Since hybrid clubs or utilities gained a foothold in golf bags a decade ago, they've revolutionised the long game for many, including scores of top pros

The long game is hard, isn’t it? When you’re a couple of hundred yards away from the green, staring down at a club with relatively little loft and hoping to be able to strike that little white sphere not only cleanly, but also accurately towards the distant target, it is undoubtedly one of game’s greatest challenges. But it is one that has, for many, been made significantly easier by the arrival of hybrid clubs or utilities.

Such has been the popularity and success of these long-iron replacements since they first really arrived in force about a decade ago, that it’s rare to find a tour pro without at least one of these little wonder clubs in his or her bag these days – often more. The reason? They find long approach play one of the game’s greatest challenges too, even if they are a little better at it than you or me. Just listen to Oliver Wilson extolling the virtues of his long-serving Callaway Big Bertha Heavenwood in this What’s in the Bag video…

These nifty little numbers have transformed the long game from nigh-on impossible to eminently achievable for mere golfing mortals, and from tough to straightforward for the game’s elite. They have done this via three key design elements – shallower faces than the long irons they replace; wide rounded soles that ensure plenty of weight below the equator of the ball at impact; and low, deep centres of gravity to help you get it up and away more easily. And, with shaft lengths typically closer to those of irons, they also promise greater control than longer-shafted fairway woods.

Hybrid keys to success: shallow faces and lots of weight below the equator of the ball

Hybrid keys to success: shallow faces and lots of weight below the equator of the ball (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The long iron certainly isn’t dead (though 1-irons are about as rare as hens’ teeth these days), with some golfers – typically better players – still liking the extra manoeuvrability and control they believe long irons offer. And sometimes the courses they are playing, and the conditions they are playing in, might be better suited to the flight of a long iron too. But over the course of the many ‘What’s in the Bag’ interviews we conduct every year, two themes come up time and again when tour pros talk us through the longer end of their bags:-

1) Hybrids get the ball coming in on a much higher flight than long irons, which can be a real advantage when attacking par 5s where they need to get the ball to stop quickly on landing.

2) Hybrids are much more versatile in the rough, with their head designs meeting with less resistance from the grass through impact, allowing them to project the ball a much greater distance than they would be able to with a long iron from a similar lie. They can even hit hybrids from lies where they wouldn’t dare attempt a long iron!

Ping G30 hybrid

The weight port in the sole helps boost the low, deep centre of gravity in Ping’s G30 hybrid (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

When you add in that with a little practice and imagination, hybrids also adapt well to other situations such as certain chip shots around the greens, they really do bring a degree of versatility and playability to the table that long irons can only dream of.