ClubTest 2021: 20 versatile new hybrids tested and reviewed
With the help of GOLF’s research partner True Spec Golf, we asked 40 testers to hit more than 150 different clubs over three days to deliver the most inclusive and in-depth review of new gear in the 30-year history of our ClubTest franchise. Fact: The perfect drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges and putters for you are out there — and working with a custom fitter is the fastest way to find them.
For this installment of ClubTest 2021, our testers tried out 20 new hybrids from all the top manufacturers and found that while they still value hybrids for their rescue ability, now they also marvel at their power. The 2021 crop can really send it.
Check out all the new hybrids we reviewed below, then click through to read the test results and see photos and videos to help you learn everything you need to know to find the perfect woods for your game.
Whichever hybrid you choose, you can purchase it with one click, or better yet, get custom fit for new clubs by GOLF’s sister company True Spec Golf.
Our take: “It has an iron look, but the ball flat out goes,” a tester commented while taking a few cuts with Callaway’s Apex Pro hybrid. Testers gave high marks to the consistency of the standard Apex and the slim profile of the Apex Pro.
Callaway Big Bertha B21
Our take: The return of Big Bertha to its super game-improvement roots turned into a boon for 20-plus-handicap golfers who might want to throw two or three hybrids in the bag. The oversize profile and noticeable offset kept the ball in play, even when testers caught the extreme heel or toe. One tester summed it up best: “Solid and straight. I don’t feel like I need my best to have fun with this club.”
Cleveland Launcher HALO 4
Our take: Hybrid clubs are golf’s version of a Swiss Army knife: You can use them many ways and to hit a myriad of shots from a variety of lies. The HALO 4 makes this a cinch. The Gliderail tech underneath holds the clubhead stable as it interacts with the turf, and the sleek HiBore crown makes it easy to launch the ball higher and with optimal spin.
Our take: The beauty of a hybrid is in the versatility it provides. It can be used from the fairway or tee and offers a level of forgiveness that most long irons can’t sniff. Oh yeah, it brings the ball speed too. “Love the pop off the club. It’s humming,” commented one tester. The uptick in speed is derived from a forged high-strength face insert and forward weighting that lowers spin and optimizes launch for more distance. If you’re in need of some pop, RadSpeed is your new go-to.
Ben Hogan VKTR
Our take: Hogan’s VKTR hybrids have been on the market for nearly a half-decade now, and while the manufacturer has made major strides to increase forgiveness and playability they’ve managed to do so while remaining true to their initial goal: versatility. The newest VKTR (a new design reimagined for 2021) was an absolute favorite in the hybrids category during ClubTest, particularly for its design. “Doesn’t feel like a hybrid, just a bigger iron,” said one tester. “Nice thin look. Surprisingly amazing!” In a lot of ways, the VKTR hybrid is a perfect metaphor for Hogan himself: quietly brilliant.
Honma T// World GS
Our take: For the senior player or the slower-swinger, this hybrid was made to help you pack a bit more punch from all surfaces. Maybe even on punch shots. The GS clubs from Honma are designed to “Gain Speed,” out of all your shots, even the ones not perfectly struck. The CG has been positioned deep within the club head to help launch shots played from any lie up into the sky.
Our take: Sometimes simpler is better, and that is one thing that appeals to our clubtesters when they look down at address. Honma’s hybrid line accomplishes lofty goals while also keeping things looking simple. “I like the contrasting colors,” one tester said of the black crown and silver face. “Best looking at address” said another. The SUS630 body has golfers seeing hybrid and feeling the comfort of a mid-iron.
Our take: Ping’s new G425 hybrids have a smoothed-out crown, and our testers appreciated the clean matte look with subtle dots for aiming. “I love the new alignment aid,” one tester said (and something that was repeated for all clubs in Ping’s new flagship wood lineup). “These are extremely sleek looking.” Players also found the G425 hybrids to launch high and go where they’re aimed, even on misfires. Isn’t that the point of rescue/ utility clubs?
Our take: Your ball can end up in some challenging spots. Maybe it’s sitting down in the long grass or on top of hardpan. Perhaps you even kept your ball in the fairway only to see it roll into someone else’s divot. Frustrating, yes. But PXG’s 2021 0211 hybrids are here to help you escape consistently and with confidence. “The black matte finish looks great, and the club delivers a soft, solid strike on contact,” said a tester. “But for me, a hybrid shows its true mettle when you’re in trouble. I purposely played from some hairy lies, and the 0211 came through like a champ.”
PXG 0317 X Proto
Our take: Hybrids often carry fewer bells and whistles than fairway woods and drivers do, but that’s not the case with PXG’s 0317 X Proto. These hybrids are chock-full of tech, helping to make them easy to hit and providing plenty of distance. “These hybrids make me feel confident,” opined one of our testers. “The smaller head looks great, and it’s easy to get the ball airborne with a solid launch. It also has great acoustics.”
Our take: When it comes to hybrid design, we strongly feel that less is more. Or, at the very least, if it’s going to be packed with tech, we want to see it hidden in a sleek and classic design. So goes the ZX model, which is packed with design features that make it a cinch to hit while being easy on the eyes. If we were to gripe about anything, we hate to see it get dirty. Seriously.
Our take: TaylorMade’s original SIM Max rescue clubs of 2020 took the professional game by storm, finding their way into the bags of top golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson — players who hadn’t used hybrids for most of their illustrious careers. Like those previous rescues, the new SIM2s continue to prove their value to better players by eliminating the left miss that deters some golfers from using hybrids in the first place. “I love the flight because I don’t have to worry about missing it left,” one of our testers said. “The small profile looks great too.”
Our take: There’s no reason a long-hit-ting hybrid shouldn’t sound and feel as good as fairway woods and drivers do, and Titleist went to great lengths to make a pair of hybrids that do just that. “I love the clean profile and hit baby draws on perfect shots,” said one of our satisfied testers. “I could use either one of these hybrids in my bag right now.”
Tour Edge Exotics EXS Pro
Our take: One tester summed up the Exotics EXS Pro hybrid perfectly: “Low-spin forgiveness with Tour-level tech.” The limited-edition club pleased many testers with its better-player design, distance, and anti-hook characteristics. And don’t just take their word for it: the EXS Pro is popular among the pros, especially on the Champions Tour, for these very reasons.
Tour Edge Hot Launch E521 Offset/C521
Our take: Tour Edge claims the Hot Launch E521 Offset is specifically designed to be the easiest hybrid to hit, and based on our testers’ results, it’s definitely in the running. They especially liked the innovative Houdini sole that features a ridge bisecting the bottom of the club, finding it extremely effective at allowing the clubhead to glide through deep rough with ease to maintain distance and solid contact from bad lies.
Wilson Staff D9
Our take: There’s nothing quite like the confidence boost that comes from clubs that look and feel just right. Wilson’s new hybrids stood out in GOLF’s ClubTest for their sleek, eye-catching profile and balanced weighting, which allows them to sit naturally square at address. That positive first impression proved well founded. When put into play, the D9 hybrids produced high-launch and effortlessly powerful shots.
Wilson Staff Launch Pad FY
Our take: Hybrids are great friends to golfers of all levels. But Wilson’s latest entry to the category is an especially staunch ally to newbies, 90-plus shooter and anyone, really, who struggles with a slice. Wilson actually calls the Launch Pad an ‘FY Club,’ meaning somewhere between a fairway wood and hybrid, but it holds its most weight in the hybrid category, where GOLF’s testers were enthralled. In our testing, the Launch Pad line lived up to the marketing behind it, with their draw-biased traits and lightweight heads, which helped increase ball speeds while limiting errors to the right.
Our take: If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years it’s that most of a player’s best hybrid shots are the ones where they swing aggressively and attack the ball like they would with a mid-iron. That said, having more clubhead speed is key, and the lightweight Eleven, like the majority of XXIO clubs, is designed to help increase swing speed without requiring any extra effort on the player’s part. “I felt the increase on my first swing,” one tester claimed.
Our take: Often when a hybrid touts more distance and forgiveness, versatility gets reduced, making the club a one-trick pony. That’s not the case with the XXIO Prime, as it’s designed to help golfers with moderate swing speeds enjoy yardage and forgiveness boosts without giving up its ability to shape shots. Said our tester, “These are super fun!”
XXIO X Black
Our take: Be honest: You’re a player who doesn’t really turn heads when it comes to swing speed. That doesn’t mean you should curb your search for any extra yard you can muscle. In terms of your hybrid power game, the X Black can help. You’ll quickly find a boost in miles per hour, thanks to a design and weighting scheme that makes the club feel lighter than it actually is. And when clubs feel lighter, they’re easier to swing faster.