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The hybrid approach: A cast-iron method of rescuing your ailing game

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Padraig Harrington used his hybrid clubs to great effect during his British Open play-off victory at Carnoustie in 2007

Padraig Harrington used his hybrid clubs to great effect during his British Open play-off victory at Carnoustie in 2007

Padraig Harrington used his hybrid clubs to great effect during his British Open play-off victory at Carnoustie in 2007

THE aptly-named 'rescue' clubs celebrate just over a decade of existence and the good news is that the golf industry is making them better and more effective than ever.

These hybrids, which combine the optimum features of woods and irons, have indeed proved to be a lifesaver for many handicap golfers who couldn't hit three or four-irons out of their way.

Top professionals see them as a vital piece of equipment, especially KJ Choi and YE Yang, who have each at times used three and four-hybrid clubs in big Tour events, including Majors.

As an innovation, the hybrid is up there with the big-faced driver, and the lighter shafts, which increase swing speed.

The downside -- if it can be considered as such -- for purists is that the hybrids have sounded the death knell for the one and two-irons, and at the higher end of the spectrum, the seven and nine-woods are disappearing too.

Former World Club-Maker of the Year Derek Murray of Fore Golf, who are now based in Killeen Castle, Meath, can't see any problem with them.

"Unless you're a really staunch iron player, effectively the three-iron is gone. The four-iron is next to go because the hybrid club will hit the ball much easier off the deck, it'll hit it out of the rough much easier and it will hit it off the tee much easier. The advantage of the hybrids is their greater versatility," he said.

EASILY

"You can even play a nice little knock-down shot, or a bump- and-run up on the greens that you can't play as easily with a fairway wood."

Murray outlined the characteristics that make the hybrid so useful.

"It's a combination of both, shaft and club head. The ball-flight characteristics have to be the same as an iron, but the centre of gravity on them is much lower and they fly much easier. A hybrid has the distance capabilities of an iron, but the ease of flight and the dynamics of the way a wood plays," he said.

"So, there's a combination of a lot of different things which is making them easier to hit and obviously, the public have said 'these are great, we like this idea'."

All the leading companies have released their latest versions of hybrids, and the new generation has been measured as sending the ball further and higher with more carry and less roll on landing.

The clubs come with varying degrees of loft, and Murray recommends that golfers think carefully about their needs before buying one.

You won't necessarily need a three and four-rescue, as the loft difference between them is too small to make a significant difference.

Perhaps a three and five-rescue might make more sense, or even a seven. Murray will measure the golfer's needs as appropriate. He notes that for women and senior golfers, the hybrids offer a way to enjoy their golf more.

"I always ask anyone who comes to us: 'Does a rescue club make sense to you?'

"In other words, does it make sense to play without a three-iron and instead, put a club in the bag which you could hit maybe 185, 190 yards, use it off the tee, and off the deck, and out of the rough?

"And the die-hard iron lover will say: 'No, it wouldn't, because I like hitting my three-iron.'

"But then you could get a handicap golfer and you'll find their three and four-irons are in the shed, never used because they can't hit them. Maybe they have stopped using the five-iron too because they've found they hit a seven or nine-wood better. In those cases the rescue makes perfect sense.

"But we find that we don't sell too many 7-woods or 9-woods any more, because the Rescues are doing the job of those clubs and more because of their versatility."

THREE TOP TOUR STARS WHO LOVE THE HYBRID

(1) Padraig Harrington

Harrington used his utility club on holes 16, 17, and 18 in the play-off against Sergio Garcia when he won the British Open at Carnoustie in 2007. For his 2008 Open at Muirfield and USPGA victory at Oakland Hills he had replaced his three-iron with a Wilson three-hybrid, and his five-wood with a five-hybrid.

(2) Todd Hamilton

The unheralded American who shocked the world at Troon in the 2004 Open famously used his Sonartec MD hybrid to chip the ball close on the last hole of the sudden-death play-off against Ernie Els.

(3) YE Yang

A beautiful shot to eight feet with his 21-degree TaylorMade Rescue TP on the final hole of round four in the 2009 US Open was sensational under the circumstances as Yang outfought Tiger Woods to take the title.