Specials

Technical Tips

July 2009

What Club Should I Use? Fairway vs. Hybrid vs. Iron
-- by Jeff Summitt, Hireko Technical Director

Why Clubs with the Same Loft Don’t Go the Same Distance

There is a TV commercial that says “twenty-one is twenty-one” to help educate teens and young adults about the legal drinking age in America.  But when it comes to golf club selection twenty-one might not be twenty-one.  What I mean by this statement is many golfers will assume that the loft is what controls the distance they hit the ball.  So if a player already has a 21° loft 7-wood, they may think that a 21° hybrid or iron will also go the same distance.  Golfers may be surprised that in order to have better game management skills to fill their distance gaps they may possibly need two clubs in their bag with the same or similar lofts.

Yes, part of the distance a player hits the ball is indeed controlled by loft.  But there are two other important factors that contribute to the distance equation. One is the weight of the club and the other is the assembly length. These golf components go hand-in-hand and help to generate the speed at which a player swings the club.

Why Most Golfers Are Confused

In our example of clubs that have 21° of loft, they could very well be hitting a 7-wood, 3-iron, 3-hybrid or even 4-hybrid. This is a good starting point since most often golfers are looking to replace the #3-iron first. In the golf club industry, these clubs could very well be at least 3 if not 4 different assembly lengths.  It is important to realize that several of #3 hybrids on the market are assembled ½” to 1” longer than a corresponding 3-iron.  At Hireko, we are standardizing our hybrids to correspond to the same numbered iron to avoid this confusion.

I believe it was Golf Digest that reported hybrids averaged about 8 yards longer than same numbered iron.  I am sure this information was based on many OEM hybrids that are built ½” – 1” longer than an iron as well as lofts that often 1-2 degrees stronger than the corresponding iron.  Remember as well how these clubs are sold.  Irons more often than not will be equipped with steel, while hybrids graphite-shafted.

These are good guidelines, but your yardages may vary as some players are better fairway wood players than with a hybrid or iron and visa versa.  Plus individual preference for trajectory for the course conditions may dictate if one may be better than another.  Often times the fairway way will produce the higher trajectory than the corresponding hybrid or iron for the same distance and a consideration for those that play in windy conditions.

Many hybrids have larger diameter shafts that are stiffer tipped and produce a lower trajectory than a fairway wood shaft.  The centers of gravity of these 3 clubs are also quite different.  So even with the same lofts, the trajectory of the ball coming off the face may differ.  Comparing #3 hybrids and 3-irons can also be misleading as the hybrids often are less lofted and will create more distance.  It is not uncommon that a #3-hybrid may be 19 or 20 degrees loft where the added loft will lead to proportionally longer distances.  In addition, not all 7-woods will have 21° loft angles some may be greater such as 22 or 23.  The added loft will lead to proportionally shorter distances.  This is why in some cases a 7-wood and a #3-hybrid may be overlapping clubs that produce the same distance, but if they are the lofts will not be identical.

The Skinny

Concentrate on putting a club(s) that replace a club that you are not hitting well or fill any yardage gaps you might have, but don’t necessarily go by the number engraved on the sole. Look carefully at both the loft and the length.  A lower (stronger) loft will hit the ball farther, but a shorter assembly length will reduce speed and subsequently distance. Now you can see how it is possible to carry two clubs in the bag with the same or similar lofts, but may go different distances.

 


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