The Loop

Hybrid Instruction

August 08, 2007

You don't have to fear change. Change brings hope. Jack Burke Jr.

It's the complaint as old as our magazine: Your instruction isn't consistent. The latest reader to complain is Paul Metzger of Oakton, Virginia, who accurately points out contradictory messages about hitting hybrids in the February and August 2007 Breaking 90 sections:

The February Breaking 90 section says "Hit hybrids like irons...just remember not to sweep your hybrids like you would fairway woods. Play the ball slightly ahead of center in your stance, and hit the shot like you would a middle iron."

But in August, Bob Toski gives the opposite advice, says Metzger:

Don't hit down on the ball as you would with an iron...Don't take a divot...Play the ball where you would for a fairway wood.

Metzger argues that at the very least we ought to forewarn readers about the differences because "sometimes the contradictory advice isn't in issues so far apart, but from issue to issue.

Couldn't agree more, Paul. I've long thought we ought to run a paragraph in the front of the magazine that says:

Golf Digest publishes instruction from the very best teachers in the game, whose approaches do not always agree. We urge you to experiment. But we recommend that you seek the advice of a PGA or LPGA professional as you work on your swing and try these tips.

The case in hand reminds me of tips I read years ago about hitting fairway woods. Byron Nelson recommended sweeping fairway woods. Ben Hogan advised to hit them just as you might an iron, even to the point of taking a divot. Two of the greatest players and minds in the game with contradictory messages about how to hit a wood club from the grass.

But it's more than different strokes for different folks. Last night, in his acceptance of the PGA's Distinguished Service Award, the great player and teacher Jack Burke said something very wise about accepting change and accepting the fact that our games and our swings change constantly, even within a round.

You shouldn't fear change. Change brings hope. You change every round. You hit that one shot and you want to repeat it. But you don't get to repeat it. That was it.

In a round, said Burke, you make change after change, sometimes from swing to swing. You aren't the same golfer on the last hole you were on the first. So those contradictory pieces of advice, Paul, may not seem so contradictory after all. You may feel like you're sweeping that hybrid one swing and hitting down on them another. And each approach might be right under certain conditions.

Was it Gardner Dickinson who said:

They say golf is like life, but don't believe them. It's more complicated than that.

--Bob Carney