I’ve been asked by many readers—well, actually, by just one reader, but he asked twice—to publish a poor man’s version of my favorite regular feature in Golf Digest. I’ve been somewhat hesitant to do so, for who-asked-you reasons, but I also know that most golfers enjoy snooping in other golfers’ bags, and my own assortment may be peculiar enough to be of interest. So why not? Furthermore, if at least two readers will send me descriptions (with one or more photos) of their own equipment, I will create a permanent What’s In My Bag department, and publish them there, along with any future contributions. Send all that stuff to email@example.com.
The first thing you will notice, if you have read this far, is that my bag doesn’t contain any conventional irons. My friend Tony and I now lead what we call the Hybrid Lifestyle. It consists of playing as much golf as possible while other people are at work, and not using normal equipment. It was Tony who introduced me, six or seven years ago, to what we both now think of as a magic golf club: a 34-degree 7-hybrid, made by Nike, which a single-digit friend of his had urged him to try. As Tony promised, I hit it longer, higher, straighter, and more consistently well than my 7-iron, which I’d had custom-fitted in Arizona a couple of years before, and as soon as I got home I ordered one just like Tony’s. Not long after that, Tony and I played a round with a visiting friend of his, and we used our magic clubs on a 150-yard par-3. We both hit high draws to within six feet of the hole, and the friend said, “Gee, you guys could play on the L.P.G.A. Tour.” He meant to be devastating, but I’ve adopted his remark as a swing thought.
Almost everyone now agrees that low-numbered hybrids are easier to hit than the corresponding long irons. That’s true even for pros, who stopped carrying 1-irons years ago, and now often don’t carry 2-irons or 3-irons, either. But Tony’s and my experience has convinced me that the hybrid advantage extends deep into the bag, and that hardly anybody carries enough. I would bet that’s true even of many tour players, but it’s definitely true of golfers who aren’t paid to play. Today, Tony’s longest iron is a 9. Mine—now that I’ve supplemented my six Nike hybrids with two Cleveland HB3 “hybrid irons”—is a pitching wedge. As a result, I’m convinced, we’re both now playing our best golf ever.
(I’m not sure I like the HB3s; they make a weird noise when you hit them, causing even pure shots to sound like chunks. But I like being able to say I don’t have any irons. Tony calls his 9-iron his 1-iron, because it’s his one iron—get it?)
Almost twenty years ago, I got to spend time with Karsten Solheim, the founder of Ping, who invented the modern, perimeter-weighted golf club. Solheim told me that hitting a ball with an old-fashioned club, in which the weight of the head was uniformly distributed along the blade, was “like hitting a tennis ball with a Ping-Pong paddle.” A similar principle applies to hybrids. Tony Dabbs, a Nike product line manager, told me, “With a hybrid you’ve got a lower and deeper center of gravity, so it gets your launch angle up—more than what an iron can possibly do. A hybrid is essentially a mini-fairway wood, or a small driver.” The weighting and the shape of the head also make a hybrid easier to hit well out of the rough, since the club is less likely to twist. Dabbs told me that the advantage is greatest for slower swing speeds, but I think stronger players gain, too, and that that benefit compounds over time because once you begin hitting decent shots with a comfortable swing you’re less likely to lash at the ball from over the top with any of your clubs.
Tragically, from my point of view, Nike no longer makes SQ Sumo2 hybrids, which I prefer to all subsequent models. (I do carry a second 2-hybrid, a Nike VR S model that Nike also doesn’t make anymore. It goes farther than my other Nike 2-hybrid, although I find it harder to hit well. I think of it as a fairway wood, which it resembles.) And Nike no longer makes even a 6 hybrid. (Dabbs told me there’s “a point of diminishing returns” as lofts get higher. Hmph.) If you’re a seller—right hand, steel, stiff—please speak up.
To be continued. (I’m going to stretch this out for quite a while. Next, I’ll explain why I’ve got two drivers.)