At some point in your life, you’ll without doubt experience one of golf’s biggest frustrations: the dreaded ‘chipping yips’.
You know the feeling I’m talking about – when you have absolutely no confidence standing over the golf ball with a wedge in your hand, and no matter how hard you try all you can do is either blade your chip shot over the back of the green, or hit it so fat that the ball barely moves.
Both results can have a devastating effect on your confidence around the greens, which in turn hurts your score time and time again.
If you’re like me, and are reading this article, you’ve probably hit rock bottom. You fear the thought of having to try and get up and down for par with a wedge. You’re no doubt looking for an easier way.
Enter the golf chipper.
Often viewed by many as the ‘beginner’s wedge’, a chipper is essentially a lofted putter that makes it easy to get the ball into the air and rolling onto the green – using a putting stroke – without the risk of hitting the shot thin or fat.
Many high handicappers benefit from using chippers, especially if they’re finding wedges to be detrimental to their short game. But the question is: are golf chippers legal?
A golf chipper is legal to use during tournament play provided it is not fitted with a putter grip, or is a two-sided chipper. The USGA deems chippers to be an iron, and most chippers are lofted similar to that of a seven or eight iron, making them easier for players – especially beginner or high-handicap golfers – to use around the greens as a substitute for a wedge.
So, as long as your chipper is not double sided (I’ll explain more about what that means below) and is equipped with a regular grip – not one reserved for a putter – you can absolutely use your chipper during tournament play, and chip with confidence around the greens.
But if you’re still unsure about whether a chipper is right for you, keep reading – we explain the pros and cons and answer the most common questions golfers have about this unique club.
What is a golf chipper?
A chipper is essentially a putter that has around 37 degrees of club face loft – about the same as a seven or eight iron – instead of the standard 4 degrees of club face loft.
The shaft is usually 36 inches long, which is a few inches longer than a putter, while the face is offset to help you keep your hands in front of the ball.
It is designed to be used as a substitute for a wedge when around the greens, and is perfect for bump and runs due to its forgiving wide sole and high loft.
You’ll rarely ever find the leading edge of the chipper digging into the turf, which can be a common problem with a poorly-struck wedge.
All you need to do is swing the club like a putter, and the ball will pop up out of the grass – from even the deepest of lies, thanks to its wide, hybrid-like base – and let the ball release onto the green.
If you’re someone who isn’t confident using wedges to chip when close to the green, or find it difficult to play bump and runs with your irons, the chipper could be the perfect solution to your problem and help you start saving shots in no time.
Should you use a golf chipper?
Whether you should use a chipper or not is a matter of personal preference.
For me, I would only use one if my short game had absolutely gone to the dogs, because to include it in my bag would mean I would have to forgo one of my other clubs during tournament play.
While chippers may be of benefit for the mid-to-high handicap player who struggles around the greens, you’ll find you have less ability to impart spin on the golf ball and get it to stop quickly.
Essentially, you’re sacrificing some control for more forgiveness, which isn’t ideal for more skilled, low-handicap players.
Below are some points to help you decide whether a chipper is right for you, or not.
You should consider buying a chipper IF:
- You are a mid-to-high handicapper (18-36) who struggles around the greens
- You are someone who likes to play a bump and run, but struggles to do it using an iron
- You regularly fat or thin your chips when using a wedge, no matter how hard you practice
- You are an older player who has wrist issues, and struggles to use a wedge
- You are a player whose wrist mobility is impaired
- You are a player who prefers using your putter when just off the green, rather than chipping
You shouldn’t consider buying a chipper IF:
- You are a low-to-mid handicapper (0-18)
- You are a player who wishes to reach single figures, or lower
- You are a player who likes to impart spin on the golf ball
- You are a player who wishes to have more control of your golf ball
- You have full confidence in your wedge game when close to the green
- You are a player with ample time to practice your short game using wedges and irons
After deciding which category or type of player you fall into, it will become abundantly clear whether a chipper is a good club for you or not.
Can you use a chipper in a golf competition?
Provided your chipper is fitted with a regular golf grip – not a putting grip – and is not two-sided, it is perfectly legal to use your chipper during a golf competition.
Your chipper does, naturally, count as one of the 14 clubs permitted to be carried in your golf bag during a competition round or tournament.
If adding a chipper to your bag means you exceed the 14-club limit, it means you’ll need to remove one of your other clubs before starting your round.
Failing to do so will result in you incurring a two-stroke penalty for each hole where the extra club was used, with a maximum penalty of four strokes per round.
How do you use a chipper around the green?
Using a chipper is much like using your putter.
To start, you will need to grip the club just as you would when making a putting stroke, and stand closer to the ball.
Because the base of the chipper is flat, your hands will need to be positioned more upright than if you were using a wedge or an iron to avoid the heel of the club digging into the ground when making your swing.
To strike the ball, simply rock your arms back and forth from the shoulders – just as if you were putting – while keeping your lower body still.
The length of your stroke will determine how far the ball travels in the air, and also how far it runs out along the green.
Regular practice is required to get the ‘feel’ of using a chipper, as it is very different to using a wedge.
Are two-way golf chippers legal?
Two-way golf chippers are illegal to use in competition and tournament play, due to them having two surfaces that can be used to strike the golf ball.
Such a design is in direct violation of Rule 4-1d as set out by the game of golf’s governing body, the United States Golf Association, which states that a clubhead shall have “only one striking face except putters with similar faces.”
A chipper is classified as an iron, not a putter, meaning those with a two-way design violate this rule.
Essentially, it prevents players being able to chip efficiently with the club both left-handed and right-handed, which would create an unfair advantage during competition.
Nothing is stopping you using a two-way chipper during a social round; however, your playing partners have to be okay with you using one.
Are chippers legal on the PGA Tour?
Single-faced chippers are legal to use on the PGA Tour, but you’ll never see a professional golfer use one.
Because chippers are designed for mid-to-high handicappers, and give the player less control over the spin on their golf ball, they are not typically suited to highly-skilled players such as professional golfers.
The pros need to be able to control the distance, spin, flight and run of their golf ball when chipping, and using a wedge or iron allows them to do this far better than a chipper would.
A professional golfer would also never sacrifice another club in their bag in order to accommodate a chipper in their set-up.
What are the best golf chippers available?
The best golf chipper available online in 2021 is the Square Strike Wedge, which has been widely praised by amateur and even professional golfers right around the world. It is designed to eliminate fat shots and provide exceptional forgiveness for players when chipping inside 100 yards, thanks to its no-dig beveled leading edge.
It came in at No. 1 on my list of the Best Chippers for this year – you can check out my full list of reviews here.
Some of the other standout chippers featured in my selections include the:
- Mazel Golf Pitching & Chipping Wedge
- Tour Edge Golf Hot Launch 4 Mallet Chipper
- Intech EZ Roll Chipper
- PowerBilt Unisex TPX Chipper
You can learn all the pros and cons of these chippers by reading my ‘Best Chippers To Fix Your Short Game’ article mentioned above.
If you’re struggling around the greens and have lost all faith in your wedges, trying a chipper might be just what you need to start lowering your scores.
They are very affordable, meaning if you buy one and don’t like it – no big deal.
But if you do buy a chipper and love it, you may well find yourself asking why you didn’t pick one up sooner.