Cleveland TFI 2135 Putter
Recently, I’ve been catching up with a lot of my high school classmates on Facebook. I didn’t really intend to, but I found my childhood best friend, and he was friends with a lot of our classmates. One thing led to another, and the next thing I know we’re having ourselves a class reunion, right there in cyberspace.
I don’t want to confess how long ago I was in high school, but I’m pretty sure that there are kids in high school this year whose parents weren’t born when I graduated. So somewhere in the intervening years, the friends that I knew so well in high school have become people that I would never have expected. The class clown is a priest, the bookworm is looking forward to the start of deer season, and the nerds are triathletes. In retrospect I should have seen it coming. The seeds of the people I’m seeing online now were there in the kids I knew then, and we’ve all had a lifetime to change ourselves from who we always were into who we are.
Which, strangely enough, brings me nicely to the subject of this review, the Cleveland TFI 2135 putter, in 1.0 flavor.
I haven’t made any bones about the fact that I’ve always been a fan of Cleveland putters – they’re attractive, well-built, high quality flatsticks, at a price that means you can own a brace of them to suit your mood without breaking the bank. What they weren’t was terribly distinctive. some of the highest praise I’ve given a Cleveland putter is that if you stripped the branding off of them and told people they were a popular boutique putter, I doubt that 9 out of 10 players would doubt you. Unfortunately that design philosophy led to a popular perception of Cleveland putters as knockoffs, and in truth the easiest way to describe most Cleveland putters to those who’ve never seen them is that “it’s Cleveland’s version of…” insert a bigger name putter model here. It doesn’t matter that Cleveland has been designing putters since the company’s inception in the 1970s, nearly twenty years before Scotty Cameron started making putters (for Mizuno, no less).
Still, perception has a way of becoming reality, and I have been very comfortable with the incremental improvements that Cleveland has made in the Classics line for years. I thought I knew what to expect from Cleveland, and I was good with that.
Then, while hard at work on the range at Three Guys World Headquarters & Grille, I met the TFI 2135. Three Guy Supreme Leader and El Jefe Grande Adam was exercising it on the practice green before a round, and I was intrigued by the black finish, white insert, and copper face. Being the resident Three Guys club geek I went full Rain Man, rattling off everything I knew about the TFI putters. Adam must have been suitably impressed, because he handed the Cleveland over and told me that I would be better suited to review it. He must have also been late for his tee time, because as soon as he let go of the putter he sprinted away…
Since then I’ve have the chance to put the TFI 2135 1.0 through its paces under a variety of conditions, and Adam doesn’t know what he’s missing.
For starters the TFI 2135 looks good. The design is a pretty standard heel-toe weighted blade shape, with angular bumpers and a long plumber’s neck. The long neck gives the putter a very slight toe hang, so it’s good for most kinds of strokes. It’s finished in a very attractive black polymer that’s mostly matte, with some glossy accents that look sharp and aren’t distracting at address. Moving forward, things get more distinctive. The TFI (Total Feel Innovation) technology uses a white copolymer “insert” that sits between the body of the putter and a milled, copper-infused face. The overall effect is striking, and I found myself answering a lot of questions about it on the practice green.
The combination of the soft insert and the milled copper face give the TFI 2135 1.0 a unique feel at impact that manages to be both soft and solid. I’m not a fan of inserts that make it hard to feel the strike, and the TFI system gives excellent feedback. Whether I made a good stroke or a bad one, I was never surprised by what the ball did off the face. The combination of a light head (345g) and the insert means that you can be confident putting a firm stroke on the ball, distance control and feel are both excellent. If you habitually leave putts short you might want to look at a heavier head – the TFI and 2135 technologies are also available in the 6.5, a 360g mallet, and the 8.0, a 405g counterbalanced blade, but I like being able to swing freely, so the 1.0 suited me fine.
In a change from the Cleveland Classics that we’ve reviewed here previously, the sole of the TFI 2135 is clean and pretty spare: micro lettering on the bottom of the copper face cap and the Cleveland Golf branding are muted and easily overlooked, while TFI and the model number are in clean, white lettering. This is a good looking putter no matter what side you’re looking at.
On the user interface end, the grip of the TFI 2135 is among the best I’ve ever used. Instead of the ubiquitous Winn foam grip the TFI sports a multi-density rubber grip with softer, textured sections under the fingers, and smooth, firm rubber under the palms. The detailing is consistent with the putter head, white piping a la Tron. It takes a bit of effort to keep it clean, but the lazy can solve that problem with a Sharpie and 2 minutes. This grip is the perfect compliment to the TFI face – it manages to feel soft and firm at the same time, and feel and feedback are outstanding. Usually one of the first things I do to a putter is change the grip, but the TFI 2135 grip is a keeper.
If we stopped here this would be a very good putter. The lines are clean, the balance is good, and the TFI face offers a unique take on an insert putter. But in the modern golf landscape, very good putters aren’t hard to come by. Cleveland’s own lineup has quite a few of them. What sets the 2135 series apart is, well, the 2135 part.
The first thing you notice when looking at the back of the TFI 2135 series putters is that the sight line isn’t where you expect it. While most putters put alignment aids on the top line or the flange, or both, the TFI 2135 sight line is on a raised post that sits on the high side of the cavity, 21.35mm from the turf. Why 21.35mm? Because that’s the radius of a golf ball. By putting the sight line in the center of the golf ball, the Cleveland TFI 2135 series putters eliminate a significant variable in alignment. With traditional sight lines the apparent alignment changes depending on where your eyes are over the ball – the sight line will only point through the actual center of the ball when your eyes are directly over it. This inconsistency can affect your setup – if your eyes are inside the ball you have to put the ball closer to the heel of the putter to make a flange line appear to be going through the middle of the ball. If your eyes are outside the ball, you’ll tend to align it off the toe just a bit. By raising the sight line 21.35mm off the surface the TFI 2135 putters put it in the dead center of the golf ball. Because the line points through the middle of the ball, the alignment is true no matter where your eyes are in relation to the ball and a ball that looks centered in the face will actually be centered. One of the biggest benefits of getting a putter custom fit is that the alignment aids will be fit to your eye and setup. The Cleveland TFI 2135 putters give you a lot of that benefit, right off the rack.
With an MSRP of $130, the Cleveland TFI 2135 1.o is a screaming bargain. My only beef with it is that “TFI 2135” sounds like a famous Arnold Schwarzenegger character. Maybe I’ll just start calling mine The Terminator.
As always, you can see the full line of Cleveland TFI 2135 putters and learn more about 2135 technology on the Cleveland Golf website.