For the last 25 years, club manufacturers have developed clubs with hybrid-type features, but TaylorMade started the revolution when it introduced its original Rescue Mid Hybrid in 2003.
The hybrid swing is different than that of the long irons. Place the ball toward the front foot and use a shallow, sweeping motion, striking the ball like a fairway wood.
Although each manufacturer designs hybrids differently, the main feature in common is a low center of gravity farther from the club face than would be possible with long irons. This feature sends the ball higher in the air with less effort.
Some brands have a flat club face like an iron, but others have a rolled face like a wood. The hybrid shaft length is typically shorter than a wood for more control, but may be longer than the iron it replaces. Hybrids also generally have a flatter bottom than irons, allowing them to glide across the grass during the swing.
Hybrids do have a down side for the shot maker. Hybrids are not designed to hit low shots that roll a long way.
According to retail giant Golfsmith, two-thirds of all iron sets it sells no longer include a traditional 3-iron, and 1 and 2-irons have already largely been phased out.