When you pick up the Cleveland Smart Square putter you are probably going to say that it looks like an Odyssey 2-Ball putter and you would be right.
The similarities are there from the concept to general shape and even the logo on the front of the face. However, when I met with Cleveland recently there were at pains to point out the differences between their Smart Square putter and what they referred to only as "one of the most popular putters of all time" that has sold over 4 million units and counting.
Therefore the concept is sound and what Cleveland have done is add to it in their own way. The head is a little wider and 0.5cm deeper than the 2-Ball and it is a reassuring classic mallet shape. The sole of the club extends further back on each side of the raised centre section to enhance that mallet feel.
The Smart Square did feel noticeably heavier in a good way, despite the fact that the head is only 5 to 10 grams heavier than most of the 2-Balls at 360 grams. Combined with the dark looks and the firm feel of the insert you get the feeling that this putter means business.
The face has a loft of 3 degrees and is made of a co-polymer insert which Cleveland have not put a lot of emphasis on. It is designed to increase top spin and reduce skidding to get the ball rolling correctly. This it seems to do well and the insert is on the firm side but provides just the right level of feel and sound feedback. I was pleasantly surprised by this as the Odyssey insert leads the way and most other inserts don't seem to get close, but this is the real deal.
Of course the standout feature is the 2 square design on the top of the head, which Cleveland say is a 'Dual Axis alignment' because the straight lines from the squares help you align the face using vertical and horizontal lines. Having played with the putter a lot I would have to say it is very easy to align the putts and even the slightest mis-alignment was very easy to spot.
The 40mm squares are just bigger than the 39mm diameter circles and seem to frame the ball better. The broader lines make it look like the ball is within the squares, even though a standard ball diameter is wider at just over 42mm. Cleveland say that in their research of squares over circles users improved their alignment by 23%, which is significant.
I did find it very easy to align, but ultimately it will come down to a personal preference for lines over circles. Visually the squares do make it look a little 'boxy', so it is more function over form for me, but if it goes in the hole more often it could be pink with yellow spots for all I care.
There are good range of shaft length options from 33 to 35 inches and the Almost Belly version at 39 inches is a counterbalanced putter with a grip weighing 158 grams (2.5 times normal) and a heavier 400 gram head. This is great becuase you can grip the club anywhere along the shaft and the heavy grip acts as counterweight to stablise the putter without anchoring it to your body.
The standard grip is a Winn Pro Pistol which has a nice flat front and feels lovely, although these types of grips tend to wear more quickly than others.
Overall I think the Smart Square is one of the best putters Cleveland have produced, from what is a very under-estimated range of putters. It is a clear concept and it certainly lives up to the hype as the looks, feel and performance are all right out of the top draw. It is priced very competitively and if you keep holing the putts and taking the money then it could pay for itself very quickly.