Your putter is the only club you use on every hole. This intense familiarity tends to breed a manic relationship between golfers and their flatsticks. One type of player largely ignores their putters – they’ve played the same one for 20 years, and the grip is glassy smooth, the head is dented, the shaft might not even be straight anymore. The other type of player is obsessed – haunting the putter section of every pro shop and big box sports store they enter, these players squirrel away part of their lunch money every week to save up for the latest $700 wand by Cameron or Bettinardi because it will definitely, this time, save strokes.
I’m here to tell you that there is a middle ground, a calm eye of sanity in the psychological hurricane that is putting. Cleveland Golf consistently produces putters that represent the best combination of performance and affordability on the market. In November, 2022, Cleveland introduced the Huntington Beach (HB) SOFT Milled Putter Line ($200), which consists of seven models designed to fit the full range of putting strokes.
Playing the Cleveland HB SOFT Milled Putter
Putting strokes basically fall into two styles: straight-back-straight-through and closed-open-closed, often termed “straight” and “arc” (or “gate”), respectively. Great PGA Tour pros have played both, so one’s not any better than the other. The key is to find a putter whose weighting and grip fit your stroke. With seven models—and their respective grip shapes—the HB SOFT line offers a match for every golfer.
For arc putters, Cleveland recommends the Golf Pride PRO ONLY Red Star grip, with a pistol shape that promotes the opening and closing of the putter face. For straight putters, there is the Golf Pride PRO ONLY Green Star grip has a more rounded, oval-back shape that helps the hands stay still through the stroke.
Once you settle on a grip, the next decision is the putterhead shape. What looks best to your eye? Now, arc putters often prefer Anser-style or flanged blade shaped heads, whereas straight putters often prefer some flavor of mallet. But this generality is not absolute. Toe-hang is another reliable indicator: face-balanced putters tend to work best for straight putters; some degree of toe-hang tends to work best for arc putters. The HB SOFT models are 1, 4, 5, 8, 10.5, 11, and 14. Smaller numbers are smaller heads, ranging up through mid-mallets to full mallets, and every model offers variations with different face- and toe-balancing.
I chose the 11: 370g, single-bend neck, 3-deg loft, face-balanced, 35”. The 11S is for arc putters; the 11 is for straight putters, which I am (when I’m putting well). The head shape is in the “sabretooth” style: two flanges extend back from the toe and heel ends for exquisite stability.
All HB SOFT Milled putters are, well, milled, meaning that both the front and back of the head are milled. The face is diamond milled for optimal contact everywhere on the face. The back milling just provides a really sharp, clean profile at address.
How did it perform? Well, every year, I think I’ve settled on a forever-putter. Last season, it was actually another Cleveland model, the Frontline ISO Putter. I putted great with that model. But after a half-dozen strokes on my living room carpet with the HB SOFT 11, and a simulator-league season that ended with a 20-foot holed (simulated) putt to secure second place in the league, it has now become my forever-putter.
Until next year, maybe.
The verdict on Cleveland’s HB SOFT Putter Line
The double-barreled greatness of Cleveland putters combines consistently top-notch quality with a reasonable price point. The HB SOFT Milled Line is the next great generation of this long and proud tradition. If you really do want to change putters every season, you can do it without busting your budget. If, on the other hand, you want to keep a putter in your bag for the next couple of decades, Cleveland makes a product that will last and perform in perpetuity.
Just please, for me, change that glassy grip now and then.