By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of Cleveland Golf
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA – “Two squares are better than two circles,” states the Cleveland Golf website, proudly touting the company’s latest putter creation, the Smart Square Putter.
In so boldly claiming squares’ superiority to circles, Cleveland is all but declaring that its new club is a notch above the famous and time-tested Odyssey Two-ball putter (and its two circles behind the putter face), which brought a revolution to putter design in the early 2000’s.
A whole host of interesting putter designs followed in the wake of the trailblazing Two-ball – so the Smart Square Putter certainly has a lot to live up to.
But that kind of industry pressure can be a good thing, especially since Cleveland is confident that it’s found something better. Adam Sheldon, Cleveland Golf’s Brand Manager, says there’s little doubt that squares are an improvement.
“Following intensive research into the most successful putters of all time and what golfers focus on when they align a putt, the Smart Square incorporates alignment technology that has proven to be the most advanced – and simplest – we’ve ever created.”
“The key to the Smart Square is Dual Axis Alignment. Two squares create parallel lines that frame the ball at address and provide a clear visual path to the hole. They also generate two perpendicular lines that easily highlight when the putter is misaligned – even by a fraction of a degree,” Sheldon explained.
Fine. But are squares empirically better? Sheldon says yes.
“Our testing shows players aligned the Smart Square 23% more accurately than one of the most popular putters of all time. We found that the squares allowed the player to see not only when he was misaligned, but also to see when the face was open or closed at address.”
“We’ve also included a square ball marker that clearly shows how much simpler and easier it is to align your ball.”
We’ll take Sheldon at his word that the Smart Square is more accurate – and the square ball marker that comes with the putter is really a nice tool. You can definitely see the lines well with the putter, and anything that allows you to do that is a big plus when putting.
As a golf club manufacturer, Cleveland has always prided itself on innovation. Founded by vaunted club-guru Roger Cleveland in 1979, the company has developed a solid reputation over the years as a wedge and forged iron maker – and has launched some cutting-edge drivers, too.
As an example of Cleveland’s innovative side, the company was the first to market wedges with multiple bounce options on the sole and individually mill grooves into wedge faces.
Though hardly as pervasive in professional golf as some of the other “big boys” in the golf manufacturing business, Cleveland Tour staff includes major champions Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell, David Toms and Vijay Singh -- not a bad line-up to start a conversation.
Turning back to the Smart Square Putter, it includes a Copolymer face insert, which was designed into the putter to provide great feedback and feel but also is made of a low density material that allowed Cleveland to move weight to the perimeter of the head.
Moving weight to the fringes increases the Smart Square’s overall MOI – which in turn helps the putter resist twisting during off-center hits. That’s as important in putting as it is with the other clubs – we just seem to notice club-twisting more when landing in greenside bunkers as opposed to lipping out a putt.
In addition to the distinctive squares behind the face, the Smart Square Putter has a sleek black look to it – which is yet another contrast to the white and bright appearance of the Odyssey Two-ball. The Smart Square is made from stainless steel and then finished with a PVD process, which allows for a black surface to minimize glare.
Finally, true to Cleveland Golf’s emphasis on short game fitting, the Smart Square is available in three different options to suit a variety of stroke preferences. There are heel- and center-shafted versions available in standard lengths (such as the 35” model, which we tried). There’s also a 39-inch Almost Belly, with a heavier putter head (40 grams more than standard) and grip (2.5 times heavier than standard) to create counter-balanced weighting that adds stroke stability and consistency without anchoring.
Alignment and counter-balancing is all the rage in the industry right now, according to Sheldon.
“There is a trend in alignment at the moment, as you can see most of the putter manufacturers are using colors and visual alignment in the design of their putters. There is also a trend for counter balanced products, as most companies now offer slightly over length putters with counterweighted grips since the Belly ruling was passed by the USGA.”
At GolfTheUnitedStates.com, we tend to go with what’s traditional, so the 35” Smart Square Putter was our length of choice. We don’t test products scientifically, but we can say that the Smart Square Putter is very easy to align – and we made a lot of putts in our time of testing.
It felt a little lighter than some of the putters we’ve sampled recently, so it took a little time to get used to it – something to be expected with any new club. The Smart Square is also a mallet-style putter, so the weight balance seemed right from the start.
Having never used the Odyssey Two-ball, we can’t say for sure whether squares trump circles or vice versa – but we definitely recommend that you try them both out for yourself to see the difference. That’s all the Cleveland folks would ask, and is good advice whenever it comes to choosing new equipment.
Club technology has evolved to the point that all manufacturers are trying their best to help you get the ball in the hole a little easier. But is putter-making more of an art or a science?
“It’s truly a mixture of both,” Sheldon said. “There is a lot of freedom in designing putters -- the key is to merge the science and provide something that is pleasing to the eye.”
With the Smart Square Putter, Cleveland has certainly done that – provided a putter that is pleasing to the eye and scientifically advanced.
Try it, and maybe you’ll see that rock star Huey Lewis was right, all those years ago – it really is hip to be square.
Cleveland Golf ~ Srixon ~Never Compromise
5601 Skylab Road
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Toll Free: (800) 999-6263
Check the website for locations and availability.
Cleveland Golf also features quite a selection of metal woods, irons, wedges and accessories.
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