Utility clubs are starting to rival drivers for high-tech performance
© Jeff Harris PROShop
| Credit: © Jeff Harris

Hybrids are charged with the simple task of outperforming traditional long irons. Lately, however, we’ve seen driverlike technology (high-MOI shapes, faces with bulge and roll) sneak into their designs. Many of the following hybrids even look like miniature versions of drivers by their respective brands. But fear not: They’re easy to hit, and hit long.

Miura Precious Edition MU23

The first-ever hybrid from Japan’s esteemed forged-iron producer, the MU23 has a rich color and a pleasingly rounded back. Its square-at-address face is slightly offset, but we found working the ball was simple. The shaft we tried—Graphite Design’s Tour AD, available as an upgrade—was up to an inch shorter than the others we tested, but we experienced no loss of shot distance. Trajectory was medium to high, and the ball tended to hit the ground running, indicative of the low spin rate the MU23 is designed to generate. $339/Tour AD shaft, $239/stock. Call 866-466-4872 or visit miuragolf.com.

TaylorMade Burner Rescue

This steel hybrid comes in two models, both of which employ the company’s new thin-walled Dual Crown Technology, in which the rear crescent of the clubhead is weighted for higher launch and less spin. The Standard Launch version (shown) boasts TaylorMade’s largest-ever footprint (how big the club appears at address) for a steel hybrid. The Tour Launch has a slightly smaller head but a deeper clubface, a look better players prefer. The center of gravity (CG) in the Tour model is positioned higher, to create a more piercing ball flight, and toward the toe, to minimize draws. $219/graphite, $175/steel. Call 866-530-8624 or visit taylormadegolf.com.

Nike SQ Sumo²

Like the matching Sumo² driver, this hybrid is designed to maximize moment of inertia (MOI) and shot-shaping ability. The unusual shape is unobtrusive at address: The black part of the crown is conventional in appearance, and a beveled silver-colored rear completes the square. The head features ample offset, to help it square at impact. Sound, feel and distance were as good as any club we tested, and thanks to the PowerBow weighting scheme, which positions mass low and toward the perimeter to help stabilize the clubhead at impact, shots launched high and landed softly. $180/graphite. Call 888-799-6453 or visit nikegolf.com.

Tour Edge Exotics XCG

This is an extension of the Exotics XCG driver, the company’s marquee product for 2008. Like the driver (and unlike most hybrids), the XCG hybrid boasts no-weld technology: The titanium face and crown are “combo-brazed” to the steel body, then vacuum-heat cured for a permanent bond. The process allows weight to be added to the sole instead, which helps the ball get airborne quickly. A rounded sole minimizes ground contact, making the XCG easy to hit from any lie, and variable face thickness—slimmer outer edges and a thicker center—creates a large sweet spot. $219. Call 800-515-3343 or visit exoticsgolf.com.

Callaway FT

Callaway extends its multimaterial Fusion Technology into hybrids, combining a stainless steel clubface and body with tungsten in the sole plate. This technology positions the CG for optimal trajectory control and increases the MOI, yielding forgiveness on off-center hits. The plain-looking head features a slightly closed face with a hint of bulge and roll. Many players will appreciate the addition of a traditional ferrule—at address the FT looks nice and clean.

Decide which model (Draw or Neutral) is best for you via Callaway’s OptiFit system, available at golf shops nationwide. $199. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

Adams Insight XTD A3OS

This superhard maraging steel model, one of Adams’s many offerings in the hybrid category, is classified by the company as a “hybrid fairway wood.” It’s great for golfers who are leery of giving up their trusty old seven- and nine-woods. The club’s oversize, squarish head boosts MOI by allowing more mass to be spread out to the corners than smaller “traditional” hybrid heads do. Its longer shaft also encourages players to swing the club more like a fairway wood than an iron. Finally, a cambered sole helps the club avoid catching in the grass, making for cleaner contact. $199. Call 800-622-0609 or visit adamsgolf.com.

Cleveland HiBore XLS

Though designed for players of all skill levels, the HiBore XLS is being played on Tour by Boo Weekley and Jerry Kelly—a curious detail because the club has a whisker of slice-preventing offset, something pros generally don’t want. The offset, by positioning the leading edge close to the hosel, frames the ball more like an iron than a wood, and the thick topline inspires golfers to fire away with confidence. The distinctive scooped-out crown is part of the club’s Distance Driven Geometry, which moves weight low and deep in the clubhead, raising the ball’s initial launch angle. $199. Call 800-999-6263 or visit clevelandgolf.com.

True Temper Dynamic Gold High Launch Shafts

Dynamic Gold is probably the most recognizable shaft in golf—it’s the stock offering in many iron sets. The new High Launch version is similar in feel, but it adds an extra 1.8 degrees to the initial launch angle, which translates to six to eight feet more in a shot’s peak trajectory. At 115 grams, the High Launch is also fifteen grams lighter than the standard Dynamic Gold, and that may give a slight boost to swing speed, too. $30/shaft. Call 800-355-8783 or visit truetemper.com.

Adidas Adivista and Adilibria Shield Sunglasses

The new his (Adivista) and hers (Adilibria Shield) shades from Adidas are packed with useful golf-specific technologies. Both feature light-stabilizing lenses designed to provide high-contrast clarity (and 100 percent UV protection) in all conditions, from flat light to full sun. And they offer a comfortable, no-slip fit, thanks to an adjustable double-snap nose bridge. $155–$190/Adivista, $125/Adilibria Shield. Call 800-626-8684 or visit shop.adidasgolf.com.

4 Yards More Tees

Our jury’s still out on whether these tees achieve the distance gains the company claims, but we agree that the shuttlecock-like elastomer crown reduces resistance through impact. The ring in the midsection, which allows the ball to be teed up at a consistent height, was a popular feature, as was the tees’ durability. Available in four models: the 1.75-inch red, 2.75-inch yellow, 3.25-inch blue (best for late-model drivers) and the 4-inch green (not pictured). $6/pack of four tees. Call 800-317-2663 or visit 4yardsmore.com.

Bobby Jones Pelz Wedge Collection

Any wedge designed by short-game master Dave Pelz gets deserved attention. His latest is officially called the Bobby Jones Pelz Wedge Collection by Jesse Ortiz. (Ortiz is the company’s chief designer.) The wedges feature USGA-conforming Groove Draft score lines that guide dew and debris away from the clubface at impact. The body is cast from soft stainless steel, and deep channels behind the wear-resistant clubface insert help remove weight from the body’s core so more heft can reside in the sole, creating a low CG. In testing, the wedges cut through thick sand and closely cropped fairways with equal aplomb, and shots played with an open face were a breeze. Available in four lofts, with various degrees of bounce. $150. Call 800-366-1989 or visit bobbyjonesgolf.com.