It was once common that every golfer kept a 2 or 3-iron, known as long irons, for long shots from the fairway. These clubs were notoriously difficult to use with any degree of accuracy and consistency. Unless you hit the ball in the very small “sweet spot”, the ball was likely to end up in the rough, out-of-bounds, or in the water. Luckily, golf technology has improved and most golfers today have replaced their long irons with hybrid clubs, which are essentially fairway drivers. Recently, long irons have received another facelift with the introduction of driving irons, sometimes referred to as utility irons. Which club is best for your game comes down to several factors.
Hybrids feature a head shape akin to woods, but are lofted like an iron. The bigger head provides golfers with a much more forgiving club than the long irons they replaced. The curved face of hybrids allow slightly off-center hits to still fly straight, saving strokes for golfers. It is this ease of use that has led to the adoption of hybrids to the point that long irons are a very rare sight on any golf course.
Driving irons have attempted to revive the long iron by modifying the clubhead. Unlike hybrids, driving irons retain the club shape, feel and swing plane of an iron. These new designs feature a slightly thicker club head than traditional long irons which provide a more forgiving face. By maintaining the traditional iron shape, however, golfers can hit faster than hybrids and the possibility to shape shots and control spin are possible. While this ability is a positive, the downside of driving irons is that they are less forgiving than hybrid clubs.
For most players, the potential upside of driving irons will not outweigh the ease of use that hybrid clubs provide. Driving irons are best used by golfers with higher swing speeds (around 90 mph and above) and low handicaps in order to fully feel the advantages of driving irons.