Are Hybrids Better Than Irons? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Should You Bag More Hybrids?

When they were first created, hybrids were meant to replace long irons or fairway woods (see if they should HERE).  However, in the last few years, the OEMs have been offering hybrids with more and more loft.  Should you be thinking about hybrids to replace not just your long irons but your mid irons, too?  We did some testing to find out.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Hybrids are more forgiving than irons

Myth #2 – Irons are more accurate than hybrids

Myth #3 – Hybrids are longer than irons

Myth #4 – Hybrid shots won’t hold the green

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together five golfers with handicaps ranging from 3 to 8.  Each player chose a hybrid shaft and an iron shaft that fit their swing.  They used those shafts to hit a hybrid and two irons – one players iron, one super game improvement iron.  All the clubs were set to 27 degrees.  Each player hit seven shots with each club, and all shots were recorded.

All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.

The Results

For this test, we judged forgiveness by looking at the distance between the players’ longest and shortest shots.  Four of the five testers had their smallest distance gap with the hybrid, confirming that hybrids are more forgiving than irons.

The differences in distance gaps between the hybrid and the tester’s best iron were 1.5, 3.6, 1.7, and 5.5 yards, respectively.  Comparing the hybrid to their lesser iron, the gaps were 4.5, 6.8, 2.7, and 9.8 yards.

Even though our test group favored irons over hybrids, the results here were shocking: the irons were roughly 33% more accurate than the hybrid.  On average, our testers were 46.8 feet from the center line with the hybrid.  With the players iron, that number was just 30.6 feet, and it was 32.8 feet with the game improvement iron.

On an individual basis, only one player was most accurate with the hybrid, and that player had equivalent accuracy with the players iron.  For four of five testers, the hybrid was their least accurate option.

Four of our five testers were significantly longer with the hybrid than either of the irons.  Our fifth tester, a player who does not use any hybrids, hit all three clubs within one yard of each other.  The four players who did gain distance with the hybrid were 7, 11, 4, and 10 yards longer than their best iron, respectively.

The distance gains are not hard to explain: every player in the test got the most ball speed from the hybrid.  For some players the difference was not huge – 3 MPH for two testers – but one tester gained 12 MPH versus their best iron.

The clearest conclusion in this test was that hybrids are actually superior to irons in terms of holding the green.  For every tester – even those who struggled with hybrids – the hybrid had the highest apex and the steepest landing angle.

Spin is also important for holding a green, and the hybrid did not lack there.  The hybrid was only the highest spinning club for two of our testers, but the other three players lost no more than 300 RPM with the hybrid compared to their highest spinning iron.

Opportunities for Future Testing

This is another test that we would like to conduct again with a group of higher handicap players.  It would be interesting to see how different their results are compared to this low handicap group.

Additionally, only one player in our group used a hybrid that was close in loft to the 27 degree hybrid used here.  It’s possible that a group consisting of more high-lofted hybrid players would fare much better with the hybrid than the irons.

Finally, for this test, we made a conscious decision to use the hybrid head with a graphite hybrid shaft because that’s how most players use hybrids.  It would be interesting to run this test again using the same steel shaft in all three clubs to isolate the effect of the club head.

Conclusion

Should you be bagging more hybrids?  The answer depends on what you need.  If your main problem with your irons is missing left and right, it doesn’t seem like adding more hybrids is the answer.  However, if you’re struggling with mishit shots and balls that don’t hold the green, hybrids do seem to be better choice.

Whether you opt for more irons or more hybrids, one thing remains clear: being fit for the correct clubs and shafts is essential.

The following two tabs change content below.

Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

11 Comments

  1. I would have thought Myth #3 would be fairly obvious as a fact if comparing like-for-like lofts, so I’m a bit surprised that one ever became a “myth”. Of course, no one should choose a hybrid just because it goes further than the equivalently lofted iron. They should do it because it fits their club gaps and/or to get a different ball flight (height, spin, shot shape) for different shots or conditions. I use a 4-iron and a 4-hybrid because the 4-hybrid goes about 10 yards further than my 4-iron and I can hit different shots with it. Same loft, completely different ball flight (and shot shape) as well. If I need to a shot that will come in softer or to draw one into a green, I’ll use the hybrid. If I need a little fade or a low stinger, I’ll hit the 4-iron.

    As for Myth #4, I really I don’t know how that one EVER became a myth. Anyone who has hit or even seen someone hit a hybrid before would know how much higher they go than a long iron, I guess there are that many people that have never used one for that one to come about?

  2. When swapping out an iron for a hybrid how many degrees of loft should you go up for equivalent distance? I want to get rid of my 22.5° 4 iron, but keep same general distance for gapping reasons. I know it’s not as easy was 4 iron to 4 hybrid. Should I be looking for a 24° or 25° hybrid?

    • Matt Saternus

      Chris,

      This is a great question but there’s no simple answer because hybrids (and irons, to a lesser extent) vary so much in terms of ball speed, launch, and spin. You also get into the question of shaft choice. I would suggest going to a fitter or at least a demo day and hitting your 4I head to head against some hybrids to find out which ones will produce the same distance.

      Best,

      Matt

  3. Charles Bartholomew

    This test begs the question, what were the lengths of the hybrid shafts and what were the lengths of the iron shafts. Because most hybrid shafts are longer than the equivalent iron shaft, it would stand to reason that they should travel farther.

  4. Tom Duckworth

    I made the decision to use hybrids more this year I had been playing a TM M2 #3 and I added a #4 to the bag. I wanted to have that 200 yard club that would come in higher and hold a green better. I could just make the green with a very well struck 4 iron but they wouldn’t always hold very well and I felt like I had to hit a perfect shot.
    I was kind of shocked you used a 27 degree hybrid for this test. What made you pick that loft?
    I also have a Wilson utility 4 iron that I like very much I want to keep it around for windy days. I plan on gap testing my 4 iron, 4 hybrid and 4 utility just to get a better handle on how I want to use them in my game. Switch them in and out for different courses and weather. Good test I like that you do these.

  5. Ian Gerrish

    I am a higher handicap player (19) and still prefer the look and feel of irons over hybrids. For whatever reason I do not like the look of hybrids down by the ball. I am looking forward to the test you conduct with the higher handicappers to see if maybe should re-think my club selection and get over my visual perceptions to play better golf and lower my scores.

  6. I am looking forward to the same test with higher handicap golfers. I live and play golf at Sun City Grand, a four course, age restricted (retirement community) in Surprise, Arizona. I don’t think I have ever played here with a 3 – 8 handicap player other than the club pros. I am 73 and play once or twice a week to a 20 handicap. I have switched out my 4, 5, 6, and 7 irons for Cobra Baffler hybrids. The hybrids, for me, are more consistent and easier to hit. I hit a nice high shot that holds the greens just fine. Distance is comparable to my old irons. Again, looking forward to the same test with higher handicappers using hybrids versus game improvement irons. Thanks for your excellent work!

  7. christopher saternus

    Having been around for a while, I recall that in the 70’s, golf shops (particularly country club golf shops) were selling 5, 7 and 9 woods individually. They were pretty, made of wood, and expensive. But if you worked at it, they even produced decent results. Things don’t change, just the names change.

  8. James Cowley

    The only non-hybrids in my bag are my woods,sand wedge and putter. Unlike your testers my handicap is 20 and I find the hybrids have made a significant improvement to my game. At 70 the distance I can hit any club is less than what it was but with the hybrids I can get back some of the lost yardage and my accuracy is improved compared to what I had with irons (at least until I get within 50 yards of the gree where I still stink).
    For me,at least, I find that a bag full of hybrids is just what I needed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*