"The key is getting the set to blend together," says Tim Reed, vice president of research and development for Adams, which recently introduced its second generation of a better-player integrated set. "The goal is to build a consistency of gapping and trajectory by combining all the variables at your disposal."
His point: Buying a hybrid because its loft is the next in line with your iron set is not the best way to ensure there are no unequal yardage gaps in your set. "Pros arrive at their hybrid based on how it fits with the rest of the set," says Jeff Sheets, vice president of research and development for Golfsmith. "But amateurs aren't looking at things like face progression [the distance between the club's leading edge and the shaft axis] or shaft weight to make sure it matches. A fully integrated set has already done all that work for you."
Some believe there is an important distinction between an integrated set and one that offers separately developed hybrids as possible replacements for long irons. Often, it's more subtle than matching lofts for the replaced long irons. For example, on some Adams game-improvement sets, shaft lengths are five-eighths of an inch apart instead of the traditional half-inch spacing to improve distance gaps. Callaway's low-lofted FT i-brid set includes a 49-degree A-wedge as an option to bridge the gap between that set's 44-degree pitching wedge and 56-degree sand wedge.
Although most of these integrated sets have been designed for players looking for game-improvement, more sets are being designed for mid- and even low-handicappers. Golfsmith recently studied which players are helped most by hybrids and learned even scratch players were hitting 3-iron lofted hybrids as much as seven yards farther than conventional 3-irons. Those with handicaps higher than 20 all hit similarly lofted hybrid clubs farther and more cleanly in the 3-, 4- and 5-iron lofts. The mid-handicappers saw benefits in the 3- and 4-iron lofts.
Says Sheets: "There aren't many amateurs who wouldn't benefit from playing an integrated set."
Therefore, if a player is going to purchase a hybrid or two, he or she should consider how those clubs match up with the rest of the set in terms of feel, weight, length and distance gaps. Don't have the time or inclination to do that? Go with a fully integrated set.