I personally think a SW is a must. I played with a PW for a couple of years, then started borrowing SWs from others, and found it was much easier to play with. It became my favorite club. Now, I love my 56 degrees.
Short game is very important. If you can chip it closer to the holes, you can then one-putt more often, or at the very least two-putt with regularity.
Then, as far as the hybrids are concerned... it depends on what you're comfortable with. Some stores let you try them. Some prefer long irons, others hybrids. I myself can play with both. But I think I prefer using my 4 iron rather than my hybrid 3. I'm much more accurate with irons. Personal preference.
Play a lot and figure it out for yourself. There's no can't-miss recipe.
I can't imagine not having my 4-iron. It's by my most used club (along with the 7-iron). I love, love, love the 4-iron.
I have a 3 iron/wood hybrid and I hate it. Then again, I've never been a fan of ANY woods. I just don't like them.
I can hit 200 yards off a tee with my 4-iron, so I hardly even use my driver because the iron is more accurate.
I think a SW would be neccessary IF you go in the bunkers a lot. I have a knack for missing them most of the time, so I rarely use that club.
You sound like the exact same golfer as me. I can't hit woods or hybrids worth ****, but my iron play is really good. 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 irons are essential, all irons are really.
Never use my SW unless I am actually in the sand, which isn't very often, pitching is just so much more durable.
For the OP, start playing just pitch and putts. The short game is the hardest to master, try just bringing a PW, a 7 and a putter with you. In the game of golf, those three clubs are your backbone, you will use them the most out of any club in the bag. If you can get a good feel for those clubs and get good with them, then you can still put up a decent score on a big course even with a crap long game.
I have a very old set, my dad bought it at a garage sale, and I'm looking to upgrade...but I don't plan on spending 400$+. So my question is, does anyone know where to look for cheap/cheaper sets?
I go to the driving range 4-5 times a year, but I'm going to start to go more often and probably hit the links, now that I found someone who plays.
To answer the OP: When I go to the driving range, I like using all my irons and am very consistent with them. My driver is still inconsistent though...it'll go straight 70% of the time, the other 30% it just curves badly (I'd be deep into the woods if I were on a course haha).