It's no secret that manufacturers have strengthened iron lofts over the past decade. In one respect, this has paid dividends -- pulling your 9-iron (instead of your 7- or 8-) helps you hit more greens while boosting your ego. However, your 6-iron has the lower loft of an older 5-iron or even a 4-iron -- clubs that tend to give everyday players fits. A return to standard lofts is unlikely, but that doesn't mean you're doomed to long-iron misery. These same manufacturers have also been expanding the loft range that hybrids come in, and savvy golfers of all levels -- Tour pros among them -- are snatching them up.
With more forgiving faces and weighting that promotes soaring shots, hybrids are just easier to get off the ground than long irons. These days, you want at least one utility club in your bag -- probably two or three.
When deciding how many hybrids to add, don't obsess about swing speed, says Matt Knitter, master fitter at Club Champion in Santa Monica, Calif. (clubchampiongolf.com). "I've seen 100-mph swingers who have no business hitting anything more than a 7-iron," Knitter says. "Basing a hybrid-iron swap solely on swing speed isn't very smart."
Chances are, consistent contact is more important to you than grabbing a few extra yards, so Knitter suggests that you pinpoint where in your iron lineup your contact goes from crisp to clunky. His advice? Determine the longest iron you can swing with full confidence, then replace any irons longer than that with a utility club of comparable or even slightly higher loft. "Hybrids go farther than irons," Knitter says. "So if your 5-iron is 24 degrees, replace it with a slightly weaker hybrid -- say, one that's 25 degrees or so."
Ideally, your hybrids should evenly fill the distance gaps between your "best" long iron and your 3-wood. "At that point," says Knitter, "you're armed and dangerous."