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Tee Time: Hook Yourself Up With a Hybrid

By Matt Hombach

Judging from the title of this column, you're probably surmising I'm about to rant and rave about how gas prices are way out of hand and how you should ditch your gas-guzzling SUV and get yourself one of those futuristic looking hybrid cars.

Unfortunately, I can't really help you save any money at the pump, but I can help you save a few strokes on your golf score.


LPGA Hall of Famer Carol Mann recently teamed up with girls from Baltimore
County Public Schools' Developmental Golf Program and their coaches to give a
clinic at The Woodlands Golf Course. The April 28 clinic covered three segments of the game (putting, pitching and driving) that Mann feels have the greatest impact on scoring and, therefore, the greatest impact on a player's sense of success. The idea of the program is to introduce girls to the golf and let them see what a great game it is for everyone.

The 2006 LPGA McDonald's Championship returns to Havre de Grace for the second year in a row, June 8-11 at Bulle Rock Golf Club. The defending champion Annika Sorenstam will battle it out with the best lady golfers on tour including Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Cristie Kerr, Julie Inkster, Grace Park, Lorena Ochoa, Morgan Pressel, Aree Song, Christina Kim, Karrie Webb and Michelle Wie. Last year local golf fans were treated to a dramatic finish as Sorenstam held on to win with amateur Wie finishing second and rookie Paula Creamer finished very strong in third.

A long-standing problem for amateur golfers has been our lack of success in hitting long irons. Less loft on the club makes it tougher to hit consistently good shots and makes it more of a challenge to get the ball airborne.

The one iron and two iron, the lowest lofted and most difficult clubs to hit consistently, have become extinct from the bags of recreational golfers. However, up until a few years ago, even most weekend golfers were still carrying the standard three and four iron from their set.

In the early 1990's, some golfers began dumping their long irons in favor of seven woods or nine woods. These high lofted woods allowed them to hit the ball more consistently and hit nice high shots that landed softly on the green.

The typical weekend golfer continued to toil futilely with their long irons, hitting a variety of poorly struck, unpredictable shots with their unforgiving, low lofted long irons.

They snickered at the high numbered woods as "old man's clubs" and wouldn't be caught dead with one in their bag, even if it would help their game immensely.

"Utility" Clubs Introduced
But a few years ago, something changed. Leading golf manufacturing companies began introducing "utility" or "hybrid" clubs to the golf market (others referred to them as "rescue clubs" or "iron-woods"). This new style of club combined the best elements from both fairway woods and long irons. The clubs were much more forgiving on poorly hit shots and helped get the ball in the air easily even out of the rough.

The design of the clubs were stylish and many of the big brand name golf companies like Taylor Made, Nike, Adams and others introduced the hybrid club to the masses and made them okay for golfers of any skill level to have in the bag.

How to Fit Hybrids in Your Bag
The only disadvantage to carrying one or two hybrid clubs is you will have to take clubs out of your bag to keep under the legal limit of 14. In most cases golfer will take out their long irons, but another option is to take out a lob wedge or gap wedge to make room for extra hybrid clubs.

Most recently, club manufacturers have combated this issue by introducing hybrid sets of irons in which the long irons (most often the standard three and four irons) are replaced with hybrid-style clubs. The best part about these special sets of irons is that the hybrids have the same look and feel as the rest of the set and the lofts are matched exactly to keep them in consistent, graduated order.

If you aren't interested in a new set of hybrid irons, the good news is there are tons of options and price ranges to choose from when buying a new hybrid club or two. Your best bet is to try as many different types of clubs as you can. Check out one of the many demo days at courses throughout the area or if someone you are playing with has a hybrid club in the bag, ask them if you can give it a try. Find what looks and feels good to you and go with it.

The Pros Finally Get Into the Act
The final chip to fall in the introduction of the hybrid club to the game of golf was the pros getting into act. Pro golfers hit long irons so well they really never thought to consider hybrid clubs. As with amateur golfers, senior and lady professional golfers figured out that hybrids could help their game first.

PGA Tour pros have only begun following suite in the last few years. A large percentage of touring pros now routinely have a hybrid club or two in their bag. Even one of the best ball strikers in the game, Ernie Els, has started using hybrids. He recently commented that he only wished someone had told him how great these clubs were sooner.

Matt Hombach works for Nevins & Associates, a marketing and public relations firm that handles several clients in the golfing industry.

Issue 1.2: May 4, 2006