Hybrids and Woods
Love Em or Hate Em
More Info on Hybrids and Woods
Which category do you fall into? It has been my experience in 18 years of teaching golf that students fall into one category or the other, but rarely in between. They either love their fairway woods or hate them. A common start to a golf lesson is a comment by the student expressing either
"I'm good with my irons, but I can't hit a wood to save my life"
"I'd rather hit my woods everywhere, because I cant' find the club face with an iron."
This of course is largely mental, but is also related to the type of swing they are making as the approach to hitting a wood is different to that of an iron.
What Club Is Easier to Hit - A Fairway Wood or a Long Iron?
Learn to hit your woods consistently
The idea behind modern design and manufacturing is that woods are much easier to hit and more forgiving than long irons. You can see this in bag after bag on the floors of pro shops. You would be hard pressed to find a 3 iron in any new set of clubs and in a lot of cases even a 4 iron. To the relief of many, fairway woods and hybrids have replaced those long, heavy, small headed irons with tiny sweet spots. Modern day fairway woods, now often referred to as metal woods or fairway metals have larger heads and therefore larger sweet spots, allowing more room for error. This is possible because of the use of lighter metals like titanium. The larger, lighter head allows the center of gravity and weight to be lower and further back from the face making it easier to get the ball airborne than with the head of a long iron. Titanium is almost half the weight of steel. The faces are made very thin which provide a nice trampoline effect allowing for an increased initial velocity. The overall lightness of these metal woods makes increasing swing speed possible as well. Woods are designed with a flat sole. With this it is easier for a player to slide the head through the grass and not dig or get caught.
The Evolution of Fairway Woods
During the last century, woods went through some major changes. Early in the century the old brassies (2 woods) and spoons (3 woods) were made of beech, ash and then more commonly became persimmon or maple. These heads were heavy and small. During the 1980's, the transition to metal was well under way. Head sizes kept getting larger and larger forcing the USGA to put out a limit of 460 cc. Just as you will find the heads lighter these days, you will often find the majority of fairway woods with graphite shafts. Again a welcome change for all golfers who need a lighter and more flexible shaft.
So there is a bit of history on the evolution of the modern fairway wood and the transition away from long irons. A common question is..."do you set up to and swing a fairway wood differently than you do an iron?" The answer is yes. The loft on woods can vary from 7-31 degrees overall. There are 2 woods all the way down to woods that number in the teens. Because most of these club are longer, flatter and have less loft than irons, there are some things you need to do differently at address. The design of the club alone will alter your swing plane.
The last decade has been filled with a slow transition away from ego and towards hybrids. Search hybrid and the definition is "something made by combining 2 different elements." What is a hybrid golf club? Simply put, it is a mix of an iron and a fairway wood.
A hybrid basically takes the best attributes from both and combines them for a club that is easier to hit, more forgiving and suited to a variety of shots. I remember in my early years of teaching, trying to convince students (especially men) that they should put a 7 wood in their bag. The 7 wood was so easy to hit and more forgiving than a 3 wood or 5 wood.
"If you can't reach the green" I'd say, "why battle with a 3 wood? The 7 wood will go straighter, it's easier to get up in the air and misses will be more forgiving."
The Battle to Get Golfers to Use Hybrids
Consider Hitting Hybrids
The same battle ensued when hybrids hit the market. The first time I had actually seen a good player hitting one was former PGA Tour Player, friend and fellow teaching professional Roy Biancalana. I remember thinking if pros as skilled as Roy are hitting them, everyone will want one. That was not the case, however. A lot of golfers are afraid of change and want to stay in their comfort zone. Anything that throws you off visually will make you uncomfortable and this was the case with hybrids. Students were much more used to the smaller heads and sharper looks of irons. The hybrid looked clunky.
I used to teach a plus handicap (below scratch) golfer from Whales when I was in Chicago. He also worked in the business making and repairing clubs. Growing up in tough weather conditions he was accustomed to hitting a variety of shots and controlling trajectory, especially to keep the ball out of the wind. He had tremendous talent and I always respected his opinions because he grew up playing a game in Whales that was considerably different from how I grew up playing in the U.S.. During one lesson he made the comment, "I don't know why every golfer wouldn't trade out his bag for hybrids because they are so stupid easy to hit it's ridiculous!" To this day, when I get someone who resists I repeat that quote. It has taken a lot of convincing on my part, but one by one, even the lower handicap players I work with have started to switch and see the benefit.
What Makes Hybrids Easier to Hit?
Like irons, hybrids have shorter shafts, harder, flatter faces, and no bulge. Like woods, the center of gravity is at the back and bottom. These attributes combined help create distance and accuracy. A hybrid will help a player lauch the ball high and long with a higher spin rate which aids in stopping the ball faster on the greens. Many are made with runners on the bottom to help out of tough lies like rough, hazards, sand and even the first cut of rough just off the fairway.
Fairway woods traditionally have longer shafts, making them harder to control. Long irons have a small face and low loft making them difficult to hit as well. Hybrids eliminate these difficulties for you. Also, chipping with hybrids is becoming increasingly popular as the slide easily through the grass and prevent the club from digging.
Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.