A frequent conversation at the United States Golf Academy is the use of hybrids or fairways woods and how to decide which is best for a particular player. In order to begin the decision making process we have to understand there are two ways to swing a golf club. Some players swing the club around their body on a shallower plane and some swing the club in a more upright manner, above their heads. Both swings are effective and the merits of the different types have been argued for years. For example, Jack Nicklaus swings the club in an upright manner and Tiger Woods swings the club on a flatter plane. The argument on who is better is probably yet to be decided. What is more important is to know which one you are and the pluses and minuses of each technique.
The easiest way to decide what type of player you are is to have a friend watch you swing a club standing behind you looking toward the target. As you swing the club to the top ask them to observe the relationship of the lead arm (left arm for right handed swing and right arm for left) and the shoulders. If the arm is above a line drawn through the shoulders you have an upright motion. If the arm is on the same line as the shoulders or below it is a flatter swing.
The basic rule of thumb is that a flatter swing plane will have better success with a fairway wood and the more upright swing will prefer the hybrid. The reasons are that the fairway woods, 3,5,7 and even a 9 are built longer with a flatter lie angle between the club and the shaft. The longer club suits the flatter swing plane. Hybrids are built more like irons, with shorter shafts, and more upright lie angles. This works best with a more upright swing plane.
A great example would be Tiger Woods. When Tiger replaces a club in his bag he replaces his 2 iron with a 5 wood rather than a hybrid club. Tiger has over the past few years worked very hard at swinging on a shallower or flatter plane. A hybrid doesn’t perform as well for him. So as you fill in the distance gaps in your set think about how you swing the club to help find the club that performs the best.