It can be surprising seeing someone pull out a chipper golf club on the course for the first time. You may wonder what this club is and what its use cases are. There’s also some controversy about chippers, which can cause some to wonder if they’re legal to use.
So, are chippers legal in golf? Chippers are legal to use in regulated matches. That said, the USGA has some strict regulations around using them. A legal chipper can’t have a putter grip, can’t be double-sided, and must be the same length as a 7-iron. Anyone who breaks these rules can be disqualified from a match.
While that answers the main question, there’s still a lot you’ll want to know about chippers. They’re a controversial club that can make chip shots easier, but some claim it takes the spirit out of the game. The rest of this article will cover:
- What a golf chipper is
- Key rules for using one in regulated competition
- The pros and cons of using a chipper
By the end, you’ll have a better idea if you should carry a chipper in your golf bag or if it’s a club you should skip. Keep reading to get all the details.
- What Is a Chipper Golf Club?
- Are Chippers Legal in Golf?
- Key Rules for Using Chippers
- What Are the Advantages of Using a Chipper?
- Why Are Some Golfers Opposed to Using a Chipper?
What Is a Chipper Golf Club?
Before getting into more information about rules and regulations involving chippers, it’s important to know what a chipper is in golf. It’s different from something like a wedge, which would be a standard club for chip shots.
A chipper is essentially a combination between a putter and an iron. It’s lofted like an iron, but you’ll swing it similarly to how you would use a putter. It’s why some refer to it as a “chipper putter.”
Chippers have a loft of 23-37 degrees. That’s a bit different than a putter with only a loft of 3-4 degrees. So shots with a chipper can get decent air if you hit with one a short distance from the hole.
As for the amount of distance you can get with one, most chippers can hit a max of 30 yards. They can be great for approach shots, chip shots, or getting out of some dense rough.
Here’s an example of where a chipper would be the most useful, just off the green like this:
Image source: Pexels
Are Chippers Legal in Golf?
As mentioned, some chippers are legal in regulated golf matches. But not all chippers are created equal, especially in the eyes of the U.S. Golf Association (USGA).
The USGA states that chippers can be used on all greens and in all cases. That said, a chipper is defined as an iron, so they must conform to the rules for irons.
Read more: The Best Chippers This Year
What Would Make a Chipper Golf Club Illegal?
Not every chipper will be legal, so you probably wonder what will get you disqualified.
Here are some common things that would make your chipper illegal:
- Double-sided head: Chippers with double-sided heads look cool and can be fun to use. But they aren’t allowed in regulated golf. The USGA states that all irons must have a single-sided head to qualify.
- Putter grip: Using a chipper with a putter grip can be easier. However, that fact makes it illegal to use in regulated matches.
- Longer than a 7-iron: Some chippers may come in longer lengths. Again, it makes the club easier to use, so it isn’t allowed in regulated play.
- Appendages that help with aim: Like irons, your chipper can’t have any arrows or other graphics that help with aim.
As you can see, there are a lot of regulations that go into whether you can use a chipper. But don’t worry. The next section will cover the exact specifications one will need to qualify.
Key Rules for Using Chippers
Here are some exact rules you will need to follow to have a qualified chipper per USGA rules:
- Length: The maximum allowed length for irons is 48 inches. The USGA also has a rule that organizations that host competitions can optionally limit the length to 46 inches. Most golfers won’t have to worry about this. However, watch out if you use a chipper since their size can vary.
- Clubhead: The USGA’s rules for the clubhead state that it must be rigid, stable, and functional. Irons (including chippers) also cannot have graphics that assist with aim.
- Grip: The USGA’s regulations for grip state that all irons must have a single grip with a circular cross-section. This differs from the putter, which can have a non-circular cross-section. So watch out for that with your chipper.
So if your chipper follows these regulations, you can pack it in your golf bag for a match. Many chippers will have a “USGA qualified” or “USGA approved” stamp to help you tell if it meets proper standards.
Other Regulations That Could Affect the Use of a Chipper
The USGA also has a few other regulations that could impact whether you choose to use a chipper. Those rules include:
- The number of clubs in your bag: You are only allowed to have 14 clubs in your bag during a round. Depending on your preferred clubs, the chipper may or may not make the cut.
- Electronic devices: Clubs aren’t allowed to have electronic devices on them. These could be things that measure distance or elevation. Most clubs aren’t sold like this, but their design could vary since chippers are newer.
- Adjustable features: Clubs can have some adjustable features in weight and length. However, they can’t be adjusted during rounds. So if your chipper is adjustable, just know it must be in a set position throughout the round.
You should be good to go if you buy a chipper with a “USGA approved” seal and follow these regulations.
What Are the Advantages of Using a Chipper?
Image source: Pixabay
Those who will get the best use out of chippers are beginners and those with a mid-to-high handicap. Chippers typically make it much easier to get a clean chip shot. If you struggle with that part of your game, implementing one could help.
Many also find them useful for cutting through dense rough. Unlike wedges or irons that can get caught up in dense grass, chippers cut through quite easily. So it could get you out of some tough situations.
Lastly, if you divot a lot on your approach or chip shots, a chipper can help with that. You’ll rarely ever see someone make a divot with a chipper.
Got a bad lie? A chipper can help cut through dense rough like the one above.
Best Golf Chipper
For those who want to try a chipper, the Wilson Harmonized Golf Chipper is a great pick. This one is relatively affordable, so you can try one out if you don’t know if you’ll like it. Plus, it’s very sturdy, so it should hold up for a long time of consistent use.
I like this one since the loft is higher for chippers at 32 degrees. While you won’t be able to put the same spin on it that you could get with a wedge, it will get more spin than other chippers on the market.
Overall, I think this is a good all-around value pick that meets USGA regulations.
You can check out our article on the best golf chippers to see a complete list of options.
Why Are Some Golfers Opposed to Using a Chipper?
Chippers also come with their share of downfalls. Additionally, some golfers are purists and feel like this club takes the sport out of the game.
One of the major downfalls of the chipper is you don’t have as much control of spin or aim. While this club makes it easy to get the ball in the air with a putting stroke, it has a lower loft than other irons. So using a 5-iron, 7-iron, or wedge will provide more control.
Chippers can also be a bit of a crutch that prevents learning proper technique. No pro players use a chipper because they can get better use out of other clubs. While chippers can be easier, they use basic putting form that isn’t conducive to improving your chipping technique with wedges.
It can also take some of the sport out of the game. The game of golf is all about detailed technique and intricacies. If you can loft the ball up in the air with a putting stroke, it can feel like a cheap trick more than anything.
Plus, some golfers like to putt when they’re just off the green. However, a chipper can be seen as an unfair advantage since it can be used to essentially act as a putter a further distance away from the green than would usually be appropriate.
Can You Use a Chipper in Golf Competition?
Chippers are allowed in regulated golf competitions. A legal chipper must:
* Only have a one-sided head
* Have a circular cross-section grip designed for irons
* Be the same length as a 7-iron
* Not have any graphics that assist with aim
Legal chippers will usually have a “USGA qualified” seal printed on them.
Is a Two-Way Chipper Legal in Golf?
Two-way chippers are not allowed in golf competitions. It violates the USGA’s rules for irons to have a single-sided head.
Are Chippers Allowed on the PGA Tour?
Pros on the PGA Tour are allowed to use chippers as long as they meet the proper regulations for irons. That said, you won’t see any PGA pros using them. Professional golfers know how to get the most out of other clubs, so a chipper isn’t necessary.
There you have it, a complete answer to “are chippers legal in golf?” You should have everything you need to pick a legal chipper and figure out if it’s something you want to carry in your golf bag.
I don’t carry a chipper in my golf bag if you want my two cents. I feel like it’s more of a crutch that will prevent learning good technique in the long run. You’re better off practicing your aim and learning to put a spin on the ball with wedges and irons.
An excellent way to do that is to use the right wedge for your needs. You can check out our article on the best wedges for chipping to help you optimize your short game.
But if you want to use a chipper, you certainly can. As long as it follows the proper regulations, no one can stop you from using it in competition.