Are Hybrids Better Than Long Irons – Golf Myths Unplugged

Are Hybrids Better Than Long Irons

Are Hybrids Always Better?

From equipment “experts” to the commentators on TV to golf instructors, virtually everyone tells amateurs the same thing: play more hybrids.  They’re supposed to be easier to hit, more accurate, and longer, so why wouldn’t you take the extra help?

Perhaps because you don’t believe everything you hear on TV.  Neither do we, so we set out to test whether or not hybrids live up to their billing as wonder clubs.

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The Myths

Myth #1 – Hybrids are longer than long irons

Myth #2 – Hybrids are more accurate than long irons

Myth #3 – Hybrids are more consistent than long irons

How We Tested

For this test, we brought in five golfers with handicaps ranging from near-zero to the mid-teens.  Each player brought their own long iron and a hybrid of equivalent loft (ex: a 4I and a 23 degree hybrid).  Each player hit 10 shots with their hybrid and 10 shots with their long iron.  Every shot was captured by Trackman and no shots were deleted.

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

The Results

Hybrid Myth 1 Final

This myth is 100% confirmed: controlling for loft, hybrids are longer, often much longer.

On average, our test group had 8 MPH more ball speed, 12 yards more carry distance, and 11 yards more total distance with their hybrids.

When we look at the players as individuals, we see the same thing.  All of our testers averaged more ball speed, more carry distance, and more total distance with their hybrid compared to their long iron.  For one tester the gap was 18 yards!

There are some very good explanation for this.  First, hybrids are often longer at the same loft compared to irons.  Additionally, the shafts are typically lighter than comparable iron shafts.  Perhaps most importantly, hybrids have large, hollow heads with hot, flexible faces.  This construction gives them a significant ball speed advantage, even as irons become more sophisticated.

Hybrids Myth 2 Final

Hybrids definitely provide a distance advantage, but when it comes to accuracy, long irons trump hybrids.

As a whole, our group hit their long iron shots 6 yards closer to their target than their hybrid shots.  That’s the difference between a good look at birdie and a shot that might not even be on the green.

The data is even more compelling when we look at the players individually.  Every player in our test posted a better accuracy average with their long iron compared to their hybrid.  Additionally, more bad shots (shots more than 10 yards off line) were hit with hybrids (35 vs 20).

We did look at two other metrics that showed hybrids and long irons to be more equal.  When we look at the accuracy range (distance from best shot to worst shot), 4 out of 5 players were better with their hybrid.  This is a bit deceptive, however, because the differences for three of those players was less than 1.5 yards.  Similarly, when we look at players’ worst shots, it is apparent that golfers are equally capable of sending hybrids and long irons significantly off line.

Hybrids Myth 3 Final

Since consistency is a magic word with golfers, we wanted to look at this in as many dimensions as possible.  We will explain each one individually, but we’ll deliver the headline first: hybrids are not more consistent than long irons.

Let’s start by restating the point about accuracy: hybrids are not more accurate than long irons, nor are they more consistent in terms of accuracy.

When we look at distance, we see that hybrids are longer, but that doesn’t make them more consistent.  4 of our 5 players had larger distance ranges (the distance between their longest and shortest shots) with hybrids.  We saw that with a hybrid or long iron, the worst shot went about the same distance; the hybrid simply hit its best shot farther.  We also looked at shots that were “bad” from a distance perspective – more than 15 yards short of the average – and the difference was stark.  When looking at carry distances, our group had 10 bad shots with hybrids, just 6 with long irons.  If we switch to total distance, the tally was 9 to 4, advantage long irons.

Finally, we looked at launch angles and spin rates.  While these metrics are certainly secondary to distance and accuracy, they’re important to scoring because they tell us how the ball will perform in the wind and what it will do when it lands.  Long irons proved to be much more consistent with regard to launch and spin.  Each tester had smaller ranges of launch angles and spin rates with their long irons compared to their hybrids.  Looking at the group averages shows that it isn’t a small difference either: the group’s launch angle range was just 4 degrees with long irons, but it was over 13 degrees with a hybrid.  Similarly, the average spin range with a long iron was approximately 1200 RPM with a long iron, but nearly 3100 RPM with a hybrid.

Conclusion

Our data shows that hybrids are not the miracle clubs that many people make them out to be, but does that mean you shouldn’t play them?  Absolutely not.

Hybrids should be in the bag of most golfers, but it’s important to understand what they do well and where they struggle.  The extra distance alone is a huge advantage.  Additionally, the higher launch and spin are great for many players.  However, the larger heads can produce wild shot shapes due to gear effect, and hybrids do not guarantee good contact.

In hybrids, as much or more than with other clubs, fitting is critical – you can’t simply pick something off the rack and hope to be successful.  You need to find a head and shaft combination that will produce the distance you need with the ball flight that you want.  Between hybrids, long irons, and utility clubs, you have more choices here than anywhere else in your bag, so having a fitter guide you through your choice is invaluable.

What golf myths do you want to see unplugged?  Tell us in the comments below!

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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.

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26 Comments

  1. Might be interesting to do the 2 failed myths again with hybrids and irons of equal shot length. Since accuracy and consistency seem to drop as shot length grows it would be good to control for that factor. End conclusions might be the same but we can’t know without trying.

    Also would be good to check for how they differ from the rough. To me that is one of the areas where a hybrid has a big advantage.

    • Matt Saternus

      Tom,

      Great points.
      I went back and looked at the data, and if we look at degrees offline (a way of measuring accuracy that controls for distance), the hybrids were 2* further offline than the irons. Even controlling for distance, they’re less accurate.
      Play from the rough is definitely something to consider when choosing clubs for your own bag. You could also include how easy it is to hit them off the tee, out of fairway bunkers, etc. There are certainly many advantages to hybrids, they’re just not one-size-fits-all.

      Best,

      Matt

  2. Thank you Matt. I suspected that would be the case on accuracy but until your reply it was just a guess. :)

  3. The only so called hybrid I can hit is my Adams dhy pro that’s 21 Deg .Do you consider that a hybrid or a iron ?
    Thanks,robin.

    • Matt Saternus

      Robin,

      I think Adams calls it a driving hybrid. I would call that a utility iron – a hybrid of a hybrid and an iron. Or you could call it a driving iron. I guess as long as it works, it doesn’t matter what you call it.

      Best,

      Matt

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I have been telling my playing partners the same thing for the last five years.

  5. I was very pleased to see this test. I always struggle with hybrids. I just commented that I want more long irons as I seem to play them better. I agree the distance is longer with hybrids but I control the irons better. It’s harder to find 4, 3, or 2 irons, everyone sells hybrids. Glad to hear your test confirmed what I experienced.

  6. Good stuff here. My 2c:

    Let’s remember the target demographic for hybrids, particularly GI hybrids and/or set hybrids. They are massively skewed to an artificial upright lie to combat the slice 90% of that target demographic has. I have great clubfitting resources, but cannot get lies changed on my hybrids. So your miss with a good I/O swing path will be a hook. You’re kinna penalized for a better player’s miss.

    I pack my bag based on the course. On a windy day, courses with tight par 4s or long par 3s, I will pack a 3i or even a 2i. For those who scoff, try teeing your 3i 1/4 inch up like Nicklaus suggests and put a nice, smooth power fade swing on it. A 2i is great too for that or that tricky par 4 on #9 or 18 where you have to carry the water but have a narrow fairway you can run with a low draw to set up for a 9i or wedge in.

    I usually carry a Cally 22° XR and X Hot Pro 18°, but I’ll swap out the latter for a 5w or 2i, 3i. I never carry a 4i. Maybe it’s just me, but how many shots a round at ANY level demand a 4i?

  7. Personally I use Hybrids as a replacement for 3/5 Woods.
    I can hit them as far and with more accuracy.
    Have three 17.20.23. they get gamed as to what course I am playing .

  8. I’ve never found a hybrid that I can hit target with consistently. I recently purchased a game improvement 3 iron (Callaway XR) and hit it as far, and certainly more consistently at target than my old Adams 19*.
    Thanks for your insights. Keep up the good work.

  9. Razorback golfer

    I think a test with the same shafts and lengths in both the long iron and the hybrid would be more beneficial. There is no way that accuracy and consistency can be as good with a longer, lighter hybrid shaft as a steel iron shaft. I am a single digit golfer who on a whim replaced my mp60 3 and 4 iron heads with Adams XTD hybrid heads. Accurate and consistent. No hooks either. Plus I’m not in the slow as category. Just my 2 cents.

    • Razorback golfer

      **slow ss , swing speed**

      • I agree with Razorback that hybrids and irons are not direct apples-to-apples comparisons. Why? Because hybrids are usually longer and lower lofted than the irons they’re supposed to replace.

        I’d bet if you matched length, loft, and lie angles perfectly hybrid to iron, the hybrid would win.

        However, as Matt mentioned, this test is for the average consumer that just grabs something off the shelf.

        If anything, this test proves that you should go get fit for your gear, and buying crap from a big box store is like trying to get dressed in the dark… you have no idea what’s going to happen…

    • Matt Saternus

      Beneficial to whom? This test was designed to help the 99% of golfers who play their clubs stock, or, minimally, with hybrid shafts in hybrids and iron shafts in irons.
      Moreover, the idea that accuracy and consistency will magically improve with shorter, heavier clubs is false, as seen in this previous Myths post:

      http://pluggedingolf.com/tee-shot-myth-golf-myths-unplugged/

      -Matt

  10. Hi Matt what would you consider a steel shaft mizuno 3 jpx hi fli club would that be more accurate than a graphite shaft.
    Thanks
    Rick

    • Matt Saternus

      Richard,

      I expect the graphite shaft will be better for some, the steel will be better for others. Fit trumps everything else.

      -Matt

  11. Was all the testing from the fairway or was there testing from the rough?

  12. Trying to knockdown a hybrid is not so easy. Hybrids seems to send balls higher and closing it down a bit hasn’t produced a controllable lower flying shot for me. I love my long irons for this reason.

  13. how would all hybrids help someone who fairly consistently hits behind the ball,yet not so with my 6 hybrid which his my go to from rough ,and nails the green 9 out of 10 at 130 to 140 yds

    • Matt Saternus

      Barry,

      Nothing is going to magically fix hitting fat shots, but the wider sole of a hybrid will likely be better than an iron because it won’t dig into the turf as much.

      Best,

      Matt

  14. Dear Matt,
    this is one of the most interesting test you made and I fully agree with the conclusions. I dare to say though, that the results are a bit skewed towards long irons as for testing you took better golfers. Throwing in two 20+ handicappers might do big favour to hybrids.
    What I would like to know, how hybrids would stand against Game improvement long irons. I assume your golfers had mostly players irons, or distance irons. What is your educated guess e.g. Ap1 4i vs corresponding H1 hybrid…? Would it change the results of the testing even more in favour of the irons?

    Thanks,

    P.

    • Matt Saternus

      Peter,

      The irons that our players use were a mix of game improvement and players cavity backs. I think that a more forgiving iron does tilt the table more towards an iron if you assume that the player is equally skilled with it. Said another way: giving the players in this test a giant iron may have hurt them because they would not have been comfortable with it.

      Best,

      Matt

  15. Shane Jones

    The only hybrids I have ever seen that are a direct replacement to the numbered iron they are replacing are the Mizuno JPX Fli-Hi and all three generations of Tour Edge Hot Launch Iron-woods.

    The new CBX hybrids aren’t built to be anti-slice. They’re anti-left. You can hit a draw; but the pull into the 3rd base dugout is not there.

    I’ve found at least if your replacing a middleish iron it’s best to go with a hybrid that has a slight bit more loft than the iron you are replacing for instance, play a 6-hybrid for a 5-iron or a 5h for a 4i. My rinkydinks has 24° and it replaces my 4-iron nicely.

    I play blades by the way, Matt.

  16. Gerald Teigrob

    Hi Matt. Great article…nice to see the long iron back on the rise in our golf bags. I not only am including the regular/stiff steel Cobra Bio Cell irons in my bag, but I am also playing a set of the 4, 5, and 6 irons in graphite as driving irons or hybrid iron replacements. Has anyone else experimented with this idea? I am ready to play longer irons more often this time around with the luxury of playing a graphite shafted iron in my golf bag. I’m already looking forward to seeing how this will play out during the golf season!

  17. Pingback: Are Hybrids Better Than Irons? - Golf Myths Unplugged - Plugged In Golf

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