Long Irons Or Hybrids? The Importance Of Bag Setup

For an amateur or professional golf players, choosing which equipment to create best golf club sets compatible with each game or tour is never a piece of cake. It affects their successes a lot. The same goes for bag setup. This is my research about which type of bag setup to use at tournament times.

I got the main statistics for my research from a site of the 2013 US Open – the Merion Golf Club’s East Course. Many players chose a lot of different equipment to fill their bags with the combination of both very short and long holes. As my experience, even professional players sometimes had frustrating time when it came to bagging setup.

The term “Danger Zone” – which means 175-225 yard approach shots, has been used more often recently to mention the part of the game that has the strongest affection to a golfer’s success. To lower the stroke play, each golfer has his own way to do the trick but if anyone finds himself behind the 8-ball after trying hard from the Danger Zone, he will obviously need even better play in the remaining of the game to make up for that loss.

To realize that theory, I use the detail of best Danger Zone tour players to know what they carried for a bag setup. Let’s take a look at the chart below which shows the number of irons in each player’s bag setup in three years from 2010 to 2012:

In case you don’t notice, I make a mini scoreboard of listed players’ bag setup:

Setup # of Players %
2-PW 3 6.7%
3-PW 32 71.1%
4-PW 9 20.0%
5-PW 1 2.2%

From the scoreboard, you can see that almost all tour players carried 3 irons through pitching wedge for their bag setups with 71.1 percent while the rest used 4-iron-PW. Three players used a bag setup of 2-iron-PW and only one of them had 5-iron-PW in his bag setup.

This data indicates that tour players use fewer hybrids or wedges than amateur players. I think it’s because they have higher skill levels than other players, which means they can use one club for many purposes in different parts of the game.

The first thing you can point out from above top players is that they usually have a tight gap between the 3-wood and the long irons. Basically, a standard player will have a 3-iron next to their 3-wood, which means no wide gaps are made between long clubs. A hybrid or 5-wood will be the substitution if they need another club in-between. To have enough gaps for the long approach shots, Danger Zone players will also cut the space for a gap wedge to achieve this goal.

The lack of a gap wedge doesn’t affect tour players much due to their high skill levels to solve the problem. If they meet the case when amateur players must use a gap wedge, top players just use their sand wedge with more momentum or find a perfect angle for their pitching wedge. With their experience and creativity, leaving a gap wedge behind isn’t a big issue and good shots are still in their control.

However, tour players sometimes get stuck when they are between clubs and wonder which clubs to choose between a 3-wood and a 3-iron.  The club head speed also contributes to some facets that result in a tour player’s success. You can check the chart below:

From the chart, you will quickly find the relationship between club head speed and the number of irons tour players carry for their bag setup. The more iron clubs they carry, the higher clubhead speed they have.

To understand more, I did some interviews with tour players about how they manage their bag setups. They told me that it was just their feelings that when they hit the ball with an iron club, it was more accurate and precise than what a hybrid can do. But they still emphasized the fact that to have a high consistency to hit a shot as far as possible in their odds, they would use hybrids over iron clubs.

Thus, in the situation when they’re in the middle of finding a way for the ball to cross the water, it’s more likely that top players will use the hybrid in favor of a long iron. Despite what tour players carry in the bag setup, they prefer to hit the ball with a long iron to get it closer to the hole in a swing. That’s why in the chart golf players using 2-iron-PW have higher clubhead speeds than the other. Because they can advance the ball that far, they usually don’t have any big trouble related to carrying issue.

In most cases, the hybrids are the favorite choices for the bag setup of many golfers. Tour players need them to get the ball over difficult types of hazards such as bunkers and water. Amateur players usually can’t have a long approach to bring the ball close to the hole so they will carry more hybrids in order to have higher chances to hit the ball to the hole in their average ability. To make a 180-yard shot, amateur players will use a consistent club which gives them the confidence to hit the ball more than 170 yards regardless of the fact that sometimes they can’t control the direction perfectly.

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