To chip or putt from the fringe?

Why complicate things by chipping when there's so much less to go wrong with a putt from the fringe?

Soren Kjeldsen opting for the fringe putt even on the grainier grasses in China
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many shots are wasted through ill-advised chips close to the green. Jeremy Ellwood explains why he's looking to putt from the fringe whenever possible

The telling question here is why would any golfer seeking to compile the best possible score choose to make any shot more complicated than it need be?

Yet when it comes to choosing between a chip or a putt from the fringe, many golfers perhaps feel that because they’re half-decent chippers, to putt would be a sign of weakness that says to your opponent or partner, “I haven’t quite mastered this chipping thing yet; I’ll stick to the putter even though it’s a bit of a cop-out.”

Absolute nonsense! Says who? Well, triple Major winner Padraig Harrington for starters. He’s widely regarded by his peers as one of the very best short-game exponents in the business.

Yet when it comes to greenside shots with no obstacles to overcome, he’s gone on record to say that the first question he asks himself when he gets to the ball is, “Can I putt it?”

And if the answer is yes, he invariably will, even from beyond the fringe sometimes. Now if a short game maestro such as Padraig is intuitively leaning towards the flat stick from just off the green, what message should that be sending out to you?

Martin Laird eyeing up a putt from beyond the fringe at Torrey Pines in 2005

Martin Laird eyeing up a putt from beyond the fringe at Torrey Pines in 2005

If that ringing endorsement isn’t enough to have you whipping off the Scotty headcover whenever you find your ball on the fringe, here, in black and white terms, is why it makes so much sense.

There is no clubhead/turf interaction to factor into the strike - the single reason so many chips go wrong whether played with a sand wedge or sometimes even the safer option of a utility club.

Tom Watson employing the 'Texas Wedge' during the 2005 Senior British Open at Royal Aberdeen

Tom Watson employing the 'Texas Wedge' during the 2005 Senior British Open at Royal Aberdeen

It’s pretty hard to fat a putt, while any slightly thin contact will be far less catastrophic than with any more lofted implement.

It may take a little practice if you’re not used to it, but with a putter, all you have to judge is pace, line and how the putt will roll through the first couple of feet of fractionally longer grass.

Even then, with putters typically boasting around four degrees of loft, the ball will either be slightly airborne or merely skimming the surface just after impact from long range anyway. If you don’t believe that, watch the super slo-mo putting action on telly.

There’s no landing spot to calculate – something often overlooked by the ‘chip from the fringe’ brigade who forget they don’t possess the ability to land the ball on a sixpence.

Add a tier or two into the equation, land it in the wrong place and there’ll be further 'tears' to deal with when things turn out decidedly badly. Better than your worst putt? Definitely not.

So next time you come up against an habitual fringe chipper in the club knockout, smile an inner smile and prematurely award yourself a couple of bonus holes.

For almost however good a chipper he is, at some stage he will inevitably waste a shot or two that he wouldn’t have done armed with a putter from the fringe, edging you that little bit closer to victory.

And if you're still not convinced, at least let renowned European Tour short-game maestro, Brett Rumford, talk you through the ideal chip and run technique!

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response