with a hybrid. Most par 3s are guarded in front by a hazard, so your shot must be high enough to carry the trouble and stop on the green. Few golfers can produce such length and trajectory with a long iron. Hybrids, on the other hand, tend to fly higher and land more softly.

What's more, the hybrid's loft delivers more
backspin, which minimizes sidespin. The result: straighter shots.

Hitting a hybrid off a tee is a cinch. Here are a few basic steps:

  • Tee up with about half the ball above the club's top line.
  • Play the ball between the center of your stance and the left instep (right instep for left-handed golfers).
  • Your weight should be evenly distributed across the feet, or slightly favoring your right side.
  • Focus on sweeping the ball off the tee rather than hitting down on it.

Finally, remember this simple formula to help you better manage the course: The more you use your hybrids off the tee, the fewer strokes you'll take.

Hybrid Off the Tee on Par Threes and for Safety

Hybrid Off the Tee on Par Threes and for Safety

If you are an avid golfer, there is a good chance that at least one or two hybrid clubs already reside in your bag. And for good reason – hybrids are extremely versatile, easy-to-hit golf clubs that have replaced long irons in the bags of many amateur golfers. However, while these clubs are capable of doing many things, they are often forced into limited duty when they are seen as long iron replacements. Many golfers use their hybrids only to play approach shots on long par fours, or to go for the green in two on par fives, and that is about it.

To get even more production out of your hybrids, you are going to need to approach your course management strategy with an open mind. Specifically, you should start to think about using your hybrids off the tee from time to time. Hybrid clubs can work great on the tee when facing a long par three, or when facing a narrow fairway on a par four or par five. You will sacrifice distance when you put down your driver in favor of a hybrid, of course, but your accuracy should improve dramatically. Players who favor control over distance are almost always rewarded in the long run.

In order to start using your hybrids more frequently on the course, you are going to have to commit yourself to an entirely new mindset. It will be necessary to get rid of the thoughts about distance and power, as those concerns do not have much to do with playing good golf. Only when you are focused completely on making decisions which will benefit your scoring ability will you be able to manage your way logically around the golf course. Clubbing down on the tee is not something that most amateur golfers do frequently, either because they just don't think about it as an option, or because they are obsessed with trying to maximize distance. Either way, those players are not making low scores their top priority. If you can truly commit yourself to playing your best, you will soon see that control over power is the right way to go.

In this article, we are going to take a careful look at how you can use your hybrid clubs to get safely around the golf course. Obviously, if this strategy is going to work for you, it will be important to have as much comfort and trust with your hybrid clubs as possible. Be sure to hit them frequently on the driving range so you have confidence when one of them comes out of the bag on the course. The best golf is played when you combine solid decision making with excellent technical execution of your swing. One half of that equation is pretty much useless without the other.

All of the content below is written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Conquering the Long Par Threes

Conquering the Long Par Threes

Long par threes are some of the most difficult holes you will find on any course. These holes are often in excess of 200 yards long, and they usually feature some hazards along the way as well. Most courses vary the length of their par threes, so you will often find a couple which are rather long, while the other two will be on the short side. In any case, you will probably need to deal with at least one long par three during every round you play.

Given the frequency with which you will have to play these kinds of holes, it is important to know how to deal with them effectively. As has already been mentioned, your hybrid clubs are great options when facing a difficult par three hole. Hybrids offer a number of advantages which will help you in this situation, so you can take an otherwise difficult hole and make it far less daunting.

What is it about hybrid clubs that makes them so well-suited for duty on long par threes? Consider the following points –

  • Hybrids hit the ball higher than long irons, and that height can help you to stop the ball quickly after it lands on the green. If you use a long iron to attack a long par three, you might be able to successfully land the ball on the putting surface – but keeping it there is a whole other matter. Most amateur players hit their long irons rather low, which means the ball is going to bounce and roll out significantly when it lands. The story can be different when you use a hybrid club. Thanks to their design and weighting, hybrids usually hit the ball high, leading to a ball flight which comes out of the sky gently and without too much forward momentum. In the end, you are left with a ball that settles nicely on the green, and you will have a birdie putt rather than a difficult up and down for your par.
  • Hybrids are also more forgiving than long irons, meaning you can produce a reasonable shot even with something less than your best swing. No golfer produces a perfect swing time after time, so adding a bit of forgiveness to your bag should always be seen as a good thing. The big difference between hybrids and long irons can be seen when you miss the sweet spot slightly at impact. A long iron shot which is contacted toward the toe or heel will struggle to reach the target, as it is going to lose significant distance as a result of the miss-hit. Fortunately, hybrid clubs do not perform the same way. Hybrids have more overall club head volume than long irons, meaning they can still transfer energy to the ball even when the hit isn't perfect. Hybrid clubs aren't going to make up for all of your errors, of course, but they can help you out when contact is made just slightly off-center.
  • Hybrids fill a common distance gap, meaning you won't have to create an unusual shot to hit the ball the right length. It is common for amateur golfers to have a rather sizeable hole in distances between their shortest fairway wood and their longest long iron. For example, if you don't carry a hybrid, you might find that you can hit your five wood 220-yards, but your three iron only 190. That creates an obvious problem, as you will be in trouble when facing a 205-yard par three. Do you try to hit your three iron as hard as possible, or do you make a soft swing with your five wood? Either way, the results are likely to be ugly. Don't put yourself in this awkward situation. Have at least one hybrid club in your bag to bridge that distance gap, and don't be afraid to use it when the long par threes roll around.

It is easy to see that hybrid clubs should be considered the go-to option for many players when it comes to long par threes. Unless you can hit your long irons high into the sky – and hit them with great consistency – you should probably turn to hybrids as a logical alternative. You will enjoy the forgiveness they provide, and you will appreciate their added distance as well. Getting through the long par threes is one of the great challenges in this difficult game, but hybrids can help to make the task just a little bit easier.

Playing It Safe

Playing It Safe

Most golfers don't like to talk about playing safe tee shots on par fours and par fives. After all, this doesn't sound like a very exciting topic. Wouldn't it be more fun to just take your driver out of the bag and let it rip on all of these holes? Isn't the point of the game to have fun? Well, the answer to both of those questions is yes. You should be able to enjoy swinging away at your driver, and you should be trying to have fun on the course. But most players would agree that the greatest enjoyment in this game comes from posting a low score, and that simply isn't going to happen if you swing away at your driver without any sense of strategy.

Hitting your driver on narrow or well-guarded par fours and par fives is just asking for trouble. Sure, you will get away with it some of the time, but you will also find yourself in trouble on occasion. Unfortunately, the good drives usually don't make up for the bad ones, as even just one or two double bogeys resulting from poor tee shots can derail your round. Scoring well in golf is all about consistency, and being consistent in this game means keeping the ball in play.

Of course, while playing it safe is a good strategy in general, you still do need to use your driver to set up some short approach shots when the time is right. So how do you pick your spots? The following tips should help –

  • Take out of bounds stakes very seriously. Hitting your ball out of bounds is one of the worst mistakes you can make in the game, as those white posts come with a stroke and distance penalty. Basically, you will be spending two shots by the time you get the next shot in play (hopefully). When the white stakes are a little too close for comfort, club down to use a hybrid for safety rather than your driver. Hitting a shorter club will make it less likely that your ball will veer badly off line. While this option is going to leave you with a longer approach shot, of course, at least you can reduce the chances of taking that painful stroke and distance penalty.
  • Limit your risk on short holes. One of the common course management mistakes made by amateur golfers is seeing short holes as an opportunity to drive the ball up within short range of the green. This might seem like an enticing idea, but it is usually not worth the trouble. Getting close to the green on a par four usually means leaving yourself with an awkward pitch shot, so you aren't any more likely to hit the ball close for a birdie chance than you would be from farther back. Also, you will be taking on extra risk when you hit driver in this situation, so it is inevitable that you are going to waste a stroke or two from time to time with a poor swing. The solution? Put that driver away and opt for a hybrid club instead. This choice will give you a better chance to hit the fairway, and it will make it more likely that you have a full swing into the green.
  • Think about angles. Golf is a game of angles. If you have a good angle to the green, and to the hole location itself, you will have a strong chance of success. However, if you leave yourself with a poor angle, it is going to be difficult to find the putting surface. As you are trying to decide which club to use from the tee, predict how far you would hit each option and then think about what that would mean for your angle. By playing to the right angles, you will make the game easier in the long run. Playing for the correct angle will sometimes mean that you do want to use your driver, while other situations will call for a hybrid.

In time, you will get more and more comfortable with the skill of picking the right club for the tee shot at hand. The best thing you can do to get started is simply being open to other ideas. Don't just automatically reach for the driver when you step to the tee – take a moment to review the hole and think about your options. Most likely, as you review the possibilities, you will find that your hybrid club makes sense in many situations.

Finding the Fairway with a Hybrid

Finding the Fairway with a Hybrid

While it is a good idea to use your hybrid clubs for control off the tee in many situations, you can't just make any old swing and expect the ball to find the short grass. You need to prepare for these shots just as carefully as you would prepare for any of the other shots you hit during a round. One of the reasons many amateur golfers resist the idea of laying up off the tee is that they have struggled with such shots in the past. Usually, when a golfer struggles with layup shots, it is due to a lack of focus. Treat these shots with care and give them your full attention.

To find the fairway consistently with your hybrid clubs, the first thing you need to do is plan out your ball flight. Are you going to curve the ball from right to left, or from left to right? Nearly every golf shot has some degree of curve from side to side, so you shouldn't be planning on hitting a straight ball. Once you have selected your desired flight pattern, pick out a target to match. You should look for a target which will leave you in perfect position if you hit the shot as planned, but which also won't hurt you if the ball does happen to fly straight through the air.

In addition to planning your ball flight, you also need to plan out what is going to happen to the ball after it lands. When playing on a soft golf course, the answer is simple – nothing. The ball will likely stick where it lands, after taking one small bounce. However, this topic gets much more complicated when you are playing on firm conditions. With both bounce and roll to consider, you need to pick a targeted landing spot that will give your ball the room it needs to come to rest safely in the fairway.

It is important to remember that you should take advantage of the opportunity to place your ball on a tee when hitting the first shot of any hole. Since the tee box is usually flat and well-manicured, some golfers just toss their ball down and swing away when hitting something other than a driver. This is a mistake. You don't get very many advantages in golf, so you should always take them when they come your way. Tee the ball up just barely over the top of the grass to make it easier to achieve solid contact with your hybrid. This simple step can actually help you hit more fairways and get a little more distance out of each swing.

Other Ideas

Other Ideas

There are a few other ideas which need to be passed along before we conclude this article. These ideas are collected in the list below.

  • Think about other clubs as well. When you decide to keep your driver in the bag, you don't necessarily have to reach for your hybrid. You could also choose to hit a three wood, a five wood, or even a long iron, depending on the makeup of your set. The key is to pick out a club that is perfect for the situation at hand, just as you would do when standing on any other part of the course. You shouldn't treat your tee shots any differently just because they are the first shot of the hole – your job is always to choose the right club for the situation you face.
  • Feel free to be aggressive when you can actually reach the green. We mentioned earlier how it is not usually a good idea to pull out the driver when you are playing a short par four. Doing so can leave you in an awkward spot, and you might not be any better off than you would have been by using something like a hybrid from the tee. However, this story changes when you can actually get all the way to the green, rather than just getting close. If you feel like you have enough pop to get to the putting surface, and there aren't too many intimidating hazards in the way, go ahead and let it fly. Even if the ball doesn't wind up on the green itself, playing a short chip shot for your second is not a bad result.
  • Protect yourself on par fives. The natural instinct of most golfers when playing par five holes is to be aggressive with the goal of making a birdie. There is nothing wrong with that idea, but being aggressive can also get you into trouble on these holes – and making a bogey or worse on a par five can be damaging to your round. When getting ready to start play on a par five, you should be focused on making sure you at least secure your par if nothing else. It would be ideal to make a birdie – or even an eagle – but your planning should be based around getting through the hole in no more than five strokes. Even if you just play the four par fives in even par for your round, that will be a great start toward a good score. Four of the holes will be taken care of, and you will just need to handle the other 14 properly in order to finish with a good round.

There are many reasons to carry hybrid clubs in your bag – including plenty of reasons which weren't even mentioned in this article. However, using your hybrids off the tee is a great way to keep your ball in play and stay out of trouble more often than not. Hitting your driver is fun, but it also invites some risk into the picture. When the course gets narrow, be smart and swing a hybrid off the tee to help your ball find a safe place to land. Good luck!