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correct answer When youve got a clean lie on short grass

Heres a sound rule of thumb: If you can putt, you should putt.

It goes back to the old adage that says your worst putt is usually better than your best chip. Unless youre a short game ace, theres simply more that can go wrong when chipping – catching the ball fat or thin, imparting too much or too little backspin, etc – than when putting.

The key to off-the-green putting is to recognize when its your best option. Here are several such instances:

  • Your ball lies on short grass within a couple yards of the green.
  • Youre on short grass well off the green, but the turf is firm and dry, not soft or damp.
  • Your lie is very tight and you lack confidence in striking a chip solidly.
  • There are no obstacles, such as sprinkler heads or sand clumps, between you and the green.

  • The grain of the grass is growing toward the green, ensuring a smooth roll. (This is especially important when playing on Bermuda grass.)
  • The ball is sitting down in short grass; chipping may be dicey, so a short, “pop” stroke is preferred.

Spend a few minutes of each practice session putting from off the green. Be sure to vary your distance and lie to simulate situations you may face on the course.

This website features tons of great tips on sharpening your short game. Heres a small sampling:

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From here, the goal is to get the ball up and out. Use a putter and youll likely a) Leave the ball in the rough, or b) Hit it too hard and send it racing across the green. Youre better off choosing a sand wedge and pitching it out.

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This is a common issue on Sunbelt courses, where grainy Bermuda strains are the norm. Look at the grass between your ball and the green. If it appears dark or dull, its growing against you. If its shiny, youre playing down-grain. Putts hit against the grain may bounce and lose their speed and line; youre likely to get a smooth roll going with the grain.

This tip offers more advice for reading the grain: Strike Ball Firmly when Putting Against the Grain

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Only the best of the best chippers – Ray Floyd comes to mind – follow this rule. Unless youve got unshakable faith in your ability to chip from any lie, to any pin under any circumstance, its wise to consider the putting option whenever its available.