Hybrids were (and still are) a game changer for many golfers. Before this, your options for the longer end of the bag were severally limited. You might find a few five woods kicking around to bridge the gap between 3 wood and 3 iron, but that was about it. and everyone carried a 3 iron! Didn’t matter if you could barely hit the centre of a 9 iron or were 90 years old and struggling to get any irons up in the air, you were taking that 3 (and 4, and 5….) iron for a walk in the bag. The hybrids gave options to a whole range of golfers from pro to beginner. I think the 7 wood might be taking over the mantle.
So what was it about the hybrid that changed things so much? Well, suddenly it was possible to move weight further back off the clubface for starters. This increases MOI which is basically how well the club resists twisting. This is particularly important for those of us who don’t hit it out of the centre of the face all the time.
The second advantage was the ability to put a lot of weight down at the bottom of the club which helps get the ball in the air. People who had been watching their long irons killing worms as the shot along the ground for years suddenly found out what it was like to have a ball that actually got airborne and as a result, went further than their 7 iron.
Next was the sole itself. Very good golfers hit their irons with a lovely descending blow and hit ball then turf leaving that PGA tour divot behind. The rest of us are…..let’s say less consistent! Even reasonable ball strikers (and I would put myself here) don’t always have that descending ball/turf impact. We get too shallow or steep, we hit it fat. A long iron doesn’t offer a lot of help in that case, but a hybrid with its wide sole certainly does. It won’t dig (as much) and people can play some very good golf picking the ball clean off the surface with the low point under the ball rather than in front.
The final advantage is bulge and roll. Essentially, this means that the face isn’t flat. The result is that a shot out of the toe will naturally curve back towards the centre and vice versa. It won’t save a completely horrible strike, but it is a hell of a lot better than seeing a toe strike start out right and head even further.
Lighter Graphite Shafts
Allied to the use of lighter graphite shafts, it is little wonder than most bags today will probably have a hybrid or two in them and you can even find whole sets of hybrids. I have actually had a lot of success in the past using Mizuno Fli Hi hybrids up to 7 iron and I currently have a full set of Wilson Launchpad hybrid irons in one of my bags from 5 to pitching wedge.
So why do I think that a 7 wood (and maybe even more) might actually be a better bet than the hybrid now, at least for some of us? It is a good question and the obvious question that follows is to ask why we all didn’t use fairway woods instead of starting down the road to hybrids twenty or so years ago.
Fairway woods have traditionally been perhaps the hardest clubs to hit in the bag along with the dreaded long iron. Even today, a three wood isn’t the most straightforward club in the bag for most people. When hybrids starting appearing at the turn of the century, this was even more true. The heads were extremely small, especially when compare to today. Allied to a long shaft, it was a tough shot to hit. Hybrids solved the problem by basically keeping the same size head on a shorter shaft.
Computer-Aided Club Design
Things have changed a lot since then, notably in terms of the roll that computer aided design has played in finding out what actually works best in terms of materials, weight and actual clubhead design itself. Whilst the shaft of a fairway wood might still be longer than a hybrid, the difference between say a 7 wood and hybrid in terms of shaft length isn’t that huge. However, I believe that the modern 7 wood might actually have overtaken the hybrid in terms of ease of use. If you watch the occasional video or three on YouTube, you will notice the number of seven wood reviews or high lofted fairway woods appearing in bags has gone from zero to quite a few over the last year or two as well.
Funnily enough, I wouldn’t really have thought this until a month or two ago. Without rewriting what I have already written in other articles, I have changed my bag (or at least one of my bags!) round completely this year. The process isn’t quite finished, but the basic aim was to build a bag that makes golf easy when I can’t often play and also reduces joint pain and soreness the next day.
I loved played with my class Mizuno MP64s on x-stiff shafts, but I don’t really have the swing speed over a round to get the most out of this shaft, I don’t hit the middle of the face often enough to use the club effectively and I feel a bit like I have been hit by a bus the next day after playing 18 with them!
As mentioned above, I have a hybrid set of Wilson Launchpad irons in this bag. The longest iron is a five iron at, I think, 23.5 degrees of loft. These things go very high and are great fun to hit. They aren’t the best in wind and spin up a lot when I really go after one, but this seems like a small price to pay for pain-free golf currently.
Filling a Gap in the Bag
My bag-building process is ongoing as I said and there is a big hole between this five iron and driver. I am mostly a golfing minimalist and I generally carry my bag (although that might be changing too) and so I don’t believe in carry clubs just for the sake of it. Ideally, I would like one club that goes around 200m/220 yards to bridge this gap.
My past history with fairway woods has been hit-and-miss. I used a three wood off the tee for years when I wasn’t on friendly terms with my driver but it was still hit-and-miss. Likewise, hitting a three or five wood off the fairway hasn’t always been very successful. I hit some great shots but also too many poor ones to be totally convinced.
I recently spent some time on trackman going through 3 separate big brand “fittings”. Of course, this isn’t perfect, but all three brands were very good and the fitters were competent and had some good options. I was looking at either a driving iron type club or potentially a hybrid. I hit a fairway wood or two just to see, but it wasn’t really on my radar in all honesty.
The real surprise was the seven wood that I tried from Taylormade (the Stealth 2). Until then, nothing had really ticked the box. The driving irons I tried were nice enough, but I felt like I had to be 100% there every swing to make it work. I play on a course where at least one tee shot needs height, rather than length and I wasn’t confident that I could really guarantee this with a driving iron. I liked the Ping crossover even though I wasn’t crazy about the looks, and it looked like this might be as close as I would get.
Hybrids Heading Left
The hybrids were variable. I hit everything pretty well, but never felt really comfortable over the ball, whether it was Ping, Callaway, or Taylormade. I would lose one or two left and that is a scary shot for me. I hit a five wood or two, but it was generally after I had hit everything else. I actually liked the results I got, simply they went too far! I am not that long with my driver compared to my irons and the five woods I hit were almost heading into driver territory, especially given that I currently have an older rocketballz driver in the bag.
When I got to Taylormade, these fairway woods had piqued my interest enough to make it a priority to actually start out with fairways. I started hitting shots with the Stealth and playing around with various shaft options and the results were exactly what I was looking for. Good shots were giving my a little over 200m/220yards with a nice high draw and poor strikes were still getting out there, flying high and staying online.
I left this mini fitting wondering just what made the 7 wood so good? I would like to say it is the Taylormade magic, but I would guess that my results would be similar if I got the same/similar shaft in a seven wood from any of the major manufacturers. I have been thinking about this for a while and think I have got some answers.
7 Wood=Hybrid but Better
I think the seven wood does everything that a hybrid does but better. As I said above, there is a shaft length difference between a hybrid and a fairway wood, but I think given the ease of use of a modern fairway, this might actually be a good thing. It helps the average golfer generate more clubhead speed and get the ball high and far. For the rest, the fairway does everything the hybrid does but more so. The head is bigger and the sole is wider. Weight can be even further back and down. Bulge and roll helps correct errors on strikes. It feels like a hybrid on steroids in some ways.
Of course, the usual caveats apply. Your mileage may vary, you might love hybrids/long irons. However, and this is from someone who loves irons above all else, I am really coming to believe that most of us might want to put at the very least a seven wood in the bag. Who knows, in a few years time, I might even be saying the same thing about nine woods and starting my irons at a six or whatever. When you look at some of the best players on the planet like Dustin Johnson and see that they have a 7 wood in the bag, surely it is time to at least give it a try.