Cleveland HB Soft 2 putters: What you need to know
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The HB Soft 2 putters present a family of nine affordable models that feature different shapes geared to different stroke type, but their most important feature again is the complex variably milled faces. By progressively changing the intensity of the milling marks from the center outward to heel and toe, it normalizes energy transfer at impact for more consistent ball speeds. Moreover, the variable milling pattern changes to match each specific model’s stability on off-center hits.
PRICE: $150, featuring three blades (1, 8C, 8S) and six mallets (10.5P, 11, 11C, 11S, 15, Retreve). Available at retail Jan. 24.
3 COOL THINGS
1. Thoroughly modern milling. The “Soft” in HB Soft 2 might make you think it has something to do with feel, but in case you’ve forgotten, the “SOFT” is actually an acronym for “speed optimized face technology,” which has been part of Cleveland putting offerings for the last seven years. By altering the intensity of the milling pattern across the face (more closely packed in the center, more loosely configured at the extremes), these putter faces change the relative energy transfer to equalize ball speed on center and off-center hits.
The lower MOI blade features a more aggressive milling pattern at the heel and toe than the higher MOI mallet.
Like several past models, the HB Soft 2 further individualizes those face patterns to match up with the moment of inertia (stability on off-center hits) of each model. That means a more stable head like a mallet would need the face to contribute less to equalizing energy transfer on mishits. Conversely, a blade would need the face’s effect to be greater to compensate for the less stable head. Only Cleveland’s putters feature this face pattern/head style matching technique.
“If you’ve got a high MOI putter and a low MOI putter, you have to arrange that milling pattern differently,” said Dustin Brekke, director of engineering at Cleveland Golf. “Otherwise, you’re not really achieving the objective of normalizing ball speed across the face. Because we mill these faces as opposed to an insert, we can create the milling speed and spin rate that’s unique to each model.
Given the technological efforts in its design and manufacture, this putter sports a price that seems like a misprint. These bargain blades stoutly cater to two stroke types, use different grips to accommodate those strokes and produce the same manufacturing tolerances as a $300 putter. Most importantly, the complex milling pattern on the face with its varying density specific to each model normalizes ball speed on mis-hits.
“We think it’s doing something that a lot of otherwise oversized heads with heavy weights aren’t achieving.”
2. Swing your swing. While putters remain the least fit clubs in the bag, especially at lower price points like where HB Soft 2 sits in the marketplace, the nine models here are each designed to fit a specific type of putting motion. The family divides along two lines: arc-type strokes and straight path strokes. In basic terms, the models that feature a heel-shafted toe hang cater to arcing strokes, while the models with a center shaft or a face-balanced set up target straighter strokes.
Specifically, the arc models are the 1 (classic plumber’s neck heel-toe weighted cavity blade), 8S (slant neck widebody heel-toe weighted cavity blade), 10.5 (plumber’s neck half-mallet) and 11S (slant neck fanged mallet). The straight path lineup features five options: 8C (center-shafted widebody heel-toe weighted cavity blade), 11 (single bend fanged mallet), 11C (center-shafted fanged mallet), 15 (open-frame oversized, winged mallet) and Retreve (a unique rounded mallet with a central ball-sized opening that lets a player pick the ball from the hole or ground).
In addition to offering stroke-specific models, the lineup includes specific size grips to further encourage those strokes. A narrow “Pistol Classic” is matched with the arc-style models, while a larger “Pistol Oversize” is the grip for the straight path putters.
3. Heavy putting. One further aspect that the Cleveland team has considered is the consideration of the overall balance and heft of each putter. While some higher priced models will use sole weights to better accommodate a shorter shaft, each HB Soft 2 model uses a counterbalanced weight in the butt end of the grip of each 35-inch model to consistently balance the heft or “swing feel” of each model.
Milling a putter serves a purpose. Although generally expensive, perfectly cutting the metal from a solid block of steel (as opposed to poring a liquefied metal into a mold) results in a consistent-feeling putter. Cleveland’s R&D team sought a more affordable approach, only milling the critical parts of a cast putter blank. The milling creates the face’s varying surface-texture densities for consistent ball speed and eliminates porosity in the raw cast head for better feel.