The Etiquetteist: Should you ever chip from a green? That depends. Choose wisely
If every green were oval, this wouldn’t be an issue. But that’s not the case. Lots of greens are shaped more like amoebas. Which means that now and then, balls settle in spots like so: on the putting surface but without a direct line to the pin.
What’s the proper play? If you’re Phil Mickelson, you’re pulling wedge and trying to save par. Thing is, you’re not Phil. And we’re not really worried about your score. Our concern is etiquette.
And so, we ask: what do the game’s unwritten codes of conduct say about chipping from a green? As with so many other etiquette questions, the answer comes down to context, and a careful weighing of pros and cons.
If the stakes are high — you’re playing in a tournament, say, or a blood match against your fiercest rival — no one’s going to fault you for playing a pitch, assuming that you’re skilled enough to execute the shot.
That last part is key. The shot is only fair game if you can pull it off, picking the ball clean without taking a toupee out of the putting surface. No harm to the green. No harm to your fortunes.
Where you’re playing also matters.
“At a private club, I always take the stance that the place belongs to the members,” says Dan Cutler, superintendent at Rio Verde Country Club, in Arizona, and co-host of From the Jingweeds, a podcast devoted to the turf-care trade. “If they want to chip on the green, they can. If they want to drive a cart on the green, go for it. But it’s up to the other members to hold those members accountable or accept that conditions won’t be as good.”
Cutler’s got a point. But most of us aren’t members of private clubs. And most of us lack Lefty’s wedge game. Which means that in the vast majority of cases, the best path forward is to pull your putter. You might three-jack for bogey. But you wouldn’t likely do much better with a wedge. And this way, at least, you won’t leave other damage in your wake.