Okay, so maybe your ball sat down right on the cusp between the fairway and the green. Or maybe it’s on the fringe of a two-tiered green. Or you know what? Maybe it’s just a long putt from your lie that’s fully on the green and you think you could handle the distance better with a chip shot rather than with a putt. You may be wondering: are you allowed to chip from the green?
Short answer: are you allowed to? Yes. But should you? No, probably not.
There are no conditions in the USGA Official Rules of Golf stating which clubs you can or cannot use on any particular part of the course. Heck, you could use your putter to drive off the tee if you want, though it’s certainly not recommended.
That said, it will come as no surprise to anyone who has spent any time playing golf that it’s a sport rife with unspoken “shoulds” and “should nots,” in addition to the official rules. You won’t incur an official penalty if you chip off the green in a tournament. But will you get side-glances if you do so in regular game play? Probably. And that’s not mentioning the fact that many courses (especially private clubs) do advise against it according to their private etiquette recommendations.
The difference between using a putter to whack your ball off the tee, and a wedge to chip off the green, is that the former doesn’t stand to damage the course and affect other players the way the latter does—not that either is a very good idea. Neither the greenskeeper nor the other players around will thank you for chipping off the green.
The way a wedge works, the likelihood that you’ll crank out a huge divot is high, even if you’re careful with the club. Divots on the tee box, rough or even the fairway? Not necessarily such a big deal. They’re expected, and the way the grass is kept, players can replace their driving divots. The greenskeeper is also set up to repair them reasonably well on a regular basis. Fixing divots or even small dents in the short, pristine grass on the green is a much stickier affair, however, and should be avoided.
Are there any notable exceptions?
Occasionally the pros do chip off the edge of the green in high-stakes tournament play. Even golf royalty like Phil Mickelson have been known to do it. When a player’s career (not to mention tournament purse) are at stake, the understanding is generally that a pro will do what he or she thinks is necessary (within the official rules) to achieve the best result. Does that mean your buddies should do it during your regular Saturday round? No.
The only real exception that’s related to an “official” rule is that you cannot hit off a green using any club if you’ve accidently veered off-course and are actually going for a different number hole. This exception came into the public eye during a 2014 FedEx Cup event when South Korean golfer, Seung-Yul Noh, hit “a wayward tee shot on the 11th hole that came to rest on the putting surface of the third hole.” According to ESPN.com, Noh hit his next full shot off the third green, taking out a “big divot.” Neither he nor his caddie were aware that under rule 25-3, “a player is required to take relief at the nearest point, no closer to the hole,” and so he incurred a rare two-stroke penalty.
— Cammy Pedroja