Instant Golf Swing

Fairway Woods vs. Hybrid Clubs

by Robert Cotter
Professional Golf Ball Engineer
Director of Golf Swing Instruction, Instant Golf®

Fairway Woods vs. Hybrid ClubsThe 2017 PGA Tour season is well underway with some big wins by rising stars like Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm. This is also a time when many recreational golfers worldwide will be looking to add a new club or 2 to their bags as there are a lot of great "kick-off" sales out there especially on Fairway Woods and Hybrid Clubs.

Did you know that just a few years ago it was rare to see a hybrid golf club in the bag of a PGA pro. Part of the reason was that pros have high proficiency with long irons and fairway woods, but it also was a "macho" or ego issue.

That all changed when players started winning with a hybrid or two in the bag. Now over 70% of PGA players carry and use hybrids. Quite an evolution.

If you watched the PGA Championship you saw both hybrids and high lofted woods in the bags of the top players at Valhalla.

Winner Rory Mcllroy used a Nike 5 wood all week, where as runner-up Phil Mickelson hit some stunning shots with his 18 degree Callaway hybrid club.

Hybrids golf clubs evolved from the "rescue" clubs that were designed to get a golfer out of tricky situations (i.e.- rough or tight lies, or from under tree limbs). They were proven to be very effective and easy to hit off of good lies too as they combined characteristics of both traditional fairway woods and irons.

They now serve primarily as replacements for 1-4 irons, the clubs that most rec golfers (and many pros) have the hardest time hitting.

So what's better, a fairway wood or hybrid?

It's a standing debate, and the answer is different for recreational players vs. pros. Let's focus on the recreational golfer in this report.

The first point to remember is that hybrids are replacement clubs primarily for long irons, so they should be viewed as such. So the debate is less about "fairway woods vs. hybrids" and more about what's best for your game and ability.

Hybrids have shorter shafts than fairway woods thus are easier to control. They also incorporate deeper heads (unlike long irons) which enables more back weighting and therefore increases club head stability for straighter shots.

Hybrids generally launch the ball higher and impart more spin than fairway woods. This helps the rec player as well as the pros "parachute" balls into the green.

Maybe you have seen Zach Johnson, the winner of the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions float a ball into a green with his 21 Titleist 909H hybrid. He makes it look like a 7 iron!

If you already hit the ball very high then a 5 or 7 wood may be a better choice for your game. It is easier to control the loft of a fairway wood too as there is typically less hosel offset.

Now when it comes to the fairway woods, I would like to make an analogy. Think of a fairway wood as if it is a sledgehammer, and a hybrid more like a standard hammer.

If you really want to get the ball up to or around the green from the fairway say on a second shot on a par 5, then a fairway wood (3-5) is the tool of choice as it combines more driver like qualities with additional loft.

We all play on holes where we have a "go" light to a green where there is limited trouble. In those cases take that fairway wood with the higher club head speed (longer shaft), make a smooth swing, and go for it. The rewards outweigh the risks.

If you play on courses with more delicate approach or second shots a hybrid can be the better choice.

I carry a 3 hybrid which has about 18-19 degrees of standard loft and an older 3 wood with 15 degrees of loft. They each have their place and their own jobs to perform.

I'll end this report with a word about ball position and attack angle on the ball with the hybrids. This is based on what I see on the course and at the range.

Many golfers play the ball too far forward in their stance with the hybrids. I believe it is because they still feel as if they are hitting a modified fairway wood.

Remember that hybrids are replacements for longer irons. You wouldn't play a long iron off your front instep like a driver, so make sure the ball is positioned somewhere between your front arm pit or under your shirt logo (right).

This will greatly improve your ball contact as it will encourage a slightly descending blow and shallow divot.

Even #3-7 fairway woods can be played in this position or slightly forward. Better players "scruff" the grass in front of the ball after impact with woods indicating contact at the bottom of the swing arc or even a very slight descending blow.

Any attempt to scoop the ball or help it in the air is not needed and often leads to frustrating fat (hitting the ground behind the ball) or topped shots (short shots that don't get airborne and topple down the fairway).

Both hybrids and fairway woods have plenty of loft by design. Let them work for you by making solid contact with a balanced, smooth tempo swing.

The reward will be more birdie and eagle opportunities and lower scores. You'll also have that great shot to brag about with your buddies at the club house bar; the one from the fairway that took off like a bullet, disappeared over the hill, and settled 12 feet from the pin.

Enjoy your 2017 Golf,

Robert Cotter
Instant Golf®





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