Utility Players

Utility Players

The evolution of hybrids continues, with the latest generation engineered for power and precision

Hybrids are the game's "it" club; even Tour pros are stocking up. Why?In large part because the club's lower center of gravity (CG) allows for higher, faster-stopping shots than similarly lofted irons. And it's not hype: Our Hot Stix Stat this month shows how close to the soleplate each of these hybrid's CG is; the lower it is, the higher the club will launch the ball. The average for all similarly lofted hybrids tested by Hot Stix is .45 inches, or about 33 percent lower than a standard long iron of the same loft.

Nike Slingshot and CPR-3 Iron-Wood Hybrids With a weight-saving composite-carbon crown and a steel bar across the back, the new Nike Slingshot has a low and deep CG; 70 percent of the clubhead mass is below the ball's equator. The slight offset and shortish shaft make this an easy-to-control choice for fairway play. A smaller-headed, noncomposite Tour version is also available.

The distinctive scoop-back of the CPR-3 Iron-Wood creates an even lower CG. A longer shaft improves distance off the tee, and the compact head is good from the rough. Slingshot: $200 graphite/$180 steel. CPR-3: $160 graphite/$140 steel. Call 800-799-6453 or visit nikegolf.com.

Hogan CFT Ti The Ben Hogan company has tweaked its hybrid to be easier to hit. The elegant, compact CFT Ti has a lower center of gravity than its predecessor and more advanced, hybrid-centric shafts (the graphite shaft is from Aldila, the steel from True Temper). The club's forged titanium face and stainless steel body produce a taut feel at impact. It's a good choice for those who may want to work the ball a bit and don't like too much spin. $199 graphite/$175 steel. In five lofts from seventeen to twenty-seven degrees. Call 866-834-6532 or visit benhogan.com.

Adams Golf Idea a2 Long from heel to squared-off toe, the a2 may not be the best hybrid from the rough but it is wonderfully forgiving off the tee and fairway. It produces relatively little spin, causing the ball to carry a long way, which has made the a2 popular on the Champions Tour. A larger-headed version, the Idea a2 OS, is even more forgiving and launches the ball higher. It also has more offset, to help those plagued by slices, and comes in several higher lofts, including special configurations for seniors and women. Both models integrate visually with Adams Idea irons. $200 graphite/ $170 steel. In four lofts from sixteen to twenty-three degrees. Call 800-709-6142 or visit adamsgolf.com.

Callaway FT-Hybrid This club uses a lightweight carbon-composite crown like that in Callaway's popular FT drivers, which gave designers the leeway to place more weight where it counts: low, deep and around the perimeter. The face of the FT is onset (that is, in front of the shaft), which creates a different look at setup but promotes an accelerating swing. The FT comes in two versions—draw-biased and neutral. In both, the ball leaps off the face, flies high and creates a crisp sound. $275 graphite/$250 steel. In five lofts from fourteen to twenty-six degrees. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

Nickent 3DX Utility DC The success of Nickent's hybrids on Tour is due in part to the clubs' well-balanced feel and hot thin-steel faces. The latest iteration, the 3DX, is a wide-bodied, fairway wood–like hybrid with two tungsten-polymer weights at the rear of the sole. They help the club produce shots that are almost criminally straight, but some may not like the flat sound. $179–$199. In five lofts, from thirteen to twenty-one degrees. Call 888-642-5368 or visit nickentgolf.com.

Hot Stix Stats

Standard 3-Iron CG Height .67 in.
Nike CPR-3 CG Height .38 in.
Nike Slingshot CG Height .46 in.
Hogan CFT Ti CG Height .44 in.
Adams Golf Idea a2 CG Height .47 in.
Callaway FT-Hybrid CG Height .48 in.
Nickent 3DX Utility DC CG Height .45 in.

Hot Stix Golf of Scottsdale, which supplied the center-of-gravity information for this article, scientifically tests clubs and balls by all manufacturers and analyzes the results to objectively fit players. Call 480-513-1333 or visit hotstixgolf.com.

Ralph Dunning, the founder of a Toronto-based apparel company, is a former Ironman triathlete who applied his expertise with endurance-sport technical fabrics to golf. Offering excellent breathability, UV protection and moisture management, his Dunning Golf Interface FX Polos ($80–$90) have made quick inroads on Tour, with Zach Johnson and Craig Barlow among those joining the ranks of the cool. Call 800-955-6528 or visit dunninggolf.com.

Both TaylorMade TP Red and TP Black Balls ($55/dozen) are premium three-piece designs, but they offer subtly different playing qualities. The Red, with its slightly larger core, has a softer feel and creates a more boring trajectory; the Black spins less off the driver and launches higher. Call 800-258-2582 or visit taylormadegolf.com.

The Sonartec t35 wedge ($129) is the first-ever wedge from the company long known for its excellent fairway woods and hybrids. Two notable features: The back flange is designed to get more mass behind the ball, creating a more consistent trajectory, while the wedge's milled "yo-yo" grooves produce maximum friction for impressive spin control. In lofts of fifty-two, fifty-six and sixty degrees. Call 760-930-2454 or visit sonartec.com.

The subtitle of Dave Pelz's Damage Control ($30) says it all: "How to Avoid Disaster Scores." Pelz's latest extends the short-game guru's wisdom far beyond the green, into the woods (and other awful spots) where errant balls come to rest. He explains how to think about recovery shots and provides drills for practicing abnormal shots in your yard. Call 800-833-7370 or visit pelzgolf.com.

*all prices are msrp. street prices may be significantly lower.

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