Meet the Utility Clubs or Hybrid Clubs of Golf

For Recreational Golfers and Improving Strokes

TaylorMade M1 hybrid club
Most hybrid clubs have heads that are wood-like but that are much more compact than fairway woods. TaylorMade Golf

Utility clubs and hybrid clubs are a relatively recent addition to the pantheon of golf clubs, and they have become extremely popular with golfers of all skill levels because they make the game easier to play. They are specifically designed to be easier to hit than long irons for recreational golfers.

Most professional golfers have integrated a few of these clubs into their bag, too, utilizing the increased mobility, swing, and control to launch their balls farther down the fairway every year.

The terms "utility clubs" and "hybrid clubs" are generally used interchangeably, and they denote a category of clubs that combine elements of both woods and irons into their design to accentuate the better qualities of each. They are sometimes also called "rescue clubs."

Benefits of Hybrid Clubs

This combination of elements from both irons and woods offers innovations in the technical features of clubs that aid in getting the ball airborne, dampen the effects of mishits, and produce more control over swing and direction of strokes.

Most hybrids were originally designed — when they started making serious in-roads into the golf equipment marketplace in the early 2000s — to replace long irons such as the 2-, 3- and 4-irons. Today, more and more golfers are choosing hybrids over mid-irons, too, such as the 5- and 6-irons. When you hear it said that hybrids are "easier to hit," this is almost always meant in comparison to the traditional irons the hybrids are meant to replace.

For this reason, most golfers would do well to consider, if shopping for a brand new set of clubs, a "hybrid set" or "hybrid irons set." In hybrid sets, the longer irons (typically 3- and 4-irons, sometimes the 5-iron or higher) are replaced with utility clubs designed to hit the ball the same ​distances, but with greater forgiveness and other game-improvement features built in. (For more, see "Are hybrids really easier to hit than irons?")

The Specs of Hybrid Club Improvements

Compared to fairway woods, hybrid golf clubs have shorter shafts and smaller clubheads. The shorter shafts offer more control compared to longer-shafted fairway woods, and the smaller clubheads can help golfers gain more confidence standing over a ball in the fairway.

Compared to traditional irons, the more fairway-wood-like clubhead of the hybrid provides numerous technical advantages over the much thinner (from front to back) iron heads. These include giving designers greater ability to advantageously position the center of gravity, and creating a higher moment of inertia. These are things that help golfers — all golfers, but particularly higher and mid-handicappers — create better launch angles. That means getting the ball up in the air quicker, on better trajectories. These technical advantages also mean that hybrids tend to better dampen the ill effects of poor swings than traditional long and mid-irons.

More Facts About Hybrids

Hybrid clubs that more resemble traditional irons in their clubhead shaping are also made, and these are more likely to be called "utility clubs."

When hybrids were first becoming popular in the early 2000s, the advice from manufacturers and teaching pros was nearly unanimous: play with with a sweeping, fairway-wood-type swing, rather than a hitting-down-on-the-ball (and creating a divot) iron-type of swing. Today, you don't have to vary your swing for the club. If you prefer to swing a hybrid like you would a fairway wood (sweeping) or prefer to swing one like an iron (hitting down), you can find utility clubs designed to your preference. Just consult with your friendly local pro shop workers.

Hybrid golf clubs can be bought as part of an integrated set of hybrids/irons. Or they can be purchased as single clubs for golfers who might only want to replace one or two of their traditional irons.

You can find many instructional videos on YouTube that go in-depth into playing with hybrid clubs.