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Approach Shots

Paula Creamer: My Hybrid Basics

August 19, 2012

My long fairway game is a strength for me, and I have my hybrids to thank for much of it. I might not be the longest driver on the LPGA Tour, but I know how to hit a green in regulation (my 74.2-percent average ranks third). So depending on the length of the course, I carry up to three hybrids and never an iron longer than a 5. Hybrids are easier to hit in the center of the face, and they fly higher and land softer than long irons, which is crucial on lengthy approach shots. They're also more workable than people think, and very versatile--from rough, bad lies, even for chipping. The key to hitting a hybrid well is to swing it like an iron, not a fairway wood. If you hit down on the ball with a hybrid and take a little divot (above, right), it can be just as easy to maneuver as a middle iron. I'll show you my keys to the most important hybrid shots.



Your hybrid might look a lot like a fairway wood, but you need to play it the way you would an iron. The hybrid's shaft is only slightly longer than the corresponding iron, so it's easy to set up to the ball the same way. For the standard shot, play the ball in the middle of your stance, and keep your weight centered. Your hands should be in line with the ball, and your shoulders, hips and feet should be square to your target. As you take the club back and swing through, make sure to hit the ball with a descending blow--do not use a sweeping motion, as you would with a fairway wood. I focus on moving my right side through the ball and finishing high with all my weight on my left leg.



My natural shot shape is pretty straight with a bit of a draw, but sometimes I find myself in situations where I need to produce a lower ball flight and even more of a right-to-left curve. To get that effect, I set up with the ball slightly back of center, my weight on my left side and my stance closed. I don't manipulate my hands at address to create a draw, but I do release them more through impact. I also swing more around my body--playing the ball back helps do that--which leads to a finish that is lower than on my standard swing.



The hold-off fade is an important shot to have when the wind is blowing from right to left--especially for a player like me, whose normal shot already curves a little left. My setup is similar to the standard swing, with the ball and my body weight centered, but I open my stance (aligned farther left) and widen it a bit. As I come through the ball, I keep my right arm from turning over my left and try to hold the face open. As a result, my chest is still high in the finish but my hands are off my left side and haven't released the club.