Imagine yourself lining up on the green for a shot. You are already two under par and sinking this ball would enable you to walk away a winner of the entire 18 rounds. Still, you have recently purchased a new putter and are not entirely comfortable with its mechanics. Perhaps it is too heavy or the head does not give you a clear view of the ball. You walk over to your bag and instead grab a wedge before strolling back over to the tee. Is this even possible? Are you allowed to use other clubs to putt or is this a faux pas within the world of golf? Let us take a look at the answers to these and similar questions, as you will likely be surprised with what is in store.
What Situations Could Cause a Putter to be Inappropriate?
Before we take a look at what the rules of golf have to say, it is a good idea to highlight some scenarios which could make the use of a putter less than optimal. Perhaps the most common example is when an obstacle such as a fringe or bunker is blocking a straight-line putt on the green. In this case, a putter would not get the job done. Golfers may therefore choose to use another club such as a wedge in order to chip the ball over a rough spot so that it lands on the green and closer to the hole.
Another real-world example can reinforce the points mentioned above. During the 2019 US Open, Gary Woodward was playing the 17th hole when he found himself on the completely opposite side of the green in relation to where he wanted to be. So, he instead used a wedge to land the shot. Not only was this an innovative strategy, but many feel that such a move enabled him to win the entire championship.
Another relatively common scenario involves putts that would be nearly impossible to make due to their sheer length. Golfers with less experience or those who are not confident with their long-distance shots could therefore choose to pitch the ball towards the hole and then follow up this move with a putt.
Finally, there can also be times when a putter simply breaks or otherwise malfunctions. This could be out of anger or due to an issue such as the head becoming loose. It should be obvious that another club will have to be used. One strategy which may be employed is known as a “blade putt”. This involves striking the ball with the leading edge of a standard wedge.
What do the Rules Have to Say?
We now come to the crux of this article. Are you allowed to use any club other than a putter while on the green? Simply stated, there are no regulations which specifically prohibit this action. In fact, players can use any club they wish at any location on the course. Chip shots can be accomplished with a driver and as we have just seen, wedges (or even irons) can be used to make a putt. The main point is to get the ball as close to the hole as possible while still adhering to other applicable rules.
However, we need to keep in mind that some golf clubs may forbid this strategy (even though it is technically allowed according to the rules of golf. One situation worth mentioning involves the Riviera Country Club (this organisation hosts the PGA Tour on an annual basis). The Riviera Country Club features a par-3 6th hole that is notoriously difficult (a large bunker is found in the middle of the putting green). It is obvious that many golfers would be keen on using a wedge to negotiate this obstacle. However, the rules of the club clearly state that only putters are allowed on the green in terms of guests and regular members. The only time that this regulation is not enforced is during the PGA Tour itself.
If you are planning to become a member of a specific club, it could therefore be a good idea to determine if their rules specifically forbid the use of clubs other than a putter while on the green. Your score could otherwise suffer as a result!
Possible Issues with Using Other Clubs
It only stands to reason that putters are designed to provide players with the maximum amount of accuracy while on the green. This is why choosing another club could have undesirable outcomes. The most common is the simple fact that you are likely to sacrifice precision. Whether or not this is a trade-off in terms of the shot itself is a matter of opinion. However, you might not have any other choice if the putt needs to be extremely long or if there happens to be a large obstacle in the way.
The other possible problem is that certain shots (such as chip shots) can be tough on a well-manicured green. It would indeed be quite embarrassing if you chose a wedge only to discover that you created a massive divot immediately after chipping a shot. This is also why some clubs frown upon such actions and may even forbid them entirely.
Finally, using a club other than a putter can result in unwanted consequences. One example involves using an iron to make a shot and dealing with loft issues. Although you might be able to reduce such an effect by choking down on the shaft, the fact of the matter is that lofts could plague what may have otherwise been a fine shot.
A Quick Look at What Clubs to Choose When Replacing a Putter
As we have seen above, there are some instances when a putter simply will not do. This brings up yet another interesting question. Considering the fact that you can have up to 13 clubs in your bag besides the putter, which are best for specific situations? There are a handful of useful tips although once again, it is normally wise to experiment with different options in order to find which model you are the most comfortable with.
What if an obstacle lies in the middle of the green? Assuming that you cannot go around it with a putter, the only real option is to go over it with a short chip shot. In this case, most experts recommend using a pitching wedge (PW). You are likely to achieve the required amount of loft to supersede the trouble spot while still maintaining a short enough trajectory to remain on the green.
Another scenario to imagine involves if you are forced to make an extremely long putt (as mentioned earlier in this article). A wedge is normally not appropriate for such a situation. Drivers are the optimal choice in this case. Although many players feel that drivers are only used for extremely long shots, we need to remember that the face of this club is extremely flat; allowing you to hit the ball in a perpendicular fashion. So, a driver will also provide you with a fair amount of accuracy even while relatively far from the hole.
A final option if you are dealing with a long green shot is to choose the 3-iron. Why is this the case? The fact of the matter is that the 3-iron is the longest and straightest club. Now, some players are worried about the loft that a 3-iron may unintentionally supply. The best way to avoid this scenario is to change the angle of the club face so that it is straight in relation to the ball. However, be sure to adjust your stance and the position of the club so that you are still able to achieve a pendulum-like swing.
Additional Tips and Tricks
It may seem a bit odd to use any club other than a putter while on the green. The good news is that official golf rules do not prohibit this action. Furthermore, anyone who has been playing the game for an extended period of time is well aware of the fact that unexpected situations can arise on occasion. This is why it is a good idea to prepare yourself in advance.
Make it a point to practice putting with other clubs; specifically those which we highlighted earlier in this article. You can therefore get a “feel” of their different characteristics. This is also the best way to avoid embarrassing situations such as creating a crater-like divot while golfing at a professional club.
If you are unsure where to begin, there are plenty of online videos which will provide you with additional advice. It could also be a good idea to speak with a professional instructor in order to obtain even more tips and hints along the way. Not only can this help to improve your score in the long run, but you will become more familiar with all of the clubs in your arsenal; never a bad thing!