Are Chippers Legal in Golf?
No golfer leaves home without the four main clubs in their bag: woods, irons, wedges, and a putter. But what about a chipper? If you've never heard of a chipper, they look almost identical to putters and can be swung like them, but instead, they act more like irons. What’s unique about them?
These unique club types can get you out of seriously sticky situations on the green, but they come with their own rules and regulations. Are they legal to use on the course? Should you keep them in your bag with your main clubs? Let's investigate for your next round.
What Is a Golf Chipper?
A golf chipper is essentially a putter with a loft of 23 - 37 degrees, rather than a typical putter loft of 3 - 4 degrees. These tools can be utilized when a ball is just off the green, and they frequently have two usable faces. They come in handy on the course when bumping and running. But is there a catch?
Are Golf Chippers Legal?
According to the U.S. Golf Association, chippers are legal to use on all greens and in all cases, including recreationally, professionally, and competitively. But chippers must conform to the requirements for iron clubs, not putters. That means they cannot have a putter grip or have two striking faces.
Should You Use a Golf Chipper?
Now that you can use a golf chipper, should you?
The answer to whether you should or should not use a golf chipper is the same as asking whether you'd prefer to use a 2-iron or a 7-iron for approach shots. That is, it's up to you.
That may seem like an evasive non-answer, but the unique thing about every golfer - beyond their outfit! - is how they stock their bag. There are dozens of types of clubs to choose from - and chippers are just one. They’re unique enough to constitute their own category outside of the main four, but they operate like a hybrid between a putter and an iron.
If you choose to use a chipper, you cannot do so with a putter grip. Why? If you're putting, having the advantage of the chipper's loft would be unfair. It would allow you to romp over your competitors in a way unbefitting of the fair nature of the game.
The chipper can't have any appendages used for aiming purposes, either. And they must be the same length as a 7-iron – no longer and no shorter. Defying the rules of the USGA can have serious consequences, so if you aren't sure that your chipper conforms to these regulations, it's best to leave it at home. You can learn to use a 6- or 7-iron much in the same way you use a chipper.
But a chipper can significantly improve your game. If your ball has landed in a grassy area, making it hard to execute a clean hit, a chipper can plow through obstacles and make a direct impact. The angled face helps get your ball aloft, but you only need a putting stroke's strength and swing radius to do so.
Back to that competitive advantage of surprise. Once you’re confident your chipper follows game guidelines, why not give it a shot? It could really work in your favor. Your opponents may think you're withdrawing a putter, but once they see the loft and spin you're able to put on the ball, they'll all wish they brought a chipper along.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use a Chipper in a Golf Competition?
Yes, but do recall the strict USGA rules and regulations around gameplay. While you may decide to keep your chipper at home in case it’s deemed unusable, we’d recommend keeping it in your bag contingent on your needs. You never know when you’ll get in a sticky situation!
Can Pros Use Chippers?
Yes! While some professionals eventually phase out of using chippers, preferring the control of a 5-iron or 7-iron, the loft on a chipper combined with its putter shape gives it a unique use that's hard to recreate.
You can hit a ball at least 30 yards with a chipper - great for approach shots.
Is a Two-Way Chipper Legal in Golf?
No. Two-way chippers are illegal to use in professional golf. That’s two clubs for the price of one! You and your team could face automatic disqualification if your chipper is found to have two faces. However, exceptions have been made. The so-called “ten-degree rule” is the law of the land on greens worldwide.
Ultimately, it's up to you whether or not to use a chipper. If you use them correctly, they can significantly improve your playing prowess - but you do need to follow the rules of the game. Otherwise, you’re out - keep it clean on the green.