Pros: The Cleveland Classic HB 1 costs only $99, yet it offers the clean look and soft feel of more expensive putters. It’s available in two finishes, black pearl and the satin chrome.
Cons: No removable weights, but what do you expect for less than $100? The 340-gram head weight is trending on the light side for modern putters, particularly in the the 33- and 34-inch lengths.
Bottom Line: Have you read those stories about a tour pro pulling a putter out of a bucket, putting it in play and playing their best golf? The Cleveland Classic HB 1 is not a bucket putter, but it just might be the one that pulls your game up when you need it. You don’t need to save up for one of these, so if you’re desperate to try something the Classic Collection putters are a great place to start.
The HB 1 Black Pearl has a plumber’s neck hosel, in contrast to the other cavity-back blades in the line, the slant-neck HB 4.5 model and flare-neck HB 7. Other models in the line include a half-mallet HB 2 (think Phil Mickelson’s putter), the HB 6, which is a more traditional mallet with a double-bend shaft, an HB 3 (think Ping Zing) and the HB 10, a mallet with a plumber’s neck.
The HB 1 comes in three shaft lengths (33, 34 and 35 inches). It comes stock with a 70-degree lie angle and a 3 degrees of loft. The head weighs in at 340 grams and the grip adds an additional 60 grams to overall weight. The HB 1 comes in left and right-handed models. A black head cover (the type that cloaks the head from toe to hosel, and seals with velcro) comes standard.
I suspect (but cannot prove) that the Cleveland Classic HB 1 Black Pearl is one of the most solid blocks of metal on the business end of a putter. Try as I might, I could not find a hot spot nor a weak one. Mind you, aberrant toe and heel hits will certainly result in diminished returns, but any strike near the center line will come off with consistency.
In this age of metrics, equipment companies use numbers to differentiate their product lines from the competition. In the case of the HB 1 putter, this involves a curious elaboration of the lie, loft and weight numbers on the sole of the club. Other than drivers and wedges, loft and lie of clubs matters little to not-at-all to the vast majority of golfers.
Don’t be distracted by the words “face milled” on the heel of the putter face. Face milling is nice, but it is used to cover a cast head. Truly high-end putters are 100 percent milled from a single block of steel. If given a choice between face-milled or not, I’ll gladly take the face milled. If Cleveland offered a 100-percent milled HB 1, I might be even more impressed with the putter. But then again, the manufacturing process would likely drive the price up two or three times its current amount: a huge price to pay for a putter that may or may not feel any better than the HB 1.
Looks and Feel
One thing that I like about this golf club is the top-to-bottom consistency in color choices. The only things not black or white are the shaft, the shaft label (gold writing) and the word “Golf” on the back of the club face (unseen at address). The grip is primarily black, with a white-piped Cleveland logo near the top. The club head is all black, save for the white alignment line and the word “Cleveland” on the rear of the club face (also unseen at address). This minimalist consistency strikes a chord with me; unlike many of the futuristic mallet putters on the market, the HB 1 Black Pearl offers no visual distractions. Nothing sidetracks the eye from the grip and the putter head. Nothing distracts your eye from the task at hand.
The Winn grip issued standard on the HB 1 Black Pearl is very comfortable. It is soft (but not mushy) and tacky due to its cross-hatched line pattern. Avoiding the slickness of a smooth grip, the Winn grip emulates the milled face of this putter, suggesting that you will hold this club firmly, with great stability. The putter head consists of simple lines. Nothing is obscured by the plumber’s neck hosel and the single white alignment line serves to give the eye something to fix upon, contrasting with the blackness of the club head.
Perhaps the best adjective to describe the HB 1 club head is soft. There is no clunky feel at the moment of head-ball contact, nor is there a sound of any discernible volume. The gentle click at impact might be likened to the hiccup of Cindy Lou Who during a midnight water scamper; you hear nothing! For those who need some clatter at point of contact, this might prove to be a negative. For those who treasure the empty feeling of a sweet-spot strike, this putter should merit consideration for bag inclusion.
The price point of the Cleveland Classic HB 1 Black Pearl is far beneath the cost of typical tour-model putters. If you like this club as much as I did, it will enjoy a lengthy stay in your bag. What we don’t know is how long the grip will last, keep in mind two things: the softer the grip, the less durable it is. However, since putting involves little of the torque found in the full swing, this Winn grip should wear down much slower.
My suggestion is the same with all putters: test it out, leave it, test it a second time, leave it. If you still love it the third time out, buy it. A ben franklin is not a casual bill to drop, but it’s money well spent in the case of the HB 1 Black Pearl.
[wrx_buy_now oemlink=”http://www.clevelandgolf.com/US_classic-collection-hb-1-black-pearl-putter__cchb_1_bpputter__viewProd_putters.html” oemtext=”Learn more from Cleveland Golf” amazonlink=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NUS90HS/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00NUS90HS&linkCode=as2&tag=golfwrxcom-20&linkId=LL76442OSHW2MNKK”]
WRX Spotlight: Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter
Product: Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter
Pitch: From Odyssey/Toulon: “The Odyssey Toulon San Diego Stroke Lab Putter is our take on on another classic putter. It’s an expertly crafted, premium milled blade, with our multi-material Stroke Lab Shaft, deep diamond milled cross hatch grooves, and a new Charcoal Smoke finish.”
Our take on the Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter
Toulon is the line of all milled putters from Odyssey, originally started by club designer Sean Toulon and his sons. Toulon putters have always featured their Deep Diamond Mill face, adjustable sole weight, and brazed (instead of welded) necks. That combination has created a great putter line that has become popular on tour as well as us amateur players. For 2019, there are some new head shapes, Charcoal Smoke Finish, Deep Diamond Milling across the whole face, and the Stroke Lab putter shaft.
I got my hands on the Toulon San Diego, a more squared-off blade shape, for this review. The shape, milling, and finish on the San Diego are great and really show off what a high quality piece it is. The biggest change visually is the full Deep Diamond Mill face, making the view from address more uniform. The face used to have the milling only in the center of the face and to some that was a distracting look while others liked the way it framed the ball. The new finish also looks great. I always have liked darker finishes and this looks high end while still reducing glare in the brightest conditions.
The Stroke Lab shaft goes well with the finish on the San Diego and the head cover is a plush synthetic leather that feels like it will hold up for years of use.
On the green the San Diego SL has a crisp sound and feel. If you like a little more click to your putter, then the San Diego SL will be right what you are looking for. And don’t take that as a negative thing, that crisp feel gives great feedback on face contact. You know exactly where the putter face and ball met by the sound and feel. The Deep Diamond Mill gets the ball rolling quickly on line with very minimal hop and skid, providing very consistent and repeatable distance control.
This is blade, so shots off the toe to tend to stray from your intended line a bit, the face does seem like it wants to rotate open a bit. Heel strikes defiantly stay online better, but tend to lose more steam and net get the roll out you might expect. The simple alignment line on the flange of the putter is easy to align, even for a guy who has been using mallets for years.
Like I have said before, I think there is something to the Stroke Lab tech, the lighter shaft and weight in the butt of the shaft do affect tempo for me; I noticed a slight calming of my backstroke and stroke through the ball.
Overall, the San Diego is a great putter for those who like a little firmer feel and more audible click on their putter. It is very responsive and putts a great roll on the ball. This isn’t a cheap putter ($450) and the fit and finish let you know that you are getting what you paid for.
- More photos of the Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter (and other Toulon Stroke Lab putters) in the forums.
WRX Spotlight Review: Miura MGP-NM1 Putter
Product: Miura MGP-NM1 putter
Pitch: Limited to 300 pieces, the Miura MGP-NM1 is Miura’s first 303 stainless steel putter. Its appearance is in keeping with the bolder designs of the Miura Giken family.
Our take on the Miura MGP-NM1 putter
Miura Giken has become the brand where Miura can push some limits and try out designs and technology not really fit for the standard Miura line. And if doing something new and different is what Miura Giken is about, then the MGP-NM1 fits like a glove. When most people think of Miura, they think forged carbon steel and traditional, old school shapes. The MGP-NM1 is a long ways from that, being milled from 303 stainless steel, having adjustable weights and milled stepped pockets in the sole.
If you love mill marks, then the MBG-NM1 will fulfill all our needs because the head is covered with them. I really liked the top line where the mill marks go front to back but then get much finer around the alignment line. If you look close the milling is still there, but just much finer. It works great along with the alignment lines on the “fangs.” The MGP-NM1 is a great size: large enough to give you confidence that a mishit will stay online, but not too big to be distracting. Like most putters with this (Odyssey No. 7) shape, it frames the ball really well and looks great to my eye. The way the shaft goes into the head is for sure unique, it is straight from address but does drop down into the head.
I will get my one con on this putter out of the way early: the way the shaft goes into the head from address. I love the shape of the head, but the way the shaft enters the head makes it harder for me to line up. At address you can see the the top line of the putter on both sides of the shaft and for some that might be helpful, but it took me a long time to get comfortable with my alignment. Also, the head cover isn’t up to standard for a putter in this price range.
But the good of this putter really outweighs that bad. The putter feels and sounds great, much like the Miura KM-009 reviewed previously. Feel is very solid with, to me, the perfect amount of click on impact. There might be just a slight bit of vibration on contact, but very minimal and will probably vary with the ball you play. Contact on the toe and heel really stay on target well; you can tell this mallet has a fairly high MOI. Like any responsive putter should do, this really provides good feedback on mishits. Toe and heel shots are not punished as much as you would think, the ball still rolls out well with minimal distance loss. That solid, soft Miura feel really does come through with this putter.
Overall, I think the Miura Giken MGP-NM1 is a really great way for a mallet user to put a Miura putter into the bag.
Review: Optic Z Putters
Pros: Point-and-shoot putting. Optic Z putters use a Z-neck design that can lead to a more consistent setup with your hands and eyes on every putt.
Cons: It could take a little while to get used to the design.
Who It’s For: Players looking to develop a consistent setup and stroke.
- Model: Optic Z8
- Head Weight: 365 grams
- Material: Proprietary “Power 51” Alloy
- Finish: Black “High-Tech Molecular” application
- Face Milling: Deep Double Mill
- Stock Lie: 70.5 degrees (rolled sole allows angles from 67 to 75)
- Loft: 2.25 degrees
- Stock Length Options: 35 inches (All lengths available custom order)
- Stock Grip: Lamkin E.B.L “Optic” grip (Custom grips available)
- Stock Shaft: True Temper Steel (Aerotech, Loomis, and UST available)
- Price: $325 Base (Up to $500 with custom options)
Over the past decade, it seems like there have been as many new putter companies as there have been drivers released in the past year (I think another one just released since I typed that sentence). While many of them have come up with ways to re-create or re-design the classic favorites of the past 40-plus years, there are a few companies that are pushing the boundaries of what a putter can be and how it can help make putting easier. And a company called Optic Z Putters has done just that.
I reviewed the company’s Optic Z8 putter, which has a distinct batwing shape. It’s one of three putters the company offers — its Z3 is more blade-like in shape, while its Z7 is more mallet-like — and each putter sells for $325.
According to the company, Z Optic putters take the two main parts of putting and making them easy to reproduce. And with every putt, Optic Z putters are said to help golfers set their hands and eyes in the same exact position for every putt. “This has been done!” you say? Well, let’s find out if my experience with the Z8 was different.
When I first saw the Z8 putter with its Z-shaped hosel, I began to wonder, “What exactly is going on here?” It has a unique Z-neck that creates a “3D” effect when looking down over the ball at address. But when looking at the putter in any other view, it does look odd. It will take a little bit of time to get used to it, but like many putters that come out these days, after a while you simply get used to it and forget about it.
The putter is 100 percent milled, U.S.A. made, and has a deep “double” milled face pattern that is familiar to most people. It offers an incredibly soft feel that is part from the milling, but also from the Proprietary Power 51 alloy metal that is used. The sole of the Z8 has 8 degrees of roll to it. This means that it can effectively play with a lie angle anywhere from 67 to 75 degrees. The new Z-neck hosel also makes the putter face balanced as if it was a center-shafted putter. And finally, there are several thick alignment lines, both horizontal and vertical, to help aim.
The Z Revolution?
Once you set the putter down and see how everything lines up in a “3D” type of alignment, you get the point of the Z-neck. Instead of just giving one point of reference similar to other putters, the Z8 gives you three points of alignment.
You align the Z-neck bend with the toe of the putter, the heel and shaft together, and then make sure both are lined up together. Once you have this set, your hands and eyes will be in the correct position.
In addition to adding more reference points, the key difference with the Z8 is that it actually requires you to have forward press with your hands. The stated loft of 2.25 degrees is the loft with your hands in that forward-press position. The Z-neck is also supposed to eliminate the visual moment of impact of when the ball comes off the face of the putter. The theory is that it helps you relax more through the stroke by not seeing the point of impact, a similar theory to looking at the hole instead of the ball when putting.
Does it work?
I was skeptical of the putter when I first started using it, and it took me a little bit to get used to the 3D effect. After spending a good amount of time with it, I can say that it does what it is supposed to do. It really becomes a “point-and-shoot” kind of putting, and it makes the set up of putting incredibly easy. The ball rolls really well off the face, too, and the feel is incredibly soft. The alignment aids do a good job helping at address, and I’m someone who has moved away from alignment aids because I tend to aim them incorrectly.
The Optic Z8 putter performed the best for me on putts inside 10 feet. I struggled on longer putts, but it was more due to the weight of the putter. At 365 grams, it is much heavier compared to what I’ve been using, but I’ve always struggled with long-distance putting with heavier putters. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the performance. And the more I used it, the more comfortable I became and the more putts I made.
If you struggle with consistency, especially at set up, this is one to try. It may take some time to get used to Optic Z putters, but most golfers should be able to adjust. These putters are well made, feel great and can truly help golfers in two areas that we know are important to putting.
To learn more about Optic Golf’s putters, visit the company’s website.
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