Ten years ago, a noted club designer with a major manufacturer told me that long irons, and maybe even some mid-irons, were bound for extinction. "They're just poorly designed for the job they're meant to do," he said. "It's basic physics." Though I don't know much about math or science, once I hit a few hybrid clubs I understood what he meant. The lower center of gravity, wider sole and more forgiving face allow my average shots to be as good or better than my best with a long iron. Today, many everyday players of all skill levels carry two or three hybrids. If you don't have at least one, you're cheating yourself out of lots of good shots. It's time you consider making the change.
Adams XTD Ti
Price: $299, graphite
Adams says its hottest hybrid face ever produces ball speeds similar to a driver. The key ingredients are "velocity slots" on the sole and crown that produce an enhanced trampoline effect at impact (67 percent more than traditional designs). The XTD Ti is constructed with a titanium crown and face, plus a steel sole. Its low center of gravity generates higher launch angles, while variable face thicknesses improve performance on mis-hits. Lastly, the adjustable hosel enables you to alter loft by +/- 1.5 degrees.
Wilson Staff FG Tour M3
Price: $199, graphite
Four head options [17, 19, 21 and 23 degrees] are all adjustable with three loft settings [+/- 1 degree of the stated loft], while lie angle is adjustable up to 2 degrees upright. In addition, these better-player sticks feature a removable sole weight to dial in launch. The clubs come with a 7-gram weight installed [3-and 11-gram weights are included with your purchase]. The hybrids are engineered to marry up with FG Tour M3 irons but can serve as long irons with any set.
Tour Edge Exotics XCG7
Price: $159, graphite
Designed to be easy to hit for a wide variety of players, the XCG7 features a relatively large, low-profile head. The maraging steel face creates a lively hitting area and a hot ball flight. A specially designed grid pattern along the sole, which ranges from 0.5 mm to 1.0 mm in thickness, further increases the trampoline effect at impact for faster ball speeds. By moving weight from the center rear section to the heel and toe, Tour Edge increased the club's MOI so it's more forgiving than previous XCGs. A more compact model, the Exotics XCG7 Beta [$199], delivers a lower flight and greater shotmaking ability for low-handicappers.
Yonex EZONE XP
Price: $199, graphite
The EZONE XP employs a counterbalanced design -- a heavier head weight and a shaft with a balance point closer to the butt of the club. The company believes this produces faster ball speeds [and more distance] without making the club feel heavier than a traditional model. Each head weighs 8 grams more than in past models [the extra mass is low and rearward in the head] while 20 grams of tungsten powder is incorporated into the butt end of the grip. The adjustability system allows you to make the loft 1.5 degrees stronger or weaker.
Mizuno JPX EZ
Price: $189, graphite
A large, deep 127 cc head is designed to make the JPX EZ as friendly as possible off the tee for everyday golfers while still being playable from the fairway. A thin, flexible maraging steel face helps produce higher ball speeds on center strikes and misses. The steel body has a low, deep center of gravity for added forgiveness. A slight onset face design slides the leading edge under the ball on fairway shots, while its tuned sound [using Mizuno's "Harmonic Impact" technology] generates a powerful, solid sensation at impact.
TaylorMade SLDR Rescue
Price: $219, graphite
The new "Speed Pocket" slot along the sole is more flexible and closer to the clubface than in the RocketBallz Stage 2 Tour Rescue for more consistent, faster ball speeds low on the face. Additional flexing also occurs around the perimeter of the slot. An adjustable hosel allows you to change loft by +/- 1.5 degrees [12 positions in all] from the stated loft. The club has a medium face depth and a compact look in the playing position. It comes in four lofts -- 17, 19, 21 and 24 degrees -- with a Fujikura Speeder 82H shaft. The SLDR Rescue also is available with a TP shaft [$289].