If we've said it once we've said it a million times—just about every recreational player (and a lot of accomplished sticks, too) should have at least one hybrid in the bag. They're much more functional, versatile and easy to hit than comparable long irons, and they make launching the ball from long distance a breeze. If you haven't picked up a hybrid (or two), or you're interested in upgrading the clubs currently in your bag, take a good look at some of the latest and greatest, with an eye toward upping your long game and lowering your scores.
CLEVELAND LAUNCHER HB, $200
See the silver steps on the sole? Those are the new "Flex-Fins" that Cleveland has added to the Launcher HB line. They're designed to let the bottom of the club flex more at impact, which boosts ball speeds on shots hit low on the face and toward the heel and toe. There's also a step on the crown behind the face that lowers the center of gravity to promote higher-launching and lower-spinning shots. The nonadjustable hybrid comes in 3H (19°), 4H (22°) and 5H (25°) heads, with a lightweight Miyazaki C. Kua shaft to help foster a faster move through the ball.
COBRA F-MAX, $180
The entire F-MAX family is designed to be fast, easy to swing and very forgiving—and the hybrid doesn't disappoint. Available in 19°, 22,°, 25°, 28° and 31° for men and 23.5°, 26.5°, 29.5° and 32.5° for women, the F-MAX features Cobra's SuperLite shaft (60g for men, 55g for women) and midsize Lamkin REL 360 grips for extra comfort during the swing. Other features include a forged stainless steel clubface for added ball speed, a CG location in the back-heel portion of the clubhead for fewer slices and higher shots, and an offset hosel and a unique alignment aid on the crown for more consistent aim.
MIZUNO CLK, $250
CLK (short for cleek) is a throwback name, but the technology is brand-new. The key to the wood-type design is the updated "Shockwave" sole, which has more aggressive channels behind the face to create more energy at impact and increase ball speed. The design also helps position mass low in the body to increase launch and lower spin, while the thin, high-strength maraging steel face supplies extra power. In company testing, this all added up to 9.5 yards more carry distance than the previous JPX 900 hybrid from Mizuno. Each head (16°, 19°, 22° and 25°) can be adjusted by 4° loft and 3° lie and comes with a Fujikura Speeder Evolution shaft.
PING G400, $230
The G400 hybrid comes in 2 (17°), 3 (19°), 4 (22°), 5 (26°) and 6 (30°), with a clubface that is 11 percent thinner than the previous G's. The design creates 35 percent more face flex, about 1.5 mph more ball speed and up to five more yards of distance. Other highlights include a 25 percent denser machined back weight for added MOI and forgiveness, a cascading sole design that increases face flex and ball speed, and a very thin crown that allows for an optimized CG location and improved launch and accuracy. For those who prefer a more iron-like design, the new G400 Crossovers ($230) could be a nice alternative.
TITLEIST 818H1/818H2, $280
The 818s have retooled channels in the sole that allow the high-strength steel faces to flex more on mis-hits, along with revamped shapes that push the CG deeper in the heads for more stability. For customization, interchangeable 14-gram sole weights can be inserted for a draw or fade bias. Both models are offered in 2° loft increments with a SureFit hosel that lets you tweak loft and lie up to 1°, making them easy to gap with your irons. The H1 has a slightly larger profile and provides more forgiveness, while the more iron-like H2 offers greater workability.
TOUR EDGE EXOTICS CBX, $250
Featuring a heavy hypersteel body and extremely thin titanium face, the latest Exotics hybrid for skilled players produces plenty of ball speed at impact, while a higher CG location promotes a more penetrating trajectory. Other features include a carbon sole unit that moves more mass forward to further promote Tour-like ball fight, a compact, Tour-preferred profile, and exceptional workability for those who like to shape shots. The CBX comes in 16°, 18°, and 20° models, with a choice of Project X HZRDUS Black or Mitsubishi Kuro Kage Silver Dual-Core TiNi shaft.