Long Irons vs Fairway Woods vs Hybrids: Why Long Irons Are Usually Not The Best Choice

Fairway woods vs Hybrids.

This is an interesting argument in the modern game and the perfect answer is… well, there is no perfect answer because it’s down to your requirements and preferences on looks and to cover certain distances and trajectories.

But that is actually okay, because it provides options to tailor the makeup of our golf bags in a way that is similar to our wedges.

We’ll explain more about these options shortly and how you can take advantage of them.

Has it always been like this – fairway woods vs hybrids?

The answer is no.

For long enough it was carrying a 1 or 2-iron in the bag to act as the buffer between your woods and irons.

In macho terms the one-iron was the winner – this was a real bad boy.

If Popeye played golf he would use a 1-iron because you needed real strength and speed to get the ball airborne with this demon of a golf club.

So how has golf progressed from those days of trying to tame the “butter knife” (as the one iron was known as) to a day where we have no long irons (as far as the amateur game goes) and fairway woods and hybrids reign supreme?

Why have long irons all but become extinct even at the professional level? 

When we consider the argument between fairway woods vs hybrids, what technologies and characteristics go into them to make them easier for amateurs to hit than long irons?

From the professional’s perspective, there are clues as to why fairway woods or hybrids are easier for amateurs.

The courses the professionals play regularly are set up with firm, fast greens and punishing rough.

Fairway woods and hybrids offer higher trajectories than their long iron counterparts therefore it’s easier to hold those firm, fast greens.

The design characteristics of fairway woods and hybrids feature wide soles with the weight put far back in the head which will allow the head to move easier through the rough and achieve a more forgiving result if the strike isn’t great coming out the rough.

Regardless of whether being a professional or an amateur these are desirable outcomes in the quest for lower scores.

Join us as we chart the story of long iron vs fairway woods vs hybrids covering the following along the way:

  • What is classed as long irons?
  • Why were they so difficult to hit?
  • Fairways woods – all you need to know
  • Hybrid clubs – why did they come into existence?
  • Fairway woods vs Hybridswhat can you use today?
Long Irons vs Fairway Woods vs Hybrids

What Are Long Irons: Which Golf Clubs Are classed as long irons?

In our intro, we talked about one and two irons as long irons but also three irons fell into this bracket as well.

In modern days, potentially the longest iron most amateurs will carry is a four iron which would have fallen into the middle iron category before fairway woods and hybrids became prominent.

Why were they so difficult to hit?

Long irons carried a high degree of intimidation due to most of them being blades in design which meant:

  • They had a narrow sole
  • A very thin top line
  • You couldn’t see much of the face due to their lofting
  • Length of shaft

From that list, I bet you are glad you don’t have to carry one of those in your bag!

Long Irons vs Fairway Woods vs Hybrids

But these clubs had their use and indeed many a famous shot has been hit with them – Ben Hogan’s one iron into the eighteenth at Merion in 1950 helped him seal the U.S. Open and is one of the most iconic pictures in golf.

Jack Nicklaus produced a stunning tap in birdie at the seventeenth during the 1980 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach after smashing a 1 iron into one of the smallest greens and tightest pins on the course.

Lastly, Nick Faldo hit a pressure-packed 3-iron shot into the eighteenth at Muirfield on his way to victory at the 1992 Open Championship.

These three shots were hit under the most severe moments of pressure in the later stages of major championships.

Each player knowing they had to produce the goods using some of the most demanding clubs any golfer could hit shows the quality of their iron play and the pureness of their ball-striking.

Maybe the last true exponent of the long iron was Tiger Woods.

In his early career, he could hit his two iron and control it in the same way he could control his wedge shots.

The famous “stinger” shot that Tiger developed was first employed with his two iron when he was faced with a very tight driving hole where he couldn’t employ one of his woods.

It also served to be a useful shot during the Open Championship where control of trajectory is vital to mastering the conditions Open venues offer.

As Tiger has gotten older and has gone through his physical battles, he’s switched the two iron out of his bag for most weeks in favor of a five-wood which leads us on nicely to the next topic.

Long Irons vs Fairway Woods vs Hybrids

Fairways woods: all you need to know

For clarity’s sake, fairway woods are any other wood in the bag other than the driver.

Their lofts range from 13 degrees to 28 degrees depending on the manufacturer.

Nearly every golfer regardless of ability will at least have a 3-wood in the bag as their next longest club after the driver.

Their primary function off the tee is to navigate either:

  • Very narrow fairways
  • Missing trouble (bunkers, water, out-of-bounds) that could be reached with the driver
  • A hole playing extremely downwind from the tee

On the last point, the player might opt to use a fairway wood as it carries more loft than the driver so they can hit it higher and take advantage of being downwind with the added trajectory.

Long Irons vs Fairway Woods vs Hybrids

The main selling point of fairway woods’ added loft also makes them more useful for playing off the deck and out of the rough due to fairway woods having wider soles compared to their long iron counterparts. 

Fairway woods have been around a lot longer than people think – Gene Sarazen famously recorded the first ever albatross at The Masters holing a 4-wood shot from the 15th fairway on route to victory in 1935.

They weren’t widely used because professionals felt they got more control over their long irons by shaping their shots and controlling trajectory better with them than the fairway wood alternatives.

The fairway wood has had a resurgence in the game of late.

They have become more popular as the professionals see the advantages to them that amateurs should, namely, they can hit the ball much higher whilst their mishits won’t be as punished as a long iron would be.

As already mentioned, even Tiger Woods switched out his trusty 2-iron in favour of a 5 wood unless he’s playing at the Open Championship and he’ll switch back. 

Some modern pros now carry a 7 wood in their bags because of the added versatility it offers for attacking the longest of par 5s or navigating the narrowest courses – the fact they can still hit them about 250 yards is also an advantage.

Long Irons vs Fairway Woods vs Hybrids

Hybrid Golf clubs – why did they come into existence?

The hybrid golf club holds an interesting space in our fairway woods vs hybrids vs long irons story.

It is the newest member of this family of clubs that bridge the gap between drivers and mid-irons.

What we now think of as hybrids first appeared on professional tours in 2003/04 and were referred more to as “rescue clubs”.

In essence, the design and principle are exactly the same.

  • Wider soles for easier use in the rough 
  • Weight pushed back and lower to aid in getting the ball airborne 
  • More forgiving on off-center hits

Hybrids also offer a wide degree of flexibility in their lofting – 16 degrees to 27 degrees so you have an option that will cover everything from a 3-wood alternative to a 5-iron alternative.

The original rescue/hybrid clubs came with the additional option of steel shafts but nowadays this has been phased out in favor of graphite with some shaft manufacturers now building specific hybrid shafts to maximize their potential.

Long Irons vs Fairway Woods vs Hybrids

Fairway woods vs Hybridswhat Club Should you use today?

The good news for golfers is that there is much more flexibility about what you can put in your bag today. 

You can also get custom fitted for either fairway wood or hybrid giving you the correct loft, lie, and shaft combination.

Fairway woods vs hybrids is as much down to your own individual preference for what you like the look of but whatever option you go with they offer the same characteristics:

  • More forgiveness on off-center hits
  • The weight pulled back deep in the head to increase playability and trajectory
  • Better-designed soles for ease of use off the fairway and in the rough

The lofting of these clubs can help cover a wide array of distances and you can have this tailored specifically for your distance requirements similar to your wedges.

Most manufacturers now don’t offer a 3-iron option unless the set is aimed squarely at the better player who might still have the skills to utilise this club. 

In some cases, there isn’t even a 4-iron offered or maybe the 4-iron is automatically replaced with a hybrid equivalent.

The days of the 1 and 2 iron are past now and amateurs don’t need to fear the idea of trying to tame one of these beasts. 

If you ever get the opportunity, see if you can find an old 1 or 2-iron and look at it compared to your fairway wood or hybrid.

It won’t take long to work out which is easier to hit it just then becomes your individual preference for what works best for your game – fairway woods vs hybrids.

There are so many instances in golf where the amateur game follows the trends created in the professional game.

If professionals can see the advantages of either using fairway woods or hybrids to help them lower their scores then they will definitely make it easier for amateurs.

Photo of author
Golf has been a passion of mine for over 30 years. It has brought me many special moments including being able to turn professional. Helping people learn to play this great game was a real highlight especially when they made solid contact with the ball and they saw it fly far and straight! Injury meant I couldn't continue with my professional training but once fully fit I was able to work on and keep my handicap in low single figures representing my golf club in local and regional events. Being able to combine golf with writing is something I truly enjoy. Helping other people learn more about golf or be inspired to take up the game is something very special.

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