Whenever a brand claims that it is revolutionising the way a club is designed then I have to admit that I am immediately sceptical. Surely there is only so much that one club can do?
However that is what Cleveland are claiming with their range of Frontline Putters, even making a specific point of explaining that they are doing the complete opposite to the usual conventions that other brands adhere to. So, of course I wanted to find out more...
What's It All About?
The Frontline putter range differs from nearly every other putter model currently on the market because it focuses on moving the centre of gravity further forward to the front of the head, rather than the more common method of pushing it back.
To do this, Cleveland developed new Tungsten Forward Weighting technology which made the putter more forgiving on mis-hits and provided more consistent, straighter putts. This is done by adding two new Metal Injected Molded (MIM) tungsten weights into the face of the putter.
If any of you struggle with hitting a driver (aka 75% of the golfing population), you may know that a common method for helping with forgiveness on modern-day adjustable drivers is to move the weight forward in the head. Cleveland is using the opposite idea. They feel that bringing the weight forwards helps to eliminate some of the sideways forces on the ball at impact, which can help with the dispersion of the ball's starting line.
Though this may only be a difference of around a milimetre between a Frontline putter and a conventional one, by the time the ball has reached a hole that is ten feet away this angle could be severe enough to cause the ball to slide by the hole with a standard putter, whereas a Frontline putter should still find the cup.
Speed Optimised Face Technology (SOFT) attempts to provide normalised ball speed across the face so that you get the same performance even on those putts that aren't perfectly struck, making your results more consistent.
2135 Technology is featured on the Elevado, Cero and Iso models and this is said to aid alignment even if your eyes aren't in the correct position at address, whilst there are also two different hosel setups available.
The single bend option is optimised for golfers with straight back-and-through strokes whilst the slant neck is for golfers with an arc in their stroke.
We are very excited about Frontline because it is a completely new approach to putter design. By pairing an extreme centre of gravity with an improved speed optimised face, we've designed a putter that uniquely maximises directional and speed consistency.
Combined with slick black cosmetics, great shapes and hosel options for different stroke types, Frontline really is the whole package.
Jacob Lambeth, Research and Development Engineer at Cleveland Golf
I tested the Frontline Putter at my local course, Bramall Park Golf Club, during 18 holes of golf and with a session on the putting green beforehand.
I hit a range of putts from a number of different distances and breaks to try and see whether the new forward weighting system, along with SOFT, did really help with overall consistency.
Cleveland Frontline 4.0 Putter Review
First off, I am a big fan of a simple, understated putter design so the fact that this is a predominantly black head with just small splashes of red and white was a big win. I don't want to be distracted by extravagant designs or loud colours when I'm standing over a tricky three-footer so this was perfect for me.
The black shaft looked slick and blended into the head really well for a nice clean look. This should also help to reduce glare in the sunlight, so if you play your golf somewhere where this is an issue then it is well worth considering.
However, when you get this putter close-up I'm afraid that the putter just looked a little cheap.
The finish was 'plasticky' and it reminded me a little of the type of putter you'd get from a decent box set - it's clear to me that Cleveland is trying to keep costs down here to make this putter as affordable as possible.
Again, the feel was also a little underwhelming. The face insert seemed to deliver quite a loud sound at impact which I didn't like, whilst the weight in the grip made the head feel much lighter than normal which was a strange feeling.
The face did feel relatively soft at impact though, if I hadn't have seen the insert prior to striking the ball I could've believed that this was actually a milled face due to the kind of feedback you get.
I tried a few putts where I attempted to deliberately hit the ball from the toe and heel, to test whether the forward centre of gravity and SOFT was really helping with off-centre strikes.
Whilst these strikes didn't all quite reach the hole I definitely felt like I wasn't getting that really dead roll off the face, where you know it's going to come up half way short as soon as you hit it. The tungsten inserts and the efforts Cleveland has put in to aid consistency were definitely providing a little bit of help.
Short Range Putts
The Frontline was good on this length of putt as the head was very easy to align accurately, and the slightly thicker Lamkin grip may help some golfers take their wrists out of the stroke and safely make more of those knee-knockers.
Medium Range Putts
On the medium length putts the forward centre of gravity did start to have a bit of an effect when I tried addressing the ball slightly out of the toe and the heel, as the overall consistency of my putts seemed to be a little better than with a standard putter.
As my home course tends to have relatively small greens I am faced with a lot of these medium range putts of around 30 feet, so any putter which is going to make me more likely to avoid those pesky three-putts is certainly worth consideration.
Long Range Putts
This is where the putter was at its weakest.
The head felt especially light when making these bigger strokes, probably not helped by the thicker grip balancing weight at both ends, which made it harder to judge the pace on longer putts because it gives the impression that you have less feel of the head.
Cleveland Frontline 4.0 Putter Verdict
When I think about this putter now, the feeling that I get is that it's friendly look and shape would be perfect for someone who is a relative newcomer to the game, looking for a putter which gives them a bit more help without breaking the bank and still looking traditional.
It's not for me, but the price-point will appeal to a certain target market and if it's a look and feel that they like then it may be well worth the cash.
Would I Use It?
Unfortunately I don't think I would, no. Whilst I think the new idea on the centre of gravity did improve consistency to some extent, and I was a fan of the overall styling, I don't think I'd be able to get past the slightly cheap look and feel.
But the key to a good putter can be often be confidence rather than lots of technology, so it's definitely worth giving these a try to see if the Frontline can give you the edge.
- Good mid-range performance
- Easy to align
- Excellent grip
- Forgiving on off-centre hits
- Material looked and felt a little cheap
- Slightly loud sound on strike
- Weight of the putter head was not quite right