Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C - Chipper Review

Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C Chipper Review

I became interested in the Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C Chipper after watching some of Mark Crossfield’s Youtube videos and learning that Ping has released their own version of a Chipper (namely the Ping ChipR, which is about as beautiful as a chipper will ever be).

I decided to splash out, to see if the overwhelmingly positive reviews are justifiable. 

Thoughts On The Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C Chipper

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It performs very well on tight lies

A small to medium chip off a tight lie is one of the most intimidating shots in golf, and amateurs are often faced with this shot multiple times in any given round. Thankfully, this is one of the areas where the Smart Sole 4 C really shines.

The slightly beveled leading edge means that you are less likely to hit the ball thin, providing an immediate dose of psychological relief when you set the club behind the ball.
More importantly, the extra wide sole genuinely reduces the likelihood of hitting a fat shot, where the club digs into the ground and you make terrible contact with the ball.

To me, it is just very easy to skim this club off the ground, and that is exactly what you need to do when hitting a chip off a very tight lie. There are situations where you might hit it a little bit harder than anticipated, but this is an acceptable miss in most scenarios. The true score killer is the fat shot that only travels a few yards, and that shot is far less likely with the Cleveland chipper in your hands. 

It's a reliable antidote for anyone with the chipping yips

Life is too short to do battle with the yips. Unlike the putting yips which most people can get over by changing grips or changing putters, the chipping yips have a tendency to linger. Sometimes the chipping yips only last a few months, but in serious cases, they can persist for years (and sometimes even decades).

The point is, if you have the chipping yips, it’s time to stop messing around with advanced chipping techniques, and time to embrace the simplicity offered by a chipper like the Smart Sole C.  It could help you lower your scores, and by extension improve your ability sleep peacefully. Those benefits are worth considerably more than the $120 price tag of this club.

It is a very short golf club

Aside from my 34-inch putter, the Cleveland Smart Sole C is the shortest golf club I have ever owned. Even when standing side by side with my 60 degree lob wedge, the Cleveland Chipper is notably short in stature.

I have no issue with this, however. If anything, I feel like I am less likely to hit fat shots when holding a shorter club in my hands.

The ball springs off the face

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When I hit the first couple of chips, it took me a while to adjust to how much spring the club face offers. It’s the combination of the heavy clubhead and the cavity back design that contributes to this springy face.

You will need at least 20 minutes to get a feel for how the clubface responds to the ball, especially if you currently game wedges that are designed for low handicap players (ie compact face, almost blade-inspired wedges). 

The ball runs out further than I expected

This is by far the biggest issue I have with this club. The ball just seems to run forever, even when making relatively gentle swings.

To be fair, I’ve never really used a 9 iron for hitting bump-and-run shots. Nevertheless, I was genuinely surprised by how far the ball rolled out. This could be because my home club has very quick greens. 

The point is that it takes some time to start judging the rollout correctly. Don’t be surprised if you hit your first couple of chips and pitches a bit longer than expected.

You can use your putting stroke to hit chips, if you want to

There is no question that from a biomechanical perspective, the putting stroke is the easiest movement in the game of golf. It’s so simple that you could take someone who has never played golf before and have them putting with a reasonable degree of proficiency within a few short weeks.

The same cannot be said for any other stroke in golf, be it chipping, pitching, or the full golf swing. This is good news, because you can use your putting stroke rather than your chipping stroke, when holding the Cleveland Smart Sole C in your hands.

In other words you can:

  • Use your putting grip rather than an interlocking or overlapping grip
  • Rock the shoulders back and through to hit the ball

I’ve even experimented with chipping the ball left hand low when using the Smart Sole C. This helps me level out my shoulders, and reduces the likelihood of an excessively long backswing.

The point is, you can literally just putt the ball toward the hole, but with a chipper in your hands. Once you understand that, it should simplify how and when it makes sense to use the Cleveland Smart Sole C, instead of a lob wedge or sand wedge.

To me, this club is useful for chipping and chipping only

There are plenty of reviewers on Amazon that talk about using this club from 100 yards and in. I have absolutely no desire to use this club for any shot over 30 yards.

To me, it’s pretty clear that Cleveland has focused their efforts on creating a club that can alleviate the difficulties of chipping a golf ball close to the hole.

More specifically, it’s basically designed for hitting bump-and-run chip shots using your putting stroke or your standard chipping technique. For that specific purpose, this club is absolute money. Outside of this very specific function, it isn’t nearly as magical as some reviewers (including Mark Crossfield) would suggest.

Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C Chipper FAQ

To me, this is arguably the most important question to ask yourself if you are thinking about buying the Smart Sole 4 C.

Given that most golfers will have to take out one club from their bag in order to accommodate a chipper, you need to think long and hard about which club to sacrifice to the golfing gods. But before you make this sacrifice, you need to evaluate if you can achieve a similar degree of chipping proficiency by simply practicing bump and run shots with your pitching wedge or 9 iron.

After giving this a lot of thought, and spending a few hours doing side-by-side comparisons, I came to the conclusion that the Smart Sole C is only a bit more consistent than my pitching wedge, for hitting chips around the greens.

More importantly, I prefer having a bit more loft and a bit more stopping power when playing short shots around the greens, which means my pitching wedge is actually favorable in many situations. So for me, the sacrifice is not worth it. However, if you are a mid or high handicap player, the simplicity and consistency offered by the Smart Sole 4 Chipper could be worth it. 

Golf chippers sit alongside long putters in the list of club categories that are considered abominations in the sport of golf.
However, unlike using a long putter, which many people think of as cheating, there is nothing illegal about a golf chipper.
Instead, it’s more about golfing ego. When you game a chipper, you are basically revealing to the world that you have short game issues that run deep into your golfing soul. It’s like unrobing the chipping induced scar tissue that covers your golfing skin.
To this end, the first time you use it can be slightly embarrassing. However, when you start getting up and down more often, that embarrassment will quickly fade, replaced by increased confidence levels in your short game and scoring ability.

The loft of the the Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C Chipper is 42°. 

The Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C Chipper is 34″.  This is the same length as most men’s putters, and about 1″ shorter than a lob wedge or sand wedge. 

Final Thoughts

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It only took me about 30 minutes of playing with this club to realize that my chipping game isn’t weak enough to consider putting it in the bag. As a low single-figure handicap, this probably isn’t very surprising.

While it is very easy to make good contact with the ball when using the Cleveland Smart Sole 4 C, judging the distance perfectly is a bit more difficult than I expected.
The springy face combined with a lower loft than my standard bump and run club (pitching wedge) left me struggling to judge the rollout as well as I would like.

In the end, it comes down to this: 

If you genuinely struggle with chipping, the Smart Sole C can help you get out of trouble more often than not. You should find that it can immediately improve your ability to make solid contact when hitting short shots around the greens.

However, if you are a reasonably good chipper already, it may be hard to find a space for this particular club in your bag. In my case, hitting bump and run shots with my pitching wedge results in a more controlled shot, mainly because I can stop the ball quicker. This isn’t the result that I was expecting, but it does mean I don’t have to drop any clubs from my bag in order to accommodate the chipper. I can also safely say that my short game is actually better than I thought it was. Cheers to that.