Driving Iron vs. Hybrid: Pros and cons in action

This test delivers interesting and sometimes surprising results in many respects. We started the test because it is a decision in the equipment of a Handicap 4 player who has worked with an iron 4, a 19° hybrid and a 15° 3 wood so far. All three clubs were used from the tee when distance wasn't a problem and it's more about keeping the ball in play. This means that this player very often doesn't play with a driver but needs an alternative. This was previously the 19° hybrid and the idea is to replace it with a 19° Driving Iron. Therefore we tested both clubs from the tee and from the fairway. The results are sometimes much clearer than initially assumed.

Our setup

As usual, the GCQuad from Foresight was used for testing, as it provides extremely accurate and plenty of metrics. The test was carried out outside from a grass surface. Since the tee-offs were not opened yet, the surface is slightly inclined so that the player stands slightly below the ball. This reinforces the left tendency clearly - which has however for this test no effects since the underground is the same for both clubs and above all we pay attention to metrics which have nothing to do with the lateral ball flight.

The problem is that the shafts cannot be the same 1:1 because the same shafts cannot be installed. However, we have used two very similar shafts and do not ignore this factor in the evaluation. The hybrid has a 92-gram X-Stiff graphite shaft and the Driving Iron has a 108-gram Stiff steel shaft from Modus. Both clubs have 19°.

For this test we did not clean up any data and wanted to see the whole truth. This means that even very bad shots appear. Our main concern is to make these bad shots less dramatic. The bad shot is one with a closed club face - which is even more dramatic in view of the slant. This means that the shots from a straight tee-box would not land nearly as far to the left.

Clubhead and ball speeds

Ideally, at least the clubhead speed is identical, but this is not the case because the shaft is not completely identical. This must be taken into account during the evaluation. The head speed of the hybrid was about 3 miles faster, which is not surprising since it swings with a slightly lighter graphite shaft.

This also translates 1:1 to the ball speeds, i.e. the balls were hit quite similarly well with both clubs. And both clubs are designed to get the most out of a given head speed. Therefore no club stands out and conjures with a lower club head speed about the same ball speed.

Launch Angle and altitude

The launch itself is not as different as you might think. Only the shots from the fairway show that the hybrid can already be better carried into the air at the start. Here the launch is at least 1° higher. From the tee the difference is practically non-existent.

The difference shows up in the "Peak Height" thus the maximum flight altitude. This is 3m higher from the tee with the hybrid (which corresponds to about 10%) and 4m higher from the fairway.

This means: The hybrid takes off with almost the same angle, but then screws itself much higher into the air.

Side- and Back Spin

This is mainly due to the spin which is much higher with the hybrid, especially from tee. The values of the tee are better comparable because the stroke is identical. That's why the expected difference is best seen here. The spin is over 500 rpm higher, which is also over 10%.

These metrics cannot be reproduced from the fairway for a simple reason. Our player has intuitively swung steeper with the Driving Iron, because otherwise it is difficult for him to carry it into the air. This can also be seen on the very flat launch of less than 10°. You also have to say that the grass surface was very thin and the balls almost lay on bare ground.

Descent angle

Not unimportant is also the descent angle, i.e. the angle at which the ball lands. This is significantly higher in the hybrid, namely 43° and 39° vs. 41° and 36.6°. The latter is the value for the driving iron from the fairway which is of course much too flat when it comes to playing a green. Ideal would be about 45° as you have with medium irons. This value is obviously not reached by either of them, but the driving iron is even worse in this respect. That means: with this club you can't really attack a flag from the fairway.

Results in "vertical flight"

In this respect, the results are clear: Both clubs start at the same angle in principle, but the spin of the hybrid is significantly higher which leads to a higher ball flight. This ensures that the ball lands steeper again and is therefore easier to control when a flag is to be played.

Direction control

An essential factor for this player is to position the ball on the track. And with the Driving Iron there is a clear winner in this test. The interesting thing is that the values which influence the ball flight sideways (in this case mainly to the left) were even worse for the shots with the driving iron from the tee. This means you would expect a stronger outlier. However, this is not the case and this means that the Driving Iron forgives much more mistakes in terms of directional deviation. For example, you can use it to better neutralize a clubface that is too closed at impact. This may not apply to all driving irons and hybrids in general, but with the Honma Driving Iron this was definitely the case.

An example of such a bad shot:
Driving Iron: Club Path: -0.4 and Face to Target: -5.2.
Hybrid: Club Patch: -0.2 and Face to Target: -4.4.
The "-" means from the inside and closed. The club comes almost neutral to the ball, but the face is 5.2 and 4.4° closed which is clearly too much and results in a solid pull. This is an exemplary bad shot of this player.

The deviation of the driving iron to the left is 31.5m and 48.7m for the hybrid. So 17m further left with the hybrid. And this although the face was not as closed as with the Driving Iron.

The average values also confirm this and with this example you can say at least one thing:

The Honma Driving Iron has a much smaller deviation to the left in the case of neutral shots with a closed face than the Titleist Hybrid.

Carry length in comparison

Hybrid and Driving Iron have almost identical values with approx. 224 yards carry of the tee. The Driving Iron will still be longer as it has much less spin, the landing angle is flatter and therefore will still have a lot of roll. Probably the Driving Iron will be a good 10m longer overall - even though the clubhead and ball speed is lower. From the fairway the hybrid is much longer because the Driving Iron flies way too flat - at least for the extreme layers on almost bare ground. The roll is of course also long, which makes the difference in the overall length not quite so big.

Summary and recommendation

The player will start the new season with the Driving Iron instead of the Hybrid because the benefits of the Driving Irons are simply too big for its scope. This means that with lower club head and ball speed, greater distances can be achieved from the tee. Bad shots with a closed face are better tolerated with the iron than with the hybrid - and clearly so.

However, the player has to cut back when it comes to attacking flags. Here the Driving Iron shows its weaknesses and it should be absolutely another club in the bag for such strokes. The choice probably falls on a 2 hybrid instead of the 3 wood because this also makes very long green strokes possible which are simply not feasible with the Driving Iron.

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