This is the year hybrid irons come of age. For the first time, three major brands are targeting serious growth, from what’s only ever been a stagnant product category.
In the past it’s only been mid-market brands shouting about their extra forgiveness, but 2020 sees Cleveland, Wilson and Cobra attacking the category head-on with new launches aimed at making the game easier and more fun.
So with a flurry of new models irons hitting the market recently, we thought the time was right to put Wilson’s brand new Launch Pad head-to-head with Cleveland’s Launcher HB Turbo (Cobra also have the yet-to-be-hit T-Rail) as well as a brilliant game improver iron (Ping’s G410), to find out if more golfers should consider hybrid irons for their next set.
Wilson arrived at Launch Pad by researching the typical traits of 10+ handicap golfers. They reckon even at mid-handicaps, 12% of shots are fat or heavy; they cost golfers 10 yards of carry (on average), which leads to missed greens and no end of frustration.
The Launch Pad irons have hollow heads with large, cambered soles and late bounce, which ensures the leading edge doesn’t dig at impact. Soles are progressively wider in the long irons and narrower in the short, helping improve contact consistency.
According to Wilson’s data, Launch Pad helped testers hit 25% more clean shots, reduced fat shots by 73% and increased ball speed and carry by 4.8mph and 9.8 yards. Launch Pad is built with an eye on weight, too, which means golfers generate maximum speed, launch and carry distance.
Wilson Launch Pad iron verdict
We’re really impressed with the thinking behind the Launch Pad. It goes without saying, to play hybrid irons you have to turn a blind eye to bulging backs and wide bodies and focus instead on the Launch Pad’s shiny chrome face and topline, which really is very much like a traditional oversize Wilson iron.
We were surprised to hear that 12% of club golfer iron shots (10 handicap and above) are hit fat. Our test pro doesn’t hit many fat shots, but if your tendency is to hit turf before ball the Launch Pad’s sole design will help.
We’re fans of teaming up this style of head with KBS’s lightest iron shaft, which helps maximise launch and shot height, and does a great job of counteracting the Launch Pad’s reasonably strong lofts.
On paper our numbers look very similar, but remember shots were hit by a test pro – regular golfers would see a much wider variation in strike location. He felt the hybrid bodies were more forgiving than the cavity-back Ping's, especially when hitting the mid and longer irons.
In terms of data, you gain in backspin, shot height and descent angle over one of the very best game improvement irons, which tells us hybrid irons deserve respect and should be treated as a legitimate option for golfers intent on enjoying the game in 2020.
Side by side comparison
How they compare in numbers
Golfers need forgiveness, according to Cleveland. Without it every not-so-perfect shot ends up in rough, sand, water or the woods. So they created the big, fast and forgiving Launcher HB Turbo.
Cleveland say cavity-back irons just can’t compete for forgiveness with hybrid irons, as there’s zero mass in the centre of the body. Hollow heads mean perimeter weighting and MOI reach unprecedented levels in an iron, which delivers unmatched stability.
To prove their point Cleveland say the Turbo has a centre of gravity nearly 17% lower and 47% deeper than the average cavity-back, which is a serious forgiveness gain.
Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo iron verdict
We’ve tested the Launcher HB Turbo a few times now, and each session has ended with our pro grinning from ear to ear. There’s been a lot of head scratching, too, as we’ve tried to work out why golfers insist on making the game so difficult by playing a set unsuited to their ability. Hybrid irons really are that easy to hit, which makes golf more fun.
The big difference between the Turbo and Wilson’s Launch Pad is that the Cleveland is likely to be more at home in the hands of golfers who already like hybrids. They look more like a traditional hybrid, whereas the Launch Pad has the appearance of an iron with the addition of a body on the back.
The Launcher’s numbers speak for themselves. Ball speed is fast, back spin and shot height are high and there’s a steep landing angle which means shots stop on a green much more readily than a strong-lofted iron.
They’re great fun to hit in the short and long irons, too. If you get that golf is a tough game, and are ready to focus on fun and enjoyment, Launcher HB Turbo get a big thumbs up.