Hybrids starting to catch on with PGA Tour

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Five years ago, very few PGA Tour players carried a hybrid in their bag. But changes to the golf ball (less spin and curvature) and tougher course conditions (thicker rough, longer tracks, faster greens) have made it a must-have in players bags today. At last months U.S. Open, 147 were in play, including three by Vijay Singh (Adams Idea A3 hybrids, 19, 22 and 25 degrees). The longest iron in Singhs bag was a 6-iron. Singh added the 22- and 25-degree hybrids to his bag the day before the start of the championship to deal with Bethpage Blacks thick rough and elevated greens.
 
Recreational golfers have been turning to hybrids and utility woods for several years now as replacements for those hard-to-hit long irons, but now the best players in the world are catching on. The 1- and 2-irons are ancient history and the 3- and 4-irons are in danger of becoming extinct thanks to the versatility and high-launch characteristics of the hybrids. Not only are they a good choice out of the rough and on long approach shots where you need to land the ball softly, but they can be used off the tee, from a fairway bunker or chipping around the green.
 
The majority of consumers out there slice the ball and struggle to break 100, so it helps their game more, said Michael Vrska, Director of Product Development for Adams Golf, the leader in hybrids played on the PGA Tour the last two years. But to have one golf club you can do literally everything with but putt, what a blessing to the Tour pro who has only 14 clubs in his bag. We havent given up on long irons, but we have the clubs to replace them.
 
Adams has been integrating hybrids into iron sets since 2002. At first, it was only the 3- and 4-irons being replaced, but now you will see many hybrid-irons sets with four or more hybrids and fewer irons. A set of Idea a4OS Hybrid Irons from Adams features seven hybrids (3-9) and four wedges (pitching, gap, sand, and lob).
 
We encourage people to throw their 3- and 4-irons as far back in the garage as they can and buy hybrids, said Vrska. Theyre moving deeper into the set. Its not just a fad or something thats going to go away, theres going to be more and more hybrids in golfers bags, at all levels.
 
Following are three of the newest hybrids from Adams, Cobra and TaylorMade. You just might see one of them in your favorite players bag soon ' or your own.
 
Adams Idea a7 Hybrid
Adams Idea a7 Hybrid
Adams Idea a7 Hybrid with peanut-shaped sole.
Adams took the best of several generations of Idea hybrids ' the shaping from the Idea Pro, the sole interaction from the Tour Idea Peanut, and the forgiveness of the Idea Pro Gold ' and merged them into one club which Vrska describes as the best hybrid we have ever produced. Intended for mid-handicappers, the a7 has been spotted in the bags of several Tour players this season, including Chad Campbell, Matt Kuchar and Boo Weekley. Adams biggest ambassador, Tom Watson, plays the Idea Pro.
 
The a7 is a close cousin to the Peanut, a prototype hybrid which has drawn quite a following on the PGA and Nationwide Tours since its introduction 18 months ago. The code name PNT is stamped on the sole of the a7, a reference to the rounded camber design which takes on the appearance of a peanut. The shaping of the sole allows the clubhead to perform well from all different types of lies (tight lies, rough, sand).
 
A close look at the sole reveals another interesting feature: a 41-gram rear weight. The extra weight helps lower the center of gravity to create a higher launch angle and more carry distance.
 
The Idea a7 hybrids come in lofts of 17, 19, 22 and 25 degrees and can be purchased both individually ($149; graphite only) or as part of an eight-piece hybrid iron set which includes the 3- and 4-hybrids, a hollow-back 5 transition iron, and 6-iron through pitching wedge ($599 graphite, $499 steel). These are all minimum advertised prices.
 
King Cobra Baffler TWS
Cobra Baffler TWS
Cobra Baffler TWS with Triple Weighting System.
Cobras Baffler, the No. 1-selling utility metal on the market the last three years, has bulked up for 2009 in its bid to four-peat. The 09 Baffler TWS, which stands for Triple Weighting System, added a third internal weight pad to the clubs sole to increase the moment of inertia (resistance to twisting) and position the center of gravity lower and deeper in the clubhead. The new Baffler TWS has a slightly larger face area from heel to toe than the previous DWS (Dual Weighting System) to optimize ball speed and distance.
 
Weve lowered the CG location to create a slightly higher launch angle and increased the MOI for even greater forgiveness and consistency across the entire hitting area, said Tom Preece, Vice President of Cobra Club Research and Development. The face area has also been made slightly larger to drive higher ball speeds on off-center hits.
 
The Bafflers larger face area and contour-sole design allows you to play the club from the rough and a variety of different lies, making it a much easier-to-hit, more versatile option than your long irons.
 

 
The original Baffler, launched in 1975, was the first utility metal sold in the retail marketplace. The 2009 version has a street price of $149. It comes in Mens, Seniors and Womens versions, with lofts reaching as high as 35 degrees in the Womens TWS. Lofts range from 16 to 29 degrees in the Mens TWS.
 
TaylorMade Raylor
TaylorMade Raylor
TaylorMade's Raylor sole is shaped like a ship's hull to help get through the rough.
This prototype made its debut at the U.S. Open in June in the bags of both Kenny Perry and Fred Funk. Perry replaced his 3-iron with the 19-degree Raylor, and managed to make birdie from the rough in the first round after hitting his new hybrid tight from 220 yards out.
 
TaylorMade is hyping the Raylor as the ultimate weapon for escaping the rough. The clubhead is smaller from heel to toe than most hybrids and its sole is shaped like a ships hull, which allows it to glide through the grass with little resistance. A pointed, V-shaped leading edge also helps the clubhead penetrate the grass for better ball-face contact.
 
The Raylor (Price N/A) isnt scheduled to be released until September 14. It comes in two lofts ' 19 and 22 degrees ' and a 65-gram graphite shaft which is one-inch longer than the standard length found in TaylorMades popular Rescue hybrids.