The putter market these days is more competitive than ever. Walk into a major golf retail store like Golfsmith or Edwin Watts and head to the putter section and you’ll see what I mean. There is so much choice it boggles the mind. There are so many different styles, shapes and features that there is something for everybody out there. Price points also vary from sub $99 putters all the way up to $300+ for the premium or limited run putters.
Cleveland has never been well known for putters, but their acquisition of putter company Never Compromise a while back helped strengthen their position in the putter market. Never Compromise had a lot of success in the early 2000s with several PGA Tour players using their popular “gray matter” putters. However, I haven’t been a fan of their latest offerings, called the NCX-Ray. The shapes and designs are just a bit too unorthodox for my tastes. In 2010 Cleveland released a new line of putters called the Classics and Classics BRZ with a copper face insert at $69.95 and $89.95 respectively. They also released the T-Frame Putter, which was engineered by Never Compromise in a collaboration of the two companies.
I like to think of myself as a putter aficionado, which is to say I’m a mental case and can’t decide which putter to use on any given day. In fact, I’ve developed a bit of a reputation with my regular playing partners for having a different putter in the bag every time we play. Regrettably, they are correct. I’m always looking for the bigger better deal when it comes to putters. Over the years I’ve tried just about every type of putter, from blades to heel-toe to mallets and everything in between. I’ve come to realize that I putt best with my heel-toe Scotty Cameron 1997 CLN Prototype, with a long neck to produce just a slight toe hang. Next best for me is a fully face balanced putter, which usually is in mallet form. The Cleveland T-Frame is just that – a face balanced mallet. At first glance it seems pretty plain, but there is more to it than that. Let’s take a closer look at the T-Frame from Cleveland Golf.
The T-Frame putter is a half circle shaped mallet, with the most obvious feature being the “T” that is formed between the face of the putter and the metal bar that extends back from behind the face. A “T” shaped alignment line is milled into the top line to make it easier to line up putts. It took me a minute to figure it out, and the company doesn’t advertise this fact, but the T-Frame’s circular shape happens to be the exact diameter of a regulation golf hole. It fits perfectly in the inner dimensions of the cup. In fact, I used this putter to repair the hole after someone had hit the cup with a shot from the fairway and caused a divot on the edge of the cup. the T-Frame is made of 17-4 stainless steel with a satin finish to reduce glare, and the face is milled to ensure flatness. The engineers at Never Compromise took 70 grams of weight and redistributed it to the rear of the putter for greater MOI (Moment of Inertia) to make the putter more stable and forgiving on off-center hits.
The T-Frame weighs 355 grams and is available in lengths of 33, 34 or 35 inches and lie angles of 68, 70 or 72 degrees to fit many different players and putting strokes. Being face balanced, (the face of the putter remains parallel to the ground when balanced by the shaft) this putter is quite forgiving and tends to perform best for those who prefer to make a short, popping stroke or a more square-to-square putting stroke. The head cover has a Velcro fastener and a silver dollar ball marker that will be sure to annoy your playing partners with its large size. I would have preferred to see a head cover that closes with magnets instead of Velcro. I play most of my golf down here in Florida with a cart, and it’s convenient to stick the head cover to one of the metal bars on the cart for easy access, but that’s just a personal thing.
The Cleveland T-Frame performs very well, especially on slower greens. The 17-4 stainless steel doesn’t give it the softest feel, but there is enough feedback at impact to easily control distances. The feel is kind of a firm pop accompanied by a muted pinging sound. It’s quite nice actually. I am used to very soft carbon steel putters or those with inserts like Odyssey, but this putter was a refreshing change. At first I thought it would only be good for slow greens since the ball tends to jump off the face, but I wanted to see how it did on very fast greens, so I took it to a tournament in Vero Beach at Harbor Ridge Yacht & Country Club, a private facility with two beautiful courses by Joe Lee and Pete Dye. The greens were running over 12 on the stimpmeter for the event – The FSGA’s Two-Man Shootout – and I took the T-Frame out during the practice round. I was quite happy with the way the ball came off the face, and despite being “hot”, it was easily controllable. I liked it so much on the fast greens at Harbor Ridge that it went right in the bag for the week. I managed to putt pretty well, and my partner and I finished tied for fourth.
The Cleveland T-Frame putter is priced at $119.95, and that plants it in about the middle of the price range for putters these days. I would recommend this putter for those who prefer the feel of a metal face, or dislike insert putters. While controllable on any green surface, it’s more at home on slow greens. The ball pops off the face with a nice crisp feel and some may have trouble controlling it on very fast putting surfaces. The weight is perfect and forgiveness is very high. For those of you out there with a more traditional open-square-closed arc stroke, you may fight this putter, because being face balanced it wants to resist being open or shut too much during the stroke. So, if you play on slow greens, like the feel of a metal putter and have a square to square putting stroke, you can’t go wrong with the Cleveland T-Frame!
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