Utility Irons vs. Hybrid Clubs: The Rumble of the Long Irons

Golf expert Rob H. pits utility irons against hybrid clubs to see which one comes out on top - and help you decide which one is right for you.

Photo by Rob H.

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In a space that has been dominated for years by the hybrid (aka rescue clubs for the TaylorMade fans out there), major club manufacturers have been bringing out utility irons to give you options for your long iron replacement. I have personally owned both types of clubs, mainly because of the hype on the particular clubs. I would switch them out every time I had a bad outing.

This has led me to the question, which one is the best for me? Time to go hit these side by side to see which one works better, and it might help you decide, too. Please don't hesitate to reach out to a Curated expert anytime for advice on finding the right gear for your game.

Utility Irons

Two silver golf irons on the grass

The Srixon ZU85 above and the Ping G410 below. Photo by Rob H.

About five to six years ago, a few of the major club manufacturers started making driving irons in very strong lofted irons: 1-iron, 2-iron, and 3-iron, and down to the 5-iron. Over time, these have morphed into the utility iron. These are bigger iron heads with a wider sole, usually featuring a hollow-body construction to allow for easier launch than regular irons due to a lower center of gravity. Most often, they blend nicely into sets of irons; for example, the Srixon ZU85 blends well into the Z585 set.

Utility irons are usually larger than your typical iron. They are not super game improvement irons by any means. Typically they have the same amount of offset that you would find on a players distance iron; they have some offset but not a lot. Also, the loft options are usually on the stronger side. Look at the TaylorMade P790 UDI, which only has a #2-17 degree option. The Srixon ZU85, meanwhile, starts at the #2-18 degree and goes to a #6-29 degree.

Hybrid Clubs

Two black hybrid clubs with grass in the background

Mizuno JPX 900 on the left and TaylorMade GPAR Hi on the right. Photo by Rob H.

Hybrid clubs have been all the rage over the last 12 to 15 years. Every major manufacturer has at least one model out, if not two. Look at Cobra Golf: they have three different models for the speedzone line by itself.

Hybrids blend a fairway wood head, typically half the size of a fairway wood head, with the length of an iron. This makes the club very controllable and provides easier to launch conditions versus an iron, because the center of gravity in the club is much lower. You are now seeing this club design replace whole sets. Cleveland Launcher Turbo HB irons offer you a full “iron” set in hybrids, from a 4 iron all the way to a sand wedge. This category is dominating golf; even the best players are putting them into the bag now. These clubs are great for those looking to fill a distance gap or even better for those who are high-handicappers.

The Match Up

What do you see when you hit these clubs side by side? Using my personal stash of clubs, I matched the loft of my two hybrid clubs to their utility iron counterparts.

I have a Mizuno JPX900 18-degree hybrid going up against the Srixon ZU85 18-degree in the “battle of the 2-irons.” I have a TaylorMade GAPR going up against a Ping G410 Crossover for the “battle of the 4-irons.” I used the same type of golf ball on all shots, the Srixon Z-Star XV, and hit three shots with each from the following locations: from the tee box, the fairway, a full swing out of the rough, and the creative shots out of the trees.

So let us see how they perform.

The Results

Four golf clubs lie on the grass

The contestants. Photo by Rob H.

The tee shots and fairway shots performed the same. The hybrids had a higher trajectory and higher carry distance. The utility irons had a lower flight. They also carried shorter, but the shallower decent angle allowed for a good amount of roll out. The total distance was about the same, however the hybrid did travel a tad further.

From the fairway hit, the utility irons were significantly harder to get airborne. When I hit full shots out of the rough, the hybrid performed better and came out much easier. The iron seemed to get tangled up in the grass.

In shots hit low through trees or where I had to shape them, the utility iron outperformed the hybrid. I was able to pick the ball much better and move it to where I wanted it to go. I struggled to keep the hybrids down and would often keep the ball in the rough instead of advancing it back to the fairway, due to tree contact.

Because of the general shape and club designs of irons and hybrids, I do not think we would see much variation with different club manufacturers.

Post-Round Analysis

Overall, these are all better options than traditional long irons. But deciding which option is best? That is really going to come down to the golfer’s needs. If you play hard and firm courses, like links courses or play golf on windy days, the utility irons would work best. Golfers who have a more moderate swing speed or struggle with finding the center of the clubface would do better with the hybrid. If you are searching to unlock maximum distance or higher launch on the golf course, as well as ease of use, the hybrid club would work better.

And if you’re still not sure which option is right for you, I or any other golf expert here at Curated are happy to give you a hand.

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Written By
I have spent 16 years in the golf club industry, most with TaylorMade golf, and I have vast knowledge of all brands, components and fittings techniques. My grandmother started me when I was 10, but I didn't pick my sticks up again until my shoulder was blownout from colliegiate water polo. I became...

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