An Expert Guide to Hitting HybridsPublished on 03/14/2023 · 7 min readHybrids are a great tool to add to your golf bag this season! Golf Expert Adam Ditcher lays out everything you'll need to know when using hybrids on the course.
Photo by Courtney Cook
Golf is a game that requires a lot of skill, and any weekend warrior will tell you that the game gets more difficult as you have less time to practice. As a result, newer players, or players who aren’t striking the ball well due to lack of practice, may benefit from additional forgiveness in their clubs, especially on longer fairway shots.
Many of these players have opted to exchange some of the long irons in their bags for hybrid clubs. The hybrid came on the scene in the 1980s and has gained popularity as a “rescue” club that is more playable from a variety of lies and is generally easier to hit than a long iron. Hybrids can come in either a wood or an iron-style head but differ from a genuine wood or an actual iron—hence the name “hybrid”—as a mix of both clubs.
Players will find that a hybrid generally helps them carry the ball a little higher than a long iron, which can lead to their hitting a 4-hybrid further than a 4-iron, due to the launch angle off the face. Hybrids also offer greater forgiveness for off-center mishits and are easier to hit out of the rough than a long iron.
How to Hit a Hybrid
The Ball Position
Let’s start with the ball position setup for a hybrid. As you proceed through your golf bag, the golf ball position should slowly move from your lead foot on a driver or fairway wood, back towards the middle of your stance for your wedges. (Your ball position when you putt is not included in this spectrum.)
Your hybrid club should be located in about the same place that you’d normally hit your iron from. So for example, a 3-hybrid would be played closer to the front foot than a 5-hybrid just because of the loft of the club and the distance the club is meant to travel.
It’s also worth noting that this is for hitting standard shots. Moving your ball position can be a great tool for hitting a wide variety of shots, but the standard position for hybrids is going to be generally between the lead foot and the center of your stance.
When swinging the hybrid, make sure to get a wide stance, with your feet shoulder-width apart. This will help center your weight and allow you to transition from your back foot in your backswing, to your front foot in your downswing, while maintaining balance throughout the process. A more narrow stance can lead to uneven weight transitions, which can cause the ball to miss left or right.
On the takeaway, keep your spine angle consistent, and create a sweeping motion with the club. Unlike longer irons, which players sometimes feel that they need to create lift on, hybrids should have no issue getting the ball into the air and helping with consistency, thanks to a larger sweet spot. This is good advice for hitting just about any shot, as a sweeping motion will help the golfer to keep swing tempo in rhythm, which allows the body to move consistently without smaller muscle groups like the wrists getting involved, and trying to compensate for any inconsistencies that occur in the backswing.
Another important distinction between a hybrid and your longer irons likely will be the shaft that is in the club. Most of the time, hybrids come with a graphite shaft that is more similar to what you’d see in other golf clubs near the top of your bag, as drivers and woods are also graphite. Occasionally, an iron-hybrid comes with the option to put a steel shaft into the club, but generally opting for graphite is going to be your best bet, even if you’re a fan of steel shafts in your irons.
The reason for this is because of the weight that a steel shaft adds to the swing. The lag created from the extra weight would lower the launch angle of the hybrid, which would help defeat the purpose of designing a club that is made to help the player hit the golf ball higher and make easier contact with a larger sweet spot, even out of heavier rough.
Reassessing Your Ball Position
Another good tip for hitting hybrids is that if you want to try to keep the ball a little lower, you can move the ball position back a bit towards the middle of your stance. Hybrids naturally are high launch angle clubs, but inevitably there will come a time when you’re within reach of the green but have to hit a lower than normal shot due to the wind, or some overhanging tree branches. (This author confesses to having to do this more than he would like!)
Moving the ball back is fine, but in this case, the swing itself also needs to be a little different. Some players prefer to give the club less loft by pressing their hands forward towards the target at address. They will then proceed to not completely shift their weight back to their right side (or left side for our left-handed friends), which will help to keep their weight forward on their front foot. This will give the swing more of a downward motion than usual, causing the ball to come off of the face of the club at a lower launch angle than usual.
Hybrids can be a good option for players both off of the tee and off the deck in the fairway, or from the rough. Often, when a player is struggling with their driver and is losing shots due to accuracy, the hybrid can be an even more forgiving and easier-to-hit option off of the tee than a typical 3 wood. Players who have no issue hitting the ball a good distance often opt for a hybrid off of the tee in various circumstances, even at the professional level.
With a limit of 14 clubs in a golf bag at a time during a round, players often are limited in the number of hybrids that they can carry. Some players will opt to not carry a 3-hybrid and just go from their woods down to a 4-hybrid. Other players who do not like to use a 5-wood might opt to carry a 2-hybrid instead, and then use a 3-hybrid and a 4-hybrid after that. Some senior players may use a few woods at the top of their bag and then have their hybrids extend into the mid-iron portion of their golf bag, leaving just a few lower irons like a 7-iron, 8-iron, and 9-iron in their bags.
The proper mix of hybrid golf clubs largely depends on the player and what areas of their game could use the most forgiveness. Hybrids generally are a bit more difficult to work the ball with than irons, especially the wood-shaped hybrids, so some higher-skilled players still may opt for using longer irons over hybrids to be able to have more control over their shots when hitting approaches into either long par 4s or scorable par 5s.
Players who are new to hybrids and have questions about what clubs they should or shouldn’t replace within their set can always get assistance from me or one of my fellow Curated Golf Experts. Even players who are long-time users of hybrids and want to make sure that their equipment is optimal for their game can connect with us and receive feedback about the club’s loft, the shaft in the hybrid, and other more technical aspects of the club that can really make a difference in the outcomes that they see out on the course. We encourage you to discuss hybrids with your Golf Expert and see if they might be the right fit for your game going forward.