It's possible that you're not familiar with the Cleveland HB3 iron set, but I'm willing to bet you've heard of Cleveland's HIBORE irons. Well, these clubs are named "HB3" because they're the third generation of HIBOREs.
This iron set takes me back a few years, to when I first played some rounds with the original HIBOREs. An all-hybrid set of irons was unusual at the time, but they impressed me with how easy it was to get some height on the ball. I came very close to buying them.
I opted for a more traditional set of irons instead of getting the HIBOREs, but they always struck me as being great clubs for a mid- to high-handicapper (me, at the time). When I heard that Cleveland Golf introduced this new version, I figured I should give them a shot to see what improvements had been made.
Like the HIBOREs, the Cleveland HB3 iron set consists strictly of hybrids - there are no traditional irons in the set. But the newer HB3s seem lighter and slightly longer than the original HIBOREs.
Steel shafts are available, but I tried the set fitted with the Action Ultralite graphite shafts, which have a lower kick point and are a full 15 grams lighter than the previous version. These longer, lighter shafts are intended to make it even easier to launch the ball higher, achieve faster swing speeds and hit the ball farther.
These clubs definitely fall into the maximum game-improvement category and are primarily intended to benefit mid- to high-handicap golfers. The clubs in this set have an extremely forgiving sole design to improve turf interaction, a high Moment of Inertia for forgiveness, and a sophisticated internal weighting system and scoop-back crown that results in a lower, more rearward center of gravity. All of these features are intended to make the clubs easier to hit for players with higher handicaps. And that makes it easier for them to enjoy themselves on the course.
It took me a while to get used to looking at the clubs in the Cleveland HB3 iron set: although I'm used to seeing hybrids in a set instead of long irons, I'm not used to seeing or using a hybrid pitching wedge. There's no doubt, though, that I did feel confident at address. And players who have difficulty getting the ball in the air could definitely be helped by these clubs - high ball flights are one of the big strong points of the Cleveland HB3 iron set.
They were easy to control throughout my swing, and I was never left wondering what the head was doing during my backswing. Crisply-hit balls felt smooth and powerful; vibrations were minimized on off-center hits, although they did give me enough feedback to let me know.
The extremely wide, forgiving sole and club head mass of a Cleveland HB3 iron made hitting it out of the rough easier than with some other irons I've tried. I felt very little twisting of the club head while hitting out of the spinach. It's also easy to hit these clubs with a right to left ball flight. I normally draw my irons, so I'm not sure if these clubs have a little anti-slice bias or not, but it wouldn't surprise me since they're maximum game-improvement clubs.
They seemed slightly longer than my traditional set of irons and their accuracy was above average, especially on approach shots. I could never get the hang of chipping with them, though. At the beginning, all my chips went way too far; when I throttled back, they didn't go far enough. Feel is everything when it comes to the short game, and I just never had the right touch while chipping with these clubs. A few more rounds with them might have improved that situation.
The standard Cleveland HB3 iron set comes with #3 through #9 hybrid-irons plus a pitching wedge. A sand wedge can be purchased separately. Regular, stiff and senior flex shafts are available in steel or graphite.
The Bottom Line: Some people love the appearance of the Cleveland HB3 iron set, but they look "clunky" to others (a comment one of my playing partners made during an evaluation round). Most people, though, would agree that Cleveland HB3 irons can help players who have difficulty making solid contact and getting the ball off the ground.