Hybrid Happy: Golfing with the Latest Gear

In recent years the word “hybrid” has become a staple in the average American’s lexicon. Whether watching CSI or the local news on TV, reading a favorite magazine or surfing the internet, we seem to be endlessly exposed to ads for hybrid vehicles, hybrid vacuums, and hybrid designer dogs like the Pomeranian-Collie-Labradoodle-Dalmation. As golfers, we are not immune to this wave of hybridization. In fact, golf manufacturers have popularized “hybrids” by crossing metal woods with long irons in a manner that would make even Gregor Mendel proud.

In this article, we’ll consult some golf industry experts with strong Door County roots. We’ll take a look at some of the technology behind hybrids and how to properly select the best hybrid for your game. Finally, and most importantly, we’ll find out how to wield your hybrid successfully on some of the county’s toughest holes.

Major equipment manufacturers say that innovative design technology has led to the instant success of hybrids. Fish Creek native Peter Rericha, a PGA Professional at Nike Golf in Beaverton, Oregon agrees. He says that hybrids have become some of the best selling products in Nike Golf’s portfolio – their new Sumo and Sumo Squared models have been huge retail successes. Rericha explains that hybrids “have a much lower center of gravity and more club-head mass behind the ball” when compared with traditional long irons. Rericha says that players are able to attain the accuracy of an iron, but with the higher trajectory of a fairway wood. So, we asked Peter what this means for the average golfer. His reply:  “In essence, shots will fly higher and land softer giving you more putts at birdie!”

Now that we’ve got the tech-talk squared away, it’s time to figure out which hybrid is right for your game. To get a better grip on picking the right hybrid, we spoke with another Door County native – Ephraim’s David Celusta. Dave is a member of the professional staff at the prestigious Green Bay Country Club and has an extensive background in club fitting with Ping Golf. We asked Dave what things a golfer needs to think about when selecting a hybrid. Dave says that it is very important to know what club you’re trying to replace. For example, if you’re trying to replace a 3 iron, you might consider hybrids between 20 and 22 degrees of loft. Dave also reminds me that, above all else, it is very important to get fit properly.

So, now that you’ve forked over your hard-earned cheddar for a hybrid of your own, you need to know how to use it properly. For a few tips, one of Door County’s skilled PGA professionals can help you master the art of hitting long, high hybrid shots. Two great choices are Jason Daubner, the PGA Director of Golf Operations at Maxwelton Braes in Baileys Harbor, and Randy Meyer, PGA Head Golf Professional at IdleWild in Sturgeon Bay. Not only are both men great instructors, they also serve on the Board of Directors for the Door County Golf Association.

A February Golf Digest article helped clear up some of the debate amongst golfers and golf instructors as to how a hybrid should best be utilized. Todd Kersting’s parsimonious advice should help most golfers:  “In most situations, you want to swing a hybrid the same way you would a longer iron, with a more sweeping action. A hybrid clubhead is designed to skim through the grass like a fairway wood, and the extra weighting behind the face sends the ball up high like an iron does…The clubhead will glide through the grass the way it was designed to, and you’ll get that trademark hybrid ball flight:  a high launch with a soft landing.”

After heeding a PGA professional’s advice, we should all be able to hit some successful hybrid shots. Someone who has a litany of experience hitting great shots is Nick Kwaterski. Kwaterski turned professional last summer and splits his time between professional events in South Florida and Peninsula State Park Golf Course in Ephraim. We asked Nick where the hybrid is going to come in handy while golfing in Door County. Nick says that one of the things that he likes best about his hybrid (a 17 degree model from now-defunct Sonartec) is its versatility. “I use my hybrid off the tee, from the fairway, and rough,” he says. For example, on long challenging par threes, like the 11th at the Orchards at Egg Harbor, Nick says that skilled players and novices alike will be able to benefit from using a hybrid.

He also says his hybrid is crucial in tournament play because it gives him the ability to attack long par fives in two shots. “Holes like number six at Peninsula, or number 13 at Horseshoe Bay are perfect for hybrids… I could never reach consistently in two with a long iron, and it’s hard to trust your fairway woods to be accurate enough to hit the green.” Nick says that he also uses his hybrid as a way to successfully navigate tough narrow par fours. “The 12th hole at Peninsula is just a positioning shot off the tee; you have trouble right and jail to the left – my hybrid is perfect there. Same thing on the back nine at IdleWild. Some of those holes are so tough looking off the tee hitting the hybrid allows me to keep it in the fairway.”

So, before hitting the links on one of Door County’s beautiful courses, remember that hybrids are not just eco-friendly vehicles or pets that Paris Hilton carries in her purse. They could just be the missing ingredient in your golf game.