There's no disputing the fact that the rescue club, or hybrid as it is also known, is one of the most versatile clubs you can carry in your bag.
Although the rescue club is designed primarily to replace your long irons it actually serves as so much more than the humble iron. Whether you're on a tight driving hole and need to find the fairway, have a shot from a tight lie or find your ball nestled down in the rough, the rescue club is the ultimate golfer's companion. And you can even use it to chip - remember those lethal chip-putts that Todd Hamilton played on route to winning The Open Championship at Royal Troon?
The shape and size of the rescue clubhead is such that you get the best of two worlds: the forgiveness, distance and height of a fairway wood with the stop of an iron. But where the rescue club really does come into its own is out of the rough - as it is smaller than a fairway wood but larger than an iron it can cut through tough lies with ease. Add to that the fact that a rescue club is generally fitted with a shaft the same length as your irons and you have much more control over one of these clubs than a traditional wood.
At Golf Today we believe that no matter what standard of golfer you are a rescue club is an invaluable addition to your bag, giving you far greater shot-making versatility, so we've recruited an eager group of testers to try out the latest rescue clubs on the market for 2012. Here are their verdicts...
We tested rescue clubs that are designed to replace your 2 or 3-iron - those incredibly hard to hit clubs! Our test took place at Pachesham Golf Centre in Surrey, where the comprehensive practice facilities include a state-of-the-art indoor Flightscope room where our testers where able to see the performance of the rescue clubs, noting their accuracy and distance. We then asked our testers to take the rescue clubs out on the driving range and offer feedback on their ball flight and performance before putting them through the ultimate rescue club challenge - those hard-to-hit shots out of the rough. This allowed each golfer to give the clubs a thorough examination.
MEET THE TESTERS...
Handicap: 2 Background: I first put a rescue club in my golf bag three years ago and I have not looked back. The rescue club has become an invaluable addition, used in virtually every situation on the golf course. In fact I love my 4-iron replacement rescue club so much that I decided to replace my old 7-wood with a 3-iron equivalent and then followed suit a few months later with a 5-wood replacement a 2-rescue. Although ditching my fairway woods may seem extreme I can't fault the all-round performance of rescue clubs, there's no doubt they have contributed to my confidence and have helped me achieve lower scores than ever before.
Background : I turned Professional just over a year ago and am currently in my first year of my studies to become PGA Qualified. I am a keen player and very savvy when it comes to golf equipment. I have tinkered with many different clubs over the years. I currently use a Titleist 585H hybrid which gives me great shot-making creativity. It's a strong loft (replacing a 2-iron equivalent) but I like the penetrating ball flight. I can't imagine replacing it with anything better but I'm interested to see what's on test and whether I might be swayed to upgrade and make the investment.
Background: I've been playing golf for forty years and I am very much a traditionalist when it comes to equipment. I'm a member of Cruden Bay in Scotland and the links lies and strong winds dictate that a long iron is a key club in my bag. I've tried rescue clubs before but found them hard to hit from the tight lies we tend to get on the fairway but I'm intrigued to see whether there is a rescue club that can serve me well in these conditions as well as being a useful club to have out of the nasty links rough.
Background: I've been playing golf since I was a boy but only on a casual pay and play basis - work and family life tend to get in the way.
As a result consistency is my big problem. I do really struggle with my long irons but haven't considered switching to a rescue club because it's hard to justify the cost of buying new golf equipment when I play so little. I'll be interested to see whether there is a budget-priced rescue club that performs well for me as I'd definitely consider purchasing it.
YONEX EZONE SD
Price: £129 Specs: 19 ° , 22 ° , 25 ° , 28 °. S, R & Super Light Flex Contact: www.yonex.com They say: A new level of forgiveness is achieved by EZONE hybrids which can deliver improved distance and accuracy even on slightly mishit shots. EZONE hybrids are designed for players as an alternative to long irons offering great feel and versatility. A shaved leading edge and sole is designed to decrease resistance from the ground during the swing. Fitted with Yonex's NANOPREME Shaft - a high intensity, extremely elastic material that provides increased energy transfer and superior shaft stability for faster clubhead speeds and reduced shaft deformation for longer, straighter shots.
Carly Frost: A simple and stylish rescue club that will have a wide appeal. The Yonex EZONE SD had one of the best impact sounds of all the clubs I tested - it really filled you with confidence when you hit it, giving the impression that the ball fired powerfully off the face. The dull grey finish will appeal to the golfer that doesn't like the glare of the shinier black clubheads in sunlight.
Ben Todd: I'm not keen on the shape of this rescue club, it's very rounded with a curved leading edge; I prefer something that's squarer. I found the feel a little dead, it didn't offer a huge amount of feedback - that means I hit shots and didn't really know where they were going to fly. On the plus side it was brilliant out of the rough and sat very nicely behind the ball.
Dave Hughes: This club was a good all-rounder from every lie, very easy to hit with great balance. I like the smooth, curvaceous clubhead shape, it suits my eye. The Yonex felt slightly lighter than other clubs with the same flex shaft, maybe indicative of the fancy shaft technology I'm told is designed to increase clubhead speed, but fortunately it wasn't to the detriment of my accuracy. Gary Ledson: There's nothing particularly striking about this club and it doesn't jump out at me. The design is very simple. It was nice and easy to hit and elevated the ball from tricky lies particularly well. I'm just not sure that it has enough of the wow factor to make me choose it from the line-up.
Price: £139 Specs: 18 ° , 21 ° , 24 ° , 27 °, S, R & Light Flex. Contact: www.nikegolf.com They say: The fastest, longest hybrid we've ever produced outdistances all others by combining two big advantages: It launches easier and flies farther. The Nike VRS hybrid features NexCOR face technology which maximises distance for the widest range of players through a new speed-expanding multi face thickness design. The NexCOR infinity design creates a bridge for ultra-thin, ultra-hot faces and unmatched ball speed from every club in the bag. A compact aerodynamic clubhead design delivers both the speed and launch performance of a fairway wood, plus the accuracy and scoring ability of an iron.
Carly Frost: A great-looking club, sleek and elegant. There's nothing fussy about the design and I like that. The feel off the clubface is very solid and strong, which will tick the right boxes with the discerning player. The flowery pattern on the shaft won't appeal to everyone's eye but it's certainly unique. I can see this slotting into the bag of the Tour players and scratch golfers with ease. Ben Todd: The shape of the clubhead is slightly more rounded than I would prefer and I'm not keen on the two highlighted white groove lines on the clubface. I can see how they serve to help game improvers centralise the ball at address but they're not for me. The ball flight was very powerful but the feel was slightly dead and could have offered me more feedback.
Dave Hughes: The floral pattern on the shaft is definitely off-putting! It's a shame because the clubhead isn't a bad shape, but the performance wasn't outstanding so that would be enough to direct me to the more traditional-looking alternatives. I've always thought that Nike's foray into club-making was adventurous - they should have stuck to just making great shoes. Gary Ledson: I have to say I'm usually sucked in by brand names and the Nike tick would have drawn me to this club, except that when I picked it up I didn't realise it was Nike! The 'swoosh' on the sole of the club was very subtle. It hit shots powerfully and sounded great, but it wasn't the most forgiving club I tested and my shots from the rough lies were somewhat wayward!
They say: The Rescue 11 incorporates steel, pull-face construction to allow for a thin, fast clubface that promotes fast ball speed and minimum weight. The Flight Control Technology (FCT) allows you to adjust the loft. The white crown colour provides optimum contrast against both the black clubface and ground to make the Rescue 11 easier to aim. Adjust the loft with Flight Control Technology (FCT). Adjust the face angle by 4° (+/- 2° left and right), adjust the loft by 2° (+/- 1° higher or lower), adjust the lie 2° (+/- 1° more upright or flat) and 1,000 RPM Spin Rate Change (+/- 500 RPM higher or lower spin rate). Deeper face and lower CG for easier launch. White non-glare crown and black clubface for easy alignment
Carly Frost: I've never been a player who likes to tinker with their equipment. I prefer to pick a club up and have it set correctly with the right loft to begin with, so I have to be honest and say I didn't bother to adjust the flight at all, but I can see the attraction for some players. The look of the clubhead is unique and I like the contrast of the white clubhead against the grass, it really makes it look impossible to miss. The performance backed that up - a strong flight and incredibly easy to hit. Ben Todd : I have to confess I've already tried this rescue club once before and loved it. I couldn't resist taking it onto the range the moment it came into the Pro Shop - such was the lure of the distinctive white clubhead. I'd seen the professionals out on Tour with these in play and wanted to try it. I love the fact that I was able to adjust the loft to bring the flight down to a really penetrating trajectory. I'd definitely feel confident putting this straight in the bag. Dave Hughes: The performance of this club was outstanding but I just can't get my eye used to the look of the white clubhead, it is just too modern and away from the traditional look for me. I certainly wouldn't touch the loft adjustment either. I like to pick a club up and just hit it, so a Professional would have to set it up for me. Gary Ledson: I saw these clubs at a golf show a couple of months ago and instantly loved them. They look so cool and I know TaylorMade is great quality - it's just a shame that they have the high price tag! Adjusting the loft is a novelty and great fun, although at my level I don't really benefit from it, I'm just happy if the ball gets airborne and in a straight line!
CALLAWAY RAZR X HL
Specs: 21 ° , 24 ° , 27 ° , (RH&LH), A, R & S Flex
They say: These game-improvement hybrids are designed to be highly versatile clubs that help amateur golfers hit higher, longer shots that fly straighter, even on miss-hits. The clubface utilises a Zero Roll Design that increases distance with softer landings while Vertical CG Optimisation allows for a lower CG. Inertia Driven Design creates exceptional forgiveness and includes an increased hosel offset that helps square the clubface at impact.
Carly Frost: This Callaway hybrid is so easy to use I could hit it in my sleep. But then I'd expect nothing less from a manufacturer that has always been synonymous with designing incredibly easy-to-use woods. The feel is solid yet responsive and offered great feedback. I'm not a fan of the sock headcover, especially when it gets wet on a rainy day, but apart from that this hybrid would go straight in my bag.
Ben Todd: Clearly a game-improver club, the offset head says it all - ideal if you need that extra help, but at my level I prefer to look down at a club that sits nice and square behind the ball. I also found the silver topline contrasting against the black clubhead a bit too distinctive. There's no disputing that the deep clubhead made it easy to get a high, soft landing ball flight, but I'm after something a bit more penetrating from my flight. Dave Hughes: This club was very easy to use and brilliant out of the rough. The clubhead size is more similar to one of the old fairway woods so it felt quite at home in my 'traditionalist' hands. I wouldn't normally choose a club with offset, I prefer the club to sit square behind the ball, but actually the ball flight was excellent. The only problem I can foresee is being able to nip such a big club off the tight links turf I am used to. Gary Ledson: Callaway were the first woods I ever played as a kid so I'm instantly drawn to the brand. This rescue club was every bit as good as I expected, very easy to use, even for a hacker like me! The sound was powerful, the ball really fizzed off the face, and the silver accent on the crown of the club made it easy to align.
JOHN LETTERS T9+
Price: £99.99 Specs: 16°, 19°, 22°, 25° (R, S & A Flex) Contact: www.johnletters.com They say: The T9+ Hybrid is the perfect replacement for your hard-to-hit long irons. The hybrids have a state-of-the-art discretional weighting design to push more weight in the heel and toe areas for maximum forgiveness and stability on off-centre strikes. The clean and contemporary lines inspire confidence at address and a low profile face helps to lower the centre of gravity making it easy to get the ball airborne from virtually any lie. A special Maraging steel face transfers more energy at impact for increased distance. 'Feel Cell' technology in the sole of the clubhead helps to disperse vibrations at impact, giving an improved sound and solid feel. Placing a large amount of the club head's weight further back, increases the MOI (Moment Of Inertia) to reduce club head twisting on off-centre strikes for more accuracy.
Carly Frost: I'm presuming JL are targeting the low to mid handicapper with the T9+ because it has quite a small clubhead shape. That suits my eye as I feel that I can really work shots, but it certainly doesn't ooze forgiveness. The jet black clubhead finish is a bit too shiny in bright light for my eyes and although the soft Winn grip feels very nice in my hands on a sunny day like today, I would question the grip or potential slip in the rain? Ben Todd: I know that John Letters are really investing in the Professional's circuit at the moment as I saw their Tour truck on the driving range at The Open Championship last summer. It's nice to see a better player's club with a reasonable price tag. I'm not sure that aesthetically this quite competes with the big name brands and the Winn grip had the negative effect of deadening the feel and feedback I got from my shots. Dave Hughes: Coming from Scotland I'm well aware of the heritage of the John Letters brand so it is nice to see them back in the mainstream again. This isn't a bad rescue club either, but I wish they had put a normal grip on there. This one made the club feel clunky in my hands. It hit the ball well enough though. Gary Ledson: I have to be honest and say I've never heard of John Letters before and would guess that this club falls into the budget category. There's just something about the presentation of the headcover that looks a little cheap, so forgive me if I am wrong. The club itself looks great and hit the ball really well, so I certainly can't fault that.
Price: £139 Specs: 17º, 20º, 23º, 27º, 31º, L, Soft R, F, S and X Flexes Contact: www.ping.com They say: An offset hosel produces shots with high launch, low spin and a straight, boring trajectory for improved accuracy and greater distance. A shorter heel-to-toe length ensures playability from all conditions and provides a flatter lie angle and softer crown shape for an improved appearance at address. Additional bounce and camber create exceptional ground impact and ensure a smooth transition through the grass, especially when the ball is sitting down. A large, internal weight inside the 17-4 stainless steel head provides forgiveness and distance.
Carly Frost: The G20 has a very distinctive clubhead shape, smaller than others on test, but sat nice and square behind the ball. From the very first shot struck it had the 'wow' factor - the ball flew ridiculously well with a great auditory response. The dark matt finish makes the club look expensive and classy and I like the clever use of a slightly shinier finish just to accent the top line, it really works.
Ben Todd: This club is right up my street, no offset and sits beautifully square at address. The performance was outstanding too, definitely my favourite club on test, delivering a strong ball flight. The matt finish is great on a sunny day today, no nasty glare off the clubhead. Overall verdict? Hard to fault! Dave Hughes: What a fantastic club, this is the perfect substitute for my long irons as it's not too big and I feel as though I can nip shots away off tight turf, perfect for my home course, a links. It wasn't the most forgiving club I hit but it certainly allowed plenty of shot-making versatility and a great feel. Gary Ledson: Ping by name, Ping by nature, I say! This club really does make a pleasing sound when you hit it, filling you with confidence. I'm not very keen on the dull black finish, I prefer the shiny clubs. The feel was very solid even on my mishits.
They say: Longer from any lie, the new Cleveland Golf Mashie hybrid is engineered for distance and versatility. Enhanced Gliderail technology measurably decreases turf drag for more lift and speed and impact, meaning more distance and accuracy from any lie - rough, sand, tee or fairway. Ultralite technology reduces total club weight by over 20 grams for increased head speed and distance with the same swing effort. A premium Miyazaki C. Kua 59 graphite shaft, engineered specifically for hybrids, maximizes swing speed while maintaining incredible accuracy. Also included is a RetroSock headcover, which includes the regal Mashie seal and a stylish black-and-white pom-pon.
Carly Frost: The Cleveland Mashie is definitely a blast from the past, it reminds me very much of the first set of steel headed woods I owned, they had exactly the same grey mottled finish. To be honest with you I prefer the look of modern equipment that has moved with the times. From a performance point of view the Mashie ticks all the boxes. The clever sole definitely does it job to cut through the turf, I nestled a few balls down in bad lies and the Mashie worked a treat. Ben Todd: Top marks to Cleveland for producing a really 'retro' golf club - this certainly brings back fond memories. I'm not massively keen on the shape of the clubhead, it looks a little too bulgy like a spoon to me with a very rounded leading edge, but that does give it the benefit of cutting through tough lies. I didn't get as much feedback off the face as I was hoping for but the ball flight was very consistent. Dave Hughes: The first thing that struck me when I removed the headcover was the unusual sole. There's no disputing that this really does work out of the rough but I'm afraid the Mashie sits a little too tall and proud off the turf to be a versatile links course companion for me. I like the grey finish, it's distinctive and different. Gary Ledson: OK so I get it, Cleveland Golf is trying to go back to its heritage and reinvent the wheel - the only question is why? I like modern-looking golf clubs and the Mashie just looks a little too old-fashioned for me. I hit it well enough and found it easy to use but it just wouldn't find a place in my bag unless it had a makeover.
BENROSS QUAD ESCAPE
Price: £59.99 Specs: 17º, 20º, 23º, 26º (RH only) R & S Flex Contact: 01932 821200, www.benrossgolf.com
They say: Benross QUAD Escapes are designed to be easier to hit alternatives to long irons. Wide bodies and the low and deep positioning of every gram of discretionary weight, means golfers can launch shots powerfully off any lie.
By launching shots higher on a "Rainbow Shaped" flight, golfers carry the ball further through the air, which increases accuracy. A steeper decent into greens also means shots stop quicker, increasing control and scoring potential.
Simple, easy on the eye cosmetics allow the QUAD Escape's to set up beautifully at address making them perfect for replacing the long irons in any golfers set.
Carly Frost: There's very little to set the Quad apart from its more expensive rivals, you certainly can't tell the difference in the feel or performance. It's a really good all-rounder with a classical clubhead shape that sits reassuringly behind the ball, filling you with confidence that it is going to get the ball airborne with ease. I'm not a fan of the arrow crest for alignment in the centre of the crown, I prefer a clean crown, but I can see the benefits. Ben Todd: This club really surprised me, with such a low price tag I wasn't expecting much but the looks were up there with some of my favourite clubs on test. The pear-shaped clubhead sits nicely behind the ball. The performance was so-so, for some reason the balance of the weight in the club didn't feel quite right but it hit the ball decently. Dave Hughes: Definitely a club that I could put straight in the bag without too much adjustment. It feels good, offers decent feedback and hits the ball solidly. The only thing that I'm not sure about is the pale clubface against the dark black clubhead finish - it takes some getting used to.
Gary Ledson: This is one case where the brand name doesn't actually make any difference to me. I was impressed with the looks and performance before I found out about the reasonable price tag and that won me over even more.
MD Golf Superstrong ST2
Specs: 18º, 21º, 24º, R & S Flex
Contact: +44 (0) 289 446 0333, www.mdgolf.co.uk
They say: The new ST2 hybrid is the perfect hybrid to provide a versatile and forgiving bridge between woods and irons. This hybrid has the weight positioned towards the back of the head resulting in a high ball flight and soft landing shots. The hollow head offers a spring like effect off the face and this results in greater ball speed and increased distance. It is much more effective out of the rough or sand than a long iron and therefore the ideal replacement for your hard to hit longer irons.
Carly Frost: I think this is the sort of club that you will either love or you'll hate. The dark black clubhead contrasts sharply against the bold yellow shaft and two-tone grip giving a real stand-out factor on the shop stands. The triangular clubhead shape doesn't appeal to me but it did mean that shots were hit with complete ease off the fairway or out of trouble. The big sell for me at this price-point though is the excellent quality of the components. Ben Todd: I like the yellow shaft contrasting against the jet black clubhead; it frames the ball really well. I'm not so keen on the white markings on the clubface, I know the purpose is to help the golfer centralise the ball, but at my level I prefer less fussy grooves. The ball flight was excellent and the feel of power was there although at bit hit and miss when I didn't quite catch shots out of the middle. Dave Hughes : This rescue club looks like my 5-wood! It has a much bigger head shape than the other rescue clubs on test and is very rounded, but I quite like that. The bright yellow shaft is way too outlandish for me - I'm far too traditional to put this club in my bag I'm afraid. Gary Ledson: I've never heard of MD Golf before but I love it! The style is bold and daring and I like the fact that they've done something different with the design. It was really easy to hit too, launching the ball high into the air and gliding through the semi-rough.
Carly Frost: It's a close contest between the Callaway, Ping and TaylorMade for me, but I think the Callaway Razr just has the edge because it was so easy to hit and instantly felt comfortable in my hands. Ben Todd: The Ping was the stand-out club for me. A fantastic clubhead shape, sleek design and outstanding performance. Dave Hughes : If I had to pick one of the rescue clubs out on sheer performance it would be the TaylorMade, unfortunately I just couldn't get to grips with the look of the white clubhead. So I'd go for either the Yonex or the Benross. Gary Ledson: If money were no object I'd have the TaylorMade, it's just so cool! At my budget I'd go for the MD Golf Superstrong ST2 it performed just as well, looks awesome but doesn't have such a hefty price tag.
RESCUE CLUB BUYING CHART
What degree of loft replaces which iron or wood? Below is a table of typical rescue club lofts and the irons or woods that they replace:
Rescue loft Iron equivalent Wood equivalent
16º - 17º : 2 iron : 4-wood