Marker-based prediction of hybrid performance facilitates the identification of untested single-cross hybrids with superior yield performance. Our objectives were to (1) determine the haplotype block structure of experimental germplasm from a hybrid maize breeding program, (2) develop models for hybrid performance prediction based on haplotype blocks, and (3) compare hybrid performance prediction based on haplotype blocks with other approaches, based on single AFLP markers or general combining ability (GCA), under a validation scenario relevant for practical breeding. In total, 270 hybrids were evaluated for grain yield in four Dent x Flint factorial mating experiments. Their parental inbred lines were genotyped with 20 AFLP primer-enzyme combinations. Adjacent marker loci were combined into haplotype blocks. Hybrid performance was predicted on basis of single marker loci and haplotype blocks. Prediction based on variable haplotype block length resulted in an improved prediction of hybrid performance compared with the use of single AFLP markers. Estimates of prediction efficiency (R(2)) ranged from 0.305 to 0.889 for marker-based prediction and from 0.465 to 0.898 for GCA-based prediction. For inter-group hybrids with predominance of general over specific combining ability, the hybrid prediction from GCA effects was efficient in identifying promising hybrids. Considering the advantage of haplotype block approaches over single marker approaches for the prediction of inter-group hybrids, we see a high potential to substantially improve the efficiency of hybrid breeding programs.