Hybrid vs. Fairwaywood: Distance, Launch and Spin

Many players feel overwhelmed with the decision whether to take a hybrid or a fairway wood. This is understandable, because both clubs look similar and you would think they only differ in head size. But that is not quite true. In addition, it is very individual and differs from player to player. Therefore, we try to give some general guidelines for which type of player which club is better suited. But first, let's take a look at the differences in practice.

Our test setup

Our player was asked to play a green that was 150 or 165m away with a rather below average club head speed of 80-85mph. For the hybrid the target was set at 150m, for the wood at 165m. We will explain why later. The hybrid was played at 18° and the wood at 19°.

The differences can be explained quickly:
The fairway wood (naturally) has a longer shaft, therefore the club head speed is automatically higher and more length can be achieved with the same effort. The efficiency was the same with both clubs, so it cannot necessarily be said that one of the two produces more ball speed.

We see a very decisive difference in the dynamic loft. This is 23° with the wood vs. 18.7° with the hybrid. But the wood had only 1° more static loft and therefore the 3-wood produces over 3° more loft at impact. Why is that? Simply because the centre of gravity is further back in the wood than in the hybrid. In addition, the shaft is slightly longer, which (presumably) creates more "shaft deflection". The shaft therefore bends a little more towards the target and thus generates more loft. In short: a fairway wood generates more dynamic loft.

We have made sure that the striking pattern is comparable with both clubs. Nevertheless, the launch is 1° lower with the fairway wood (despite 1° more static loft) - but the spin is over 600 rpm higher.

The trajectory is also decisive. This tended to be too flat with the hybrid. For this player, the ball speed was simply missing to really get the hybrid up into the air. There is definitely a "critical" club head speed at which it becomes very difficult to play hybrids with little loft. This is one such case and we would not recommend an 18° hybrid at 80mph club head speed. The angle of descent into the green was also too shallow with the hybrid in this case, making it difficult to control the ball.

Our recommendation

A hybrid usually generates less dynamic loft and less spin. Both mean that there must be sufficient club head speed and/or static loft. An 18° hybrid is therefore difficult to game for players with low club head speed and should rather be replaced with a fairway wood. This generates more static loft, more spin and, because of the longer shaft, automatically more club head speed. All three components are ideal for a higher trajectory and more carrry distance.

Our player only had more problems with directional control, which was mainly explained by the longer shaft. For him, an 18° hybrid would not be the right club for such a shot, but a 21°+ hybrid certainly would.

These results also explain why most players play with a low loft fairway wood with 15 or 18° and with higher loft hybrids with 20°+.

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