Hybrids vs. Irons – When to Hit

One “common” question we receive (multiple times a week) is when to hit hybrids vs. when to hit irons.

When do you hit hybrids, when do you hit irons?

Here are a few scenarios of when it is recommended to hit a hybrid and when it is recommended to run an iron.

First – A Hybrid is best thought of as a long/mid iron replacement. It is a club with a more full sole and typically more weight on the bottom/ sole of the club which makes it much easier to hit the longer shots (with the hybrid vs. the mid to long iron). And it is much easier to hit the longer shots with height (due to lower center of gravity in the club) which typically allows the golf ball to “hold” on the green easier.


Scenario #1: Ball in Rough

Depends how the ball is sitting in the rough. If the ball is sitting on the top or middle of the rough, can use a hybrid.

If the ball is sitting at the bottom of the rough (or in deep rough) – use an iron. Might need a metal with a lot of lofts (wedge, etc.) if rough is thick enough need to get the ball up quickly to get out of rough and back in the fairway.

General Recommendation from the rough (when not buried in deep rough):

When the distance is more critical – hybrid.

When accuracy is more critical – iron.

Always remember – if there is a question if the hybrid will get the ball out of rough or not, use iron and get back into the fairway.  Hybrids are great clubs from “mild” rough but can get you in trouble if rough is too broad.


Scenario #2: Ball in Fairway Bunker

A hybrid is a great club to hit out of fairway bunkers. If you are beating out of a container and there is a minimal lip on bunker (don’t have to hit up fast) use the hybrid.

If the ball is sitting down in the sand (buried type lie) or you have to get up quick (high lip on the bunker) – use an iron.


Scenario #3: Hitting into the Wind

If it is minimal wind and you can account for the wind vs. added height of the hybrid – hit the combination.

If very windy and must keep shot down/low – use an iron. It is relatively difficult to keep hybrids low and not very good clubs into a lot of wind.

Many good players will put irons in their bags instead of hybrids when playing in excessively windy days. For example, wind blowing 30 mph to 40 mph or higher, might consider putting a four iron and five iron in the bag instead of 4 and five hybrid. If you carry three hybrids, might find a three iron (if you have one) those days. Most good players will have both irons and hybrids (at least a few) – for example, a four hybrid and four iron (carrying only one, depending on conditions).


Scenario #4: Hitting below a Tree / Punch Type Shot

If you are hitting a low shot (punch type shot) below a tree, etc. it is recommended to run an iron. Hybrids are built to get height fast, and they are not good clubs to punch shots out below trees. Would recommend hitting your longest (least lofted) iron vs. hitting a hybrid in these situations. In other words, strongly suggest punching a six iron vs. a five hybrid under the tree. Or a five iron vs. a four hybrid, etc..


Scenario #5: Chipping when a ball is sitting into the Grain


Many times when a shot comes up short of a green and is on an uphill slope to the green, it is sitting “into the grain.” Grain of the grass typically goes the way the water would roll off the hill. In other words, if your ball is sitting on a spot the water would move away from the hole, your shot is probably sitting into the grain.

To test this, take a couple of practice strokes with iron and “feel” the grass/grain. If it feels “sticky” – like the club will not cut through the grass clean and with ease, your ball is sitting into the grain. This type of shot, many times will be hit fat or “chunky” because the club will not get through the grass clean. Use your hybrid for chipping in these situations. The wider sole of the club will glide across the grass and will not get “stuck” into the grain.

Like any “specialty” shot – they require some practice. Using the proper “tool” (hybrid vs. iron) is the first key to hitting the specialty shot. The more you practice with the proper club in each scenario, the easier it will become.

4 thoughts to “Hybrids vs. Irons – When to Hit”

  1. Great, and much needed advice, Tim. But, I’ve never seen reference to a “combination” club (used several times in this article) instead of “hybrid.” Is that a new GGA term or did spell check/grammar check make a bad substitution?

    BTW, GGA instructional support is outstanding. Many times I will look up a particular situation in the Gold Members library. Example: last week with a 20mph wind forecast, I was able to look up playing into the wind prior to my round. With a few tweaks in my setup, I was able to hit a low drive on a par 5 tee shot, keep the ball under the wind, and exceed my own expectations. It was a great feeling of accomplishment.

  2. Tim,
    This article answered so many of the questions I have had while playing, it also goes along with the Coach in Your Pocket. I recently attended your Short Game School and it was very helpful seeing all the clubs that can be used around the green.

  3. What is the address and ball position for Hybrids and Fairway woods
    I purchased your book but does not talk about hybrid and Fairway woods address and ball position

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