The main difference between a hybrid and an iron is that hybrids have a lower center of gravity than irons resulting in a higher launch and hybrids will be also more forgiving than irons on off-center hits.
The hybrid vs long iron debate has been going on since the hybrid (then called a rescue club) first started showing up in golf bags around the world.
By now, most would agree that the average golfer should replace at least one or two of their longest irons with a hybrid to help their scores. Even pros are putting hybrids in their bag in place of a 2 or 3 iron.
So now the biggest question for amateur golfers is where do the hybrids stop and the long irons begin. So let’s look at a common dividing line, the 5 hybrid vs. 5 iron.
What Are The Main Differences Between Hybrids and Irons
Even though a hybrid and long iron of the same loft will travel about the same distance under perfect conditions, the way they get to their destination varies greatly.
Hybrid clubhead design lends itself to more lofted shots where you rely less on roll and instead take a more aerial route. This improves control and accuracy since you will be able to stop the ball quicker and do not have to rely on roll for distance.
For most golfers, especially high-handicappers, long irons will come off the club low and stay low. Off the tee on a wide-open hole, this isn’t much of a problem.
Should you have to go through rough, over water, or sand traps, these shots get more challenging. With greens well protected by bunkers in front and the ever-present problem of missing fairways, a hybrid helps eliminate any problems you might have with ball flight.
But keep in mind that it’s not simply one or the other. There are many different types of golf irons ranging from the better player blades to irons for high-handicappers (which often have a lot of hybrid elements in them). Most manufacturers will even offer a blended set where you can have more player’s style short irons, game-improvement style mid-irons, and then hybrids for the long irons.
Blended sets are probably the best option for the vast majority of golfers out there.
Hybrid vs. Long Iron Distance Chart
Most PGA Tour pros don’t use 5 hybrids, but we can look at their Trackman stats to see the hybrid vs. long irons comparison in general. I like to look at data from pros because they make solid contact a lot more than us mortals, so the differences are more likely to be a result of club differences.
This isn’t a perfect comparison because the average 3-iron has 21° of loft and the hybrids in the data ranged from 15° to 18° but that difference actually makes the differences even more pronounced.
As you can see, the clubhead speed between the two is very close, as is the smash factor. The iron has more spin than the hybrids, which can probably be attributed to the loft difference.
But I think the most important number on there is the landing angle. Despite having 3° to 6° more loft, the 3-iron has a shallower descent angle. That means that a hybrid will stop on the green faster. This confirms what we all kind of know already, hybrids make it easier to stop the ball on the green.
Why Use A 5 Iron?
Most of us still have a 5-iron in our bags even if we incorporate some hybrids into the set as well. My first club as a kid was a youth 5-iron my dad got me so I could go to the driving range with him. It’s the club that sits right in the middle of most sets.
So let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using a 5-iron.
Benefits of a 5-iron
Irons have more control than hybrids. Most irons have a higher center of gravity that will allow you to control the trajectory of the ball. More specifically, it’s easier to lower your ball flight with an iron. This comes in handy when playing in the wind or when you find yourself having to hit under tree branches.
Irons are more consistent. This is similar to the control above and for a lot of the same reasons. In general, an iron will have a smaller dispersion of shots when struck well. That means that there’s less chance of that random shot that flies 5 -10 yards too far.
Why Use A 5 Hybrid?
Hybrids are more and more popular and here are some of the reasons why.
Hybrids are easier to hit. They have a lower center of gravity, which means that getting the ball up in the air and flying far can be accomplished more easily with a less than perfect swing. Players who tend to flip or cast the club will see a huge increase in the distance because of this.
Hybrids fly farther and land softer. The lower center of gravity also tends to make the ball fly farther and higher. That means that you can get more distance but the descent angle of the ball will be a little steeper, helping it to stop faster. This can be the difference between reaching a green in regulation and chipping from behind the green.
Hybrids don’t need as fast a swing speed. Due to the way the hybrid clubhead is designed, the ball will get up in the air and fly far with a slower swing speed compared to a 5-iron.
Who Should Use A 5 Hybrid?
If you have a slower than average swing speed and find yourself hitting 5-iron shots that roll off the back of the green, then you are a perfect candidate for switching to a hybrid.
Who Should Use A 5-Iron?
If you have a faster swing sped and hit the sweet spot on a consistent basis, then you’ll probably be better off with a 5-iron as opposed to a hybrid.
How To Choose The Right Hybrid To Replace Your Iron
If you are replacing any iron in your bag with a hybrid, it is important to pay attention to the yardage gaps between clubs. Simply swapping out a 5-iron with a 5 hybrid may not be the best option.
In general, the hybrid will travel a little further than an iron of the same loft. So you should first look at the loft of the club you are replacing and try to find a hybrid that is the same or a degree or two more lofted.
If you are able, the best way to choose the right hybrid to replace your 5-iron is to use a launch monitor to see how far you hit the iron you are replacing as well as the other clubs near that club.
So if your set currently has a 4 hybrid, 5-iron, and 6-iron, you should use a launch monitor to see how far you hit all of those clubs on average. Then test out different hybrid lofts to find out which club will give you average yardage right in between those two.
This is often called “gapping” your clubs and it’s a good idea to do this with your entire set. You may even find that some of your clubs are so close in yardage to each other that you can get rid of one of them. This happens a lot to players with lower swing speeds. The higher your swing speed, the larger the yardage gap will be between clubs.