What Club Should I Use? Fairway vs. Hybrid vs. Iron

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.

Distance Conversion Chart

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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27 comments

  1. Very interesting article on hybrid lengths. I
    generally tend to fudge about 1/2″ on hybrids
    versus. Another way to look at it is to consider
    the hybrid a replacement for a fwy wood, thus
    having a longer club length. another thing is
    that like an iron, a hybrid is a control club and
    tghe longer the length, the less control.

  2. Dante Bellizzi says:

    I’m still trying to figure out when I would use a 1 or 2 hybrid and if that would take the place of a 5w in my bag… I guess it’s just a matter of getting out there and hitting the clubs and measuring off distances..

  3. Jeff Summitt says:

    Dante:

    There is no substitute for first hand knowledge. I can tell you this, a 1 or 2 hybrid will most likely produce a lower ball flight than a 5 wood even though the distance may very well be the same.

  4. Dante Bellizzi says:

    Thanks!

  5. Robby Talton says:

    I have recently gone back to by fairway woods. Although I wanted to use hybrids and have purchased a set, the old faithful 7 wood still does it for me. So although hybrids are preferred I think it is very important to hit the clubs, weather it new irons, hybrids, or drivers and go with the feel, not the name brand.

  6. rené marcoux says:

    do you a chart that compare hybryd vs iron loft- distance etc.. thanks!

  7. Jeff Summitt says:

    Rene:

    As much as I would like to have a chart that would give direct comparisons, it cannot be accomplished. The assembly lengths, weights and center of gravity differences all factor into the distance you hit the ball and can vary greatly amongst all the manufacturers today. A good rule of thumb would be to select a hybrids with a couple degrees less loft to offset the reduced swing speed from the shorter assembly length.

  8. paul says:

    i have a 20 degree hybid and a 22 degree seven wood,
    which should i take out on of my bag.

  9. Jeff Summitt says:

    Paul:

    For many players, the distances will be very similar with each. I would use your confidence make that decision. For instance, ask yourself which one you feel more comfortable hitting, plus look at ball flight. You may hit the 7-wood higher and be able to hold greens better than the 20 degree hybrid.

  10. paul clem says:

    what would be wrong with a 21 degree fairway wood cut down to
    39″ to bridge to gap of the 7 wood and the 6 iron and have no hybrid at all?

  11. Jeff Summitt says:

    Paul:

    It may not have enough head weight at that length to effectively control and feel throughout the swing. Plus you will still have a fairly big gap between the 7-wood and 6-iron. If you want something along those lines, look at a 4 hybrid.

  12. paul clem says:

    i was thinking to make a 21 degree with a longer shaft and
    use it in place of the 3 and 5 wood, what do you think?

  13. Jeff Summitt says:

    Paul:

    the 21 degree fairway (or hybrid) will not hit the ball as far as a 3 or 5 wood so you would not be accomplishing much other than taking a few extra clubs from the bag and making it lighter. Even making it longer is no guarantee you will swing it any faster as the club will become more head heavy or have a higher swingweight.

  14. paul clem says:

    I carry a 3,4,5 hybrid do i need all three or just take the 4 out of my bag?

  15. plc says:

    I is a 3 hybrid and 4 hybrid about the same in distance?

  16. Jeff Summitt says:

    Paul:

    There should be a separation in the distances you hit the ball between a 3,4 and 5 hybrids – about the same as a 3, 4 and 5 iron. If you do not experience a good enough separation to warrant carrying them in the bag, I would shed one of the clubs.

  17. leon says:

    what fairway wood does a #1 hybrid replace?

  18. Jeff Summitt says:

    Leon:

    In general terms, you would be looking a #3 wood.

  19. Ginger says:

    I just recently decided to take up golf. I found a set of clubs that I liked and purshased them without knowing the diference between regular clubs and hybrid. The set and drivers are all hybrids – so basically from the start I’m playing with hybrids. My husband said I should have started with regular clubs and advanced to hybrids once my game impoved….. My question is – since I’ve never played before and I’m in the discovery/learning phase, does it really matter that I started with hybrids?

  20. Jeff Summitt says:

    Ginger:

    This game is already hard enough for most golfers that they sadly quit way too early and often. This is one time not to take your husband’s advise – if you like the clubs and enjoying play golf with them is all that matters. Over time you might get a chance to hit some of your fellow golfers golf clubs to see how they differ from what you are presently using. At that time if you find something that works better, that is the time to change. But for now, enjoy the game and hopefully you can play for a lifetime.

  21. Robert Pallone says:

    Excellent comments re hybrid use in varying circumstances

  22. Neil says:

    Thank you for posting such great replies to different questions. I am looking into hybrids to replace my 2 iron (18.5) and 3 iron (21). Both clubs I can hit fine off the tee but struggle on the fairway and have no chance out of the ruff. I’m not sure what lofts to go for in the hybrids to get the same kind of distances.

  23. Jeff Summitt says:

    Neil,

    Most #2 hybrids (to replace a #2-iron) are going to be in the 16-17 degree range, while a #3 hybrid (to replace a #3-iron), will likely be in the 19-20 degree range. You may still have troubles getting the ball airborne off of the fairway or rough despite the lower and deeper centers of gravities of the hybrid vs. an iron. A 5 wood and 7 wood combo would hit the ball the same distances as a 2 and 3 iron respectively, but should be easier to extract the ball out of the rough and make it easier to get airborne on the fairway. Regardless, both hybrid and fairway will be easier to hit than the irons.

  24. Tim says:

    Jeff, great info so far. I am new to golf with a slow swing speed. I hit my 3Hybrid(21 degree) well but do not feel it gets enough distance 185-195. I just ordered 5wood(19 degree)and I am getting flack from golf buddies saying 3hybrid is the same as 5wood and I am wasting my money. After reading your comments, it looks like it would be a good purchase as the 3 hybrid is made to replace an iron not a wood. Thoughts? Thanks in advance.

  25. Jeff Summitt says:

    Tim,

    For most golfers, the 7 wood would go the same distance as a 3 iron, albeit at a higher launch angle. The 5 wood should be the next progression in your golf bag.

  26. paul says:

    which is better off the fairway a large head or a small head and why are there so many different sizes?

  27. Jeff Summitt says:

    Paul,

    A large head (heel-to-toe and face-to-back) will be more forgiving on off-center shots, while smaller (also heel-to-toe and/or face-to-back) will allow more workability. If you are talking about size as in face height, shallower will increase trajectory with all else equal, while a taller or deeper face may be preferred off of the tee or tend to hit high upon the face. The reason for the different sizes is preference by the golfer.

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