The Sonartec MD has been a consistent performer on the PGA Tour since 2002. Once an obscure player in an obscure market, Sonartec is now a name most will not only consider, but often choose for their long iron replacement.
Sonartec truly broke through back in the 2004 British Open when Todd Hamilton used one religiously around the greens. It was interesting not only to see a pro player use a hybrid in this manner but just to use a hybrid period. From that point forward (so it seems), the hybrid revolution hit the golf market. An explosion of options in hybrid irons and woods from all the manufacturers can now be found. In large part to this event and Sonartec, the hybrid club is found in bags of tour players and amateurs alike.
Build & Technology
There is an array of different setups for the Sonartec MD. Their lofts span a range from 15° to 25° in 2° increments. Lefties are limited to 17°, 19° and 21° lofts. This gives any player wanting to switch to a hybrid a wide variety of options. I tested a 19° which according to Sonartec is a replacement for a 2-iron or 5-wood. This review came at a good time for me as I evaluated not only the Sonartec to replace my 2-iron, but other hybrids as well.
The technology that Sonartec touts in their MD line of hybrid woods is called their "Driving Cavity." According to Sonartec this "raised Center of Gravity (CG) creates a penetrating ball flight that will cut through the wind and eliminate the balloon effect common to other fairway woods on the market." For players that already hit the ball high, this is a sigh of relief as hybrids in the market today, like the TaylorMade Rescue Dual, do tend to have a high ball flight. Sonartec has differentiated themselves by creating an atypical hybrid that bores through the wind rather than floats.
As for shaft options, Sonartec offers their own USA iRoD shaft that was developed specifically for the MD. In an age where players drop out shafts for their own, the iRoD is the preferred shaft choice for PGA Tour Players using the MD.
Look and Feel
To me, all hybrids have and odd look an feel to them. They are not deep clubs and look almost like an oversized mashie or an antique style club. The shape just somehow feels off. At first glance, the Sonartec gave me the same feeling… even more so than the my TaylorMade Rescue Dual did. Once you hit it a couple times though, and I'll get into the performance later, you tend to get over the looks pretty quick.
I have always preferred a black or darker finish on a golf club. The MD has this and it gives it a solid, clean look to it. While the shape of the MD isn't as nice as the TaylorMade, I do prefer the color and finish of the Sonartec MD much more. Keeping the top clean may be difficult because of how slim the club is, but the places you'll be using the Sonartec probably will keep you from going under the ball very often.
Looking at the bottom of the club, things get a bit different. The first thing you will notice is the large "U" shaped chamber. This is the "Driving Cavity" that Sonartec touts and puts in all of their clubs. Taking this weight out of the bottom of the club pushes the center of gravity higher in the face and provides the lower, boring flight off the club. The rest of the bottom gives the loft in degrees and the different clubs it can replace in your bag. The 19° I tested is stamped with a '2i/5w' on the bottom.
When I began looking for a hybrid, I had in mind two main features or areas of interest. The first area is the long, high shot that my long irons are seemingly unable to execute. After all, it can't be my swing, can it? There have been many times I've needed to carry a shot 220 yards into a green. How did the Sonartec perform? Pretty darn good.
The Sonartec MD had the exact ball flight I expected after reading about it. The ball jumps off the clubface and bores right through the air. There is no low to high (ballooning) ball flight I get sometimes with the TaylorMade. The TaylorMade does not balloon every time, but it does happen and it can kill distance. I never experienced this with the Sonartec. The problem with this is that my typical ball flight is lower than normal and the Sonartec didn't get the ball in the air as much as I would have liked… again, I'm looking for more carry.
The Sand Trap's Donald MacKenzie has also noticed a few things about ball flight and distance with the Sonartec MD. He's been using a 21-degree Sonartec MD for most of the past year to replace a 7-wood or 3-iron in his bag. As The Donald says:
How you react to the Sonartec MD really depends on what club it is replacing in your bag. I found that the MD has a lower ball flight and flies about 10 yards shorter than a comparable fairway wood, but with much better accuracy. If you're replacing a long iron, you'll probably find that you get more distance and a higher ball flight with the MD. I was looking for more accuracy and a lower ball flight from the MD, and that's what I got. But if you want to hit the ball higher or farther, you might want to stick with a fairway wood.
To compare the TaylorMade and Sonartec hybrids clubs a bit more directly, I hit a series of balls from about 225 out along with both clubs and my 2-iron. The 2-iron reached the green but hit 10 yards short and rolled on or sometimes through the green. The TaylorMade reached the green but had an extremely high ball flight and was almost all carry. Sometimes the ball would come up short when the balloon effect reared its ugly head. The Sonartec didn't carry as far as the TaylorMade, landing just short of the green, but it did have the most consistent ball flight and distance. Off of the tee, I found similar results. The only problem there is that the TaylorMade's ball flight was too high and the Sonartec's was just right. This is a big plus for the MD. For someone that hits the ball a little lower, the TaylorMade might be a better option, but for those who have a high ball flight, the Sonartec MD would be much better.
The second area I wanted to review this club on is the "recueability"… or its ability to get you out of trouble. The first place I tested this was in some medium bermuda rough. The Sonartec MD passed through the rough pretty easy and the ball came out a little lower than normal, but still traveled about 75-80% of the normal distance I would hit it. No iron in my bag could come close to performing as consistent in both direction and distance.
After the rough, I hit the Sonartec off of some thin lies including bare dirt. After hitting one extremely thin, I started swinging down at the ball a bit more and the Sonartec performed wonderful. Again, the Sonartec was straight and got plenty of loft off of a lie that does not give you much. In fact, the ball flight off of these lies was nearly the same as out of the fairway.
I also hit a few punch shots from the trees with the MD that I would normally hit a 4- or 5-iron from. It was a bit hard to get comfortable with how much to choke down and where to put it in my stance, but after a few tries I got the hang of it. I feel a bit more at ease with my irons, so I don't think I'll be using a hybrid for those shots. If you are wondering about fairway bunkers, the Sonartec is also more than adequate. I just hit it like my long irons, putting the ball back in my stance a bit and shifting the weight forward. The ball came out pretty easily and, once again, with a good ball flight.
This versatility is a strong selling point of the Sonartec MD. Many players, like 2004 British Open champ Todd Hamilton, use the club for chipping and putting off tight lies around the green.
As my colleague Mr. MacKenzie adds, "The MD has become a Get Out of Jail card for me. I can use it to hit low runners from 100 yards and in just by playing the ball back in my stance and taking a chipping swing with my MD, or I can hit exaggerated hooks and slices around trouble with it. If MacGyver played golf, I bet his favorite club would be the MD." Sonartec has a nice page on their site showing the different shot types and maximizing its potential.
I'm very happy with the performance of the Sonartec MD. I thought that it is a very solid club and has no serious drawbacks. I was turned off first by the looks, but hitting it makes all that go away. Sonartec has a club that can pull off an array of shots that golfers of all skills can appreciate.
I now have both the TaylorMade TP and Sonartec MD competing for time in my bag. Being a player that hits the ball a bit lower I am leaning towards the TaylorMade, but it doesn't give me the 'stinger' off the tee like the 2-iron or Sonartec. I'm going to keep the two clubs in my bag to see which becomes a more valuable and useful club. Time will tell, but I won't be surprised if the Sonartec MD comes out on top.
Photo Credits: © Stephen Szurlej