Golf Hybrid And Utility Clubs: What’s The Difference?

Today’s hottest equipment is hybrids and utility clubs. Although these terms have been used interchangeably, there are differences. A hybrid is a club comprising both wood and iron elements. Sometimes these can be classified as a wood/iron wood-like shape with a curved face and typically not very broad from face to back like our Dynacraft Prophet) or an iron/wood (basically a hollowed bodied iron with a flat face). A utility club could be classified as any club that serves a definitive purpose, such as extracting the ball out of deep rough or replacing a harder to hit club. It has many meanings, but many of the utility clubs have the moniker “utility wood” associated with it.

Both utility or hybrid clubs may have normal numbers such as 3 or 7 engraved on the sole, while some may simply have only the loft engraved somewhere on the head. Unlike a typical driver or 7-iron, where most companies have lengths similar to one another, the hybrid and utility category varies considerably from company to company and even within the company’s line. A good example would be Nike’s CPR line. There are two versions; one of which is called the CPR Iron-Wood, while the other is called the CPR Wood. One would think that the version classified as “wood” should be a longer club than the one labeled as “Iron-Wood”. In this case, it is the opposite. The 18º CPR Iron-Wood is 41.25″ in length, the 18º CPR Wood is only 39.5″.

Let’s say you had a broken shaft in both of these heads and your job was to repair hem. Would you treat the clubs as wood or iron? The first thing you need to do is evaluate the tip diameter.

Certain tip diameters are associated with woods (.335″ and .350″), while others denote irons (.370″ and .355″ taper). One popular utility club is the TaylorMade Rescue Mid. The standard Rescue Mid with the stock TaylorMade graphite or steel shaft has a tip diameter of .370″, which
one would consider as an iron. There is the Rescue Mid TP version available with a graphite shaft that has a .335″ tip and the Dynamic Gold, which has a .355″ taper tip. Confused yet?

TaylorMade offers a Rescue Fairway, which is made like a regular fairway wood (.350″ hosel), yet the clubs labeled as 3, 5 and 7 are made shorter than the 3, 5 and 7 woods in their V-Steel line. This leads us to our next question, how would you tip trim the shaft? Not only do you need to be concerned with the tip diameter, but also what the weight of the head. Chances if a utility wood is manufactured to a shorter length than a typical fairway wood, then the weight would be heavier to achieve a normal swingweight. Thus, in order for the shaft flex to be as designed, then the shaft tip needs to be cut based on the weight, rather than the number or loft.

Next page is a chart to help determine which type of shaft to use and how to properly tip trim the shaft, based on the tip diameter and weight of the head.

As an example, let’s say we had a certain company’s XYZ-brand utility club, with a graphite shaft at 40.5″. The first thing to do in case of repair or a re-shaft is to determine the tip diameter. Looking at both charts, 40.5″ under the “Graphite Length” column could be either a 233g head (treat as a #9-wood) or 228g head (treated as a #1-iron). The variance in weight is due to the weight distribution of an iron versus a wood-like shape. Weigh the head to make sure, as some companies will add weight pins inside the shaft tip. Measure the tip diameter to see if you should purchase a wood shaft (.335″ or .350″ diameters) or an iron shaft (.370″ parallel or .355″ taper tip diameter). Lastly follow the tip trimming tables based on the traditional club number designations based on the weight. This ensures that the shaft flex will be as the manufacturer intended.

Note that many shaft manufacturers do not include tip trimming for their wood shafts beyond the 7 or 9-wood. For hybrid and utility clubs with wood tip diameters that weigh greater than 233g, you may need to go to a stiffer flex shaft to compensate for the lower frequency due to the heavy headweight. Additional tip trimming may not be an option as many graphite shafts have limited parallel tip sections. We have heard of company’s who have produced hybrid or utility club with .370″ hosel bore, but the weight is lighter than a typical #1-iron. In these cases, make sure you have adequate shaft length in order to achieve the length they were designed to, plus you may have to opt for a flex softer to compensate for the lack of headweight.

Following these steps will eliminate some of the confusion about how to treat today’s hybrid and utility clubs. But as a golf equipment technician, you will need to become familiar with this new category of clubs. It is the wave of the future, and provides you with many opportunities for assembly, repair and re-shaft work.

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