One hybrid is good, two is probably better but what about a complete set of hybrid irons? Despite being widely castigated twenty-odd years ago when they first appeared, it is rare to find a bag without a hybrid nowadays, even among professional golfers. If the best golfers in the world play one or two, surely the rest of us should be thinking about filling up a few more slots with them, and maybe even trying a full hybrid set?
Why Play Hybrids?
I like hitting irons and I would consider myself a good iron player. Most people I play with would probably agree with this assessment. I am poor on the greens, hot and cold with wedges and woods, but generally strike all my irons well, including the “long” ones (I include the “” for when I am playing single length.) I might not hit it like a pro (who does?) but I do okay and probably better than my handicap would indicate. I would say that I really shouldn’t be hitting anything lower than a 5 iron, and even that is probably generous. And this is with a reasonable amount of swing speed, getting plenty of height on my irons and a fairly consistent contact.
If this is true for me, what about a golfer who isn’t quite as solid with his irons? Hybrids offer a whole lot of upside without very much at all in the negative column. If you aren’t convinced, here are a few of the pluses off the top of my head:
- High ball flight (and therefore better stopping power)
- forgiveness (I have quite a few reservations about this word, but let’s leave it there for the instant.)
- Versatility (chipping, three quarter swing, high draw off the tee.)
- Bulge and roll (compared to a flat iron face, that toe hit will actually draw back into play, at least in theory.)
- Confidence-inspiring look (not as insignificant as you might think.)
In the negatives, the only real thing that comes to mind is ‘looks.’ I prefer my Mizunos, but who wouldn’t? And as an iron player, this really doesn’t bother me much any more, so for someone less “shiny blade obsessed”, they probably aren’t going to care at all.
Playing a Full Set of Hybrid Irons
Of course this is where it gets tricky. Those who resist playing a hybrid at any slot in the bag are now fairly rare. Maybe they prefer a high-lofted fairway wood instead and there are plenty of 7 woods on tour nowadays too. There are some players that just can’t adjust to the look at all and perhaps have a chunky driving iron or two down at the bottom of the bag. But you won’t find very many people who are playing a traditional 3 iron instead of a hybrid any more and finding a 1 or 2 iron if you want to complete a regular set of irons is basically impossible.
I mentioned previously that I should probably stop at a five iron in my own set. In all honesty, playing wedges, irons down to 6 then hybrids would be more appropriate, which would mean at least two, possibly three in the bag. This isn’t really a too outlandish but what about having say, 4 hybrids in your bag? Or perhaps playing pitch, 9,8 then going onto something like a Mizuno fli hi at around 30 degrees? I have actually played some decent golf with a seven hybrid in the bag when a crisis of the dreaded shanks hit my irons a few years ago.
If I had a little bit more common sense, I should have kept this bag set up. Given the number of different clubs I try, it probably wouldn’t have been possible, but most golfers aren’t me. They aren’t constantly looking for a new (to me) set of 1950s blades to go in the back up bag to the first reserve bag!
So what is really stopping many golfers going down the road to a full hybrid set? I would guess there are a few reasons.
The first one is really to go with habit and knowledge. Hybrids/utilities were originally brought in to replace hard to hit longer irons. For the average golfer, this is what they are. In fact, I would guess that most golfers would be surprised to find that hybrids even exist in higher lofts.
The second point is somewhat linked to the first. Many people considered the introduction of hybrids as some sort of crutch for seniors and/or lady golfers. Sure, they were easy to hit, but it was almost cheating, wasn’t it? A real man wouldn’t have one in his bag! This sort of thinking quickly (and happily) fell by the wayside, but unfortunately, a small group of golfers still believe it to be the case. If you have someone like this in your regular four ball, turning up with half a dozen head covers in the bag might just be opening you up to a lot of abuse from your “buddy.” Of course, beating him soundly with a set of hybrids while he is trying to launch a three iron off the deck will probably keep him quiet;)
Does a Complete Set of Hybrid Irons Exist?
The short answer here is yes. In fact, the choice is fairly broad and getting more so all the time. It used to be quite a niche product from component manufacturers, but today some of the biggest names in golf have their own versions.
Before looking at some of the options, it is worth borrowing a higher lofted hybrid from your pro shop if possible. Standing over a 7 hybrid for example, can feel a little strange at first, in the same way that hitting single-length 4 irons feels odd. For most of us, it doesn’t take a lot to get past this, but it can be a problem for a few golfers.
Hybrid sets have actually been around for quite a while. For example, you might remember Cleveland’s first generation, the Hibore irons. I had a hb3 4 iron in my bag for a few years,and it was a great club. In fact, I liked it so much, I sold it (don’t ask!) Cleveland went on through the various reboots of Hibore to the Altitude series which had something of a cult following online with a huge thread on The Hacker’s Paradise forum. They are now on to the various iterations of the launcher series and although I haven’t tried them, I am absolutely sure that they will do a great job.
Not all the manufacturers have this sort of complete hybrid set up though. Wilson Staff currently do the Launchpad irons which seem quite similar to the Clevelands. Both off these sets are certainly what I would call hybrid irons, but they both sit more on the iron side than the complete hybrid in my opinion.
As far as the big manufacturers go, the option which I prefer is from Mizuno and it is the jpx fli hi. There have been a few different generations of these and I have tried them all. I actually have a 19 degree three iron version that gets quite a lot of bag time.
I love these for a few different reasons, but principally because they do something clever which makes them easy to blend into an iron set. They are true hybrids, but built to iron specs. This means that a jpx fli hi 5 will have the same length/lie/loft as a five iron which means that you can combo them with all sorts of irons sets.
I do have two reservations though. Firstly (and this is obviously a personal one for me,) I don’t like the fact that they have progressively lowered the lofts since the previous generations. I had a second generation fli hi 7 and it was 32 degrees of loft. Nothing too extreme and it fit in nicely with the irons I was playing at the time. The current jpx fli hi 7 is 29 degrees.
I realise this probably isn’t a problem for most people. I tend to play slightly older lofts with an 8 iron around 38 degrees so this would create a big distance gap for me if i went fli hi 7 to my 8. Of course, I could simply play fli hi 7, my 7 then 8 etc. This always feels a bit weird to me, but that is probably my problem not Mizuno’s!
The other gripe I have is with the available clubs. I would love to see these all the way to 9 iron or even wedge. Of course, I understand why Mizuno does this. Sales of a jpx fli hi 9 iron probably wouldn’t make it worthwhile. Of course, there is a bit of chicken and egg about this too: how can people adopt a full hybrid set and make sales worth it to the big companies like Mizuno if the clubs don’t exist in the first place?
Component Companies and Hybrid Iron Sets
So where does that leave us? Well, in my opinion the best place to start if you want to try out a full hybrid bag is with one of the component companies out there. There are some really good/high quality companies that offer full hybrid sets all the way from 1 to sandwedge which makes it easy to have consistent distance gapping.
This isn’t the place to discuss the role of component companies, the difference between originals and copies and the quality of product in this particular segment of the golfing industry. Suffice to say, I have used and continue to use clubs from several smaller companies for a variety of reasons and at least for some, have never been disappointed in terms of price, quality or customer service. I would be happy to share my thoughts at some point if any one is interested, just leave a comment below for example.
I don’t want to leave an exhaustive list of all the component companies producing all hybrid sets either, simply because I will inevitably miss a few off and also because there are many I have never tried and can’t really comment on.
Personally, I have used Value Golf for quite a few purchases over the years, including a couple of single length irons sets and have always had excellent customer service from Aaron. These Acer hybrid irons would, in my opinion, do as good a job as anything else out there in terms of an all hybrid set, judging from my experience with Acer clubs in the past, from woods to wedges.
So there you have it. I think going to a complete set of hybrid irons would probably be a good choice for the majority of golfers, simply because it would probably solve a couple of issues that plague most mid-handicappers and above (poor strike location and low ball flight.) If you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge throughout the bag, maybe decide what a realistic cut-off point should be from irons to hybrids and try something like Mizuno’s fli hi. And then be a little bit smarter than me and actually change one more iron for a hybrid-you never know when a six (or seven hybrid) could be just the club you need!