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.