Although it was at the Open Championship in 2004 where Todd Hamilton made hybrids a must-have club for everyday players, the Open Championship routinely sees players eschewing hybrids in favor of low-lofted irons.
Along with standard 2-irons, many players have gravitated in recent years toward driving-iron type clubs, and this year’s championship at Royal Troon served as further evidence. Less than 40 hybrids were in play at Troon, but nearly 100 driving-iron type 2- and 3-irons. It’s almost a surefire equation: When the fairways get firmer and narrower, the driving iron count goes up.
Part of what makes driving irons a go-to option for the pros isn’t just a lower ball flight than a hybrid, but the fact most of these clubs are designed to be easier to hit than a long iron along with more zip off the face. Callaway’s Apex UT (used by Masters champ Danny Willett) has a hollow construction along with a face cup for added spring. TaylorMade’s Tour Preferred UDI (used by Dustin Johnson, among others) has a slot in the sole to boost ball speed.
Though the methods to get to it vary, the technological goal of these clubs is basically the same: more mass combined with lower and deeper centers of gravity to help get the ball airborne, while providing versatility. On a standard 2- or 3-iron the CG is located closer to the face whereas it is farther back in a driving iron.
As a result, the spin rate is lower than that of a 2- or 3-iron which reduces the curvature of the shot, thus promoting greater accuracy. In addition, a deeper CG also encourages a higher launch angle than a typical long iron (but lower than a hybrid) for greater carry -- a desirable combination.