You thought you probably knew what hybrids could do for your game. You might even play one, and most likely two. In its survey of serious golfers, Golf Datatech found that the average player carries two hybrids, and nearly one in four players carry three or more hybrids in their bags. In fact, the hybrid has become such a standard piece of equipment that more than half of all golfers in the Golf Datatech study indicated that the hybrids in their bag were purchased as part of their iron sets.
And while golfers en masse continue to embrace hybrids as a necessary substitute for the long irons they used to carry, what is changing about the hybrid landscape are two very important things: better fits for a wider range of player types and the kinds of thin, resilient face performance that used to be only possible in drivers.
The first point is important: Hybrids initially were—and of course still are—a good idea for a lot of average golfers who struggle to get low-lofted clubs launched high and far enough to create more meaningful distances between your longest fairway wood and your longest traditional iron. But as hybrid designers increasingly focused on the needs of weaker golfers, they made clubs that some better players didn’t want to play. The traditional hybrids often produced a natural draw bias with a higher-flying and higher spinning ball flight. That was too much help for better players. Now, however, there are increasing hybrid options for better players that seek clubs that provide just the right amount of game improvement with the ability to flight the ball in ways that let them attack pins. Moreover, the compact shapes of these new “players” hybrids give a better golfer the confidence that he’s got a tool, not a crutch.
Of course, that’s not to say that there still aren’t a full supply of hybrids whose sweeping soles and forgiving oversized face designs provide both more pop and ideal launch from tee, fairway and even the rough. The results are performances that have relegated not only the 3- and 4-iron to the place where persimmon woods used to go; they’ve opened the door to allow regular golfers to consider ditching the 5-, 6- and even 7-iron, too. As an example, Golf Digest asked national fitting chain and 100 Best Clubfitter Club Champion to study just how much better a 6-hybrid was than a 6-iron for an average golfer. The tests showed that for high handicappers a 6-hybrid was an average of 18 yards better in carry distance than a 6-iron. That’s a transformational change to the distance gaps in your bag.
The second point about the new age of distance technology in hybrids shouldn’t be overlooked either. New materials, new face constructions, and unheard of face thicknesses that create new levels of ball speed mean hybrids are an easier way to generate not just longer hits but consistently better hits than the irons they’re replacing. Remember also that hybrids by their very nature are dramatically more forgiving than any iron could be. Hybrids feature wide sole, hollow construction of a metalwood. That makes for a larger, more flexible face that is chock full of perimeter weighting for off-center hit stability (and distance), while at the same time redistributing more mass low so hybrid shots more easily launch the ball high.
Face it: Launching the ball high is what attracted you to the game from the very beginning. Hybrids bring that sensation back, and now they’re bringing it back to more of your set than ever before.
Story: Don’t let the compact shape fool you. This hybrid has plenty of ball-speed technology, such as the high-strength steel face that wraps around the perimeter to increase flexibility over a larger area. Plus, the company’s “jailbreak” technology has two internal bars that join the crown and sole to support even more face flexing. Still, this hybrid allows better players to shape shots with a flatter trajectory and a mid-level spin to hold greens.
Lofts: 2H-18 degrees, 3H-20 degrees, 4H-22 degrees, 5H-24 degrees
Street Price: $270
Click here to shop the Callaway Apex 19/CF19 at Golf Galaxy.
Story: Callaway’s most ambitious hybrid design starts with a high-strength steel alloy in a wraparound face for better ball speed over a larger area. The internal “jailbreak” bars join the crown and sole to stiffen the body and channel more flexing to the face. Finally, the eight-way adjustable hosel increases fitting options and drops 13 grams from past versions. With that weight saved, the club’s center of gravity is just as low as that of a fixed-hosel design.
Lofts: 3H-18 degrees, 4H-21 degrees, 5H-24 degrees, 6H-27 degrees, 7H-30 degrees, 8H-33 degrees (all adjustable +2/-1 degrees)
Street Price: $270
Click here to shop the Callaway Big Bertha (2019) at Golf Galaxy.
Story: When you see driver and fairway-wood technology in a hybrid, you can be assured it’s about distance. That’s the case here. A wraparound design creates a larger area that’s flexible, and Callaway’s “jailbreak” technology—two internal bars behind the face that join the crown and sole—stiffens the body, directing more energy into the face. This two-model family (including the larger X version) has 11 options in lofts from 17 to 32 degrees.
Lofts: Rogue: 17,19,21, 24, 27; Rogue X: 18, 20, 23, 26, 29, 32
Street Price: $250
Story: Hybrids are game-improvement clubs, but this entry pushes the improvement quotient further with less weight, offset and a built-in draw bias. The new design removes 19 grams from the grip, shaft and head so it’s easier for average golfers to increase clubhead speed. The grip’s larger diameter offers more control, too. The head’s internal weighting is pushed deep and to the perimeter for more stability, resulting in mis-hits losing less distance.
Lofts: 3H-19 degrees, 4H-22 degrees, 5H-25 degrees, 6H-28 degrees, 7H-31 degrees
Street Price: $180
Click here to shop the Cobra F-Max Superlite at Golf Galaxy.
Story: Hybrids have low internal weighting to launch the ball higher than a similarly lofted iron. Cobra takes this idea to the extreme with a tungsten-steel weight outside the head between the company’s trademark sole rails. Those rails help the club glide through the turf more smoothly, maintaining clubhead speed for improved distance. Standard-length versions come in four lofts. A single-length option the length of a 7-iron comes in three lofts.
Lofts: Standard: 17, 19, 21, 24 degrees; One Length: 19, 21, 24 degrees
Street Price: $220
Story: This upgrade from the G400 has more mass in a tungsten rear weight for optimal forgiveness and launch—ideal when you’re replacing a hard-to-hit iron. An eight-way adjustable hosel provides more fitting for loft and lie. The center of gravity varies through the lofts so that low-lofted models (for better players) are more neutral, and higher-lofted hybrids for average players are gently draw-biased to make them easier to square at impact.
Lofts: 2H (17 degrees), 3H (19 degrees), 4H (22 degrees), 5H (26 degrees), 6H (30 degrees)
Street Price: $250
Click here to shop the Ping G410 at Golf Galaxy.
PXG 0317X GEN2
Story: These hybrids take the weight saved from a carbon-fiber crown and place it low and forward for less spin. The crown serves two other purposes: There’s extra stiffness in the front to create more flexing in the face, and the saved weight makes room for eight adjustable screws in the sole. These weights provide 20 grams for dialing in a higher flight or extra draw or fade. A honeycombed strip of polymer lines the sole to control vibration.
Lofts: 17, 19, 22, 25, 28 (all adjustable +/- 1.5 degrees)
Street Price: $375
Story: TaylorMade thinks that gap in your bag between your fairway woods and irons should be filled by a hybrid that best suits your game. Hence, the three head styles here: Lo (a hollow driving iron), Mid and Hi (a full-bodied true hybrid). Each head benefits from a slot in the sole, plus a foam filling that improves feel and supports the flexing of a thin face. There are 10 clubs in the family, and each has an adjustable loft sleeve to improve fitting.
Lofts: LO: 17, 19, 22 degrees; MID: 18, 21, 24 degrees; HI: 19, 22, 25, 28 degrees (all adjustable by +/- 1.5 degrees)
Street Price: $250
Story: We all want the kind of off-center-hit forgiveness that results in more distance and a straighter ball flight. The M6 provides this thanks to a thin, high-strength steel face and a wide, cut-through opening in the sole that increases ball speed, especially on thin shots. These also have TaylorMade’s “twist face” that curves open on the high toe and closed on the low heel to help mis-hits move back toward the target.
Lofts: 19, 22, 25, 28, 31
Street Price: $250
Click here to shop the TaylorMade M6 at Golf Galaxy.
Story: Titleist engineers slimmed these down from their predecessors but expanded their forgiveness. How? Saved weight from a thin, high-strength steel-alloy face insert yields a deeper center of gravity for more stability. That’s true for the larger H1 with its higher lofts, or the compact H2, the version preferred by Titleist tour players. Increasing their versatility is a 16-way adjustable hosel and a cylindrical sole weight to tune in a draw or fade.
Lofts: H1: 19, 21, 23, 25 and 27 degrees; H2: 17, 19, 21 and 23 degrees (all adjustable by +2/-1 degrees)
Street Price: $280
Silver-medal winning clubs:
Story: The thinner, high-strength steel alloy in the face allows for more flexing and higher ball speeds, but the boost in power comes from the sole. The wave pattern, deeper than in previous versions, compresses at impact to provide energy to the ball. The center of gravity is also low and forward for high launch with low spin. An eight-way adjustable hosel makes for easier matching with the loft gaps and lie angles in your bag.
Lofts: 16, 19, 22, 25 (adjustable +2/-2 degrees)
Street Price: $250
Tour Edge Exotics CBX 119
Story: It should tell you something that the changes from last year’s CBX came from tour-player input. That includes a smaller size (shorter heel to toe) for workability and a slightly taller face to help create more flex at impact. But plenty of speed and low spin were built in already with the titanium cupface construction supported by a heavy steel body. The better-player theme continues with six individual heads 16 to 22 degrees.
Lofts: 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 22 degrees
Street Price: $250
Tour Edge Exotics EXS
Story: Aimed at non-elite swing-speed players, this hybrid mixes the forgiving shape and flexible face that regular golfers want with the benefits of low spin to improve distance. The cupface, which wraps around the crown, side and sole, flexes better because of a dense, thin, high-strength steel alloy. Internal weighting concentrated toward the front of the face moves the center of gravity forward, but still low for better energy transfer.
Lofts: 17, 19, 22, 25 and 28 degrees
Street Price: $200