Can You Use a Club Other Than the Putter on the Putting Green?

Yes, You Can Chip on the Green (or Use Any Other Club)

Phil Mickelson of the USA chips on the 18th green during the afternoon foursome matches on the first day of the 2002 Ryder Cup
Phil Mickelson uses a wedge and plays a chip shot off the putting green at the 2002 Ryder Cup. Stephen Munday/Getty Images

Are golfers only allowed to use a putter on the putting green? Or, when the golf ball is on the putting green, can a golfer use any club he or she wants to play the stroke? Can you, for example, play a chip shot from the putting surface?

The Rules of Golf allow the use of any golf club to play any golf shot. If you want, you can tee off using a putter and putt using a driver. That would not be a very smart way to play golf, but it would be perfectly legal under the Rules of Golf.

Reasons to Use a Different Golf Club on the Green

Sometimes a golfer's best option—sometimes the golfer's only option—is to use a club other than the putter when on the putting green. That's not often the case, but it does happen.

For example, if your putter breaks during a round and you are unable to replace it, you'll have to putt using something other than the putter. In that situation, many pros prefer to "putt" with a wedge, striking the golf ball at its equator with the leading edge of the wedge (blading it, in other words).

Another scenario you occasionally (rarely) see on the pro tours: a green with severe slopes and an odd shape, where the break on a long putt is so great that the golfer would have to putt through the fringe or even into the rough in order to play the proper break. In that situation, the tour players may opt to use a wedge and chip or pitch the ball, taking much of that break out of the equation.

And once upon a time, the Rules of Golf includes something called stymies that required chipping on the green. Stymies existed only in match play and allowed one golfer to intentionally putt his ball into another player's line, blocking the other golfer's direct access to the hole. In that situation, the blocked golfer often chipped over the intervening ball. (Stymies were eliminated from golf in 1952.)

Two Examples from the Ryder Cup

A good example of chipping on the putting green happened in the 2002 Ryder Cup and is pictured in the photo above. Phil Mickelson was faced with a hard-breaking putt and decided to remove that break from the equation by flying the ball, rather than rolling it. So instead of putting, Mickelson played a chip shot.

(Unfortunately, unlike Mickelson, most of us won't be able to take a perfect divot that can easily be replaced on the putting surface. Many of us would dig up a good portion of turf and do great damage to the green if we tried chipping from the putting surface.

(So before you try something similar, ask yourself—if you're not a highly skilled player—if it's really worth the potential damage to the green. Just because the rules allow us to chip from the green doesn't necessarily mean amateur and recreational golfers should.)

Another Ryder Cup example of using a club other than putter on the green: In a match at the 1987 Ryder Cup, Ben Crenshaw broke his putter in anger. He had to play the rest of the match putting with his sand wedge or 1-iron. Not surprisingly, he lost the match.