When a golfer hits their ball on the putting green during a round of golf, they typically get out the putter and get to work getting the ball into the hole. Sometimes, though, that might not be the best club to get the ball closer to the hole with the next shot.
Are golfers allowed to use a club other than putter when their ball is on the putting green?
As it turns out, the answer, at least under the Rules of Golf, is yes. Under the Rules of Golf, a player can use any club on any shot from any position on the golf course. You can tee off with a putter. You can chip with a driver. You can putt with a wedge.
Golfers are also allowed to hit any kind of shot they want on the green in the interest of getting the ball closer to the hole. That means a golfer can use a wedge or an iron to chip or pitch their ball closer to the hole, even while on the putting green.
Why would a golfer not use a putter on the putting green?
Sometimes a golfer might not feel comfortable using a putter when their ball is on the putting surface. There are two situations in particular where golfers might use a club other than putter with the ball on the green.
A golfer may face a putt toward the hole that they cannot hit without having to putt the ball off the green, either through fringe or the rough, to maintain their desired line. It would potentially be easier, then, to chip the ball over that desired line and ideally land it on a path toward the hole as if the putt were starting from that spot.
A great recent example came in the 2019 US Open, when Gary Woodland found himself on the 17th green at Pebble Beach, on the opposite side of the green as the hole. Facing a near-impossible putt, Woodland decided to pitch a wedge off the putting green instead, setting up a par that ultimately helped him win his first major championship.
A golfer may also face a putt that is incredibly long, and they may feel uncomfortable trying to make a long enough stroke with the putter to get the ball close to the hole. In that case, it might be easier to pitch the ball toward the hole and try to get it to stop closer than a putt.
Of course, there are risks in trying the shot. The putting surface features the shortest grass on a golf course, meaning the lies are the tightest. There's little margin for error when using a wedge or another club other than putter on the putting green. A mistake could result in a disaster.
There's also the situation where a player could break their putter during a round out of anger, or it could malfunction and be unusable. In that case, a player will look to replace their putter with another club. Many players feel comfortable putting using the leading edge of a wedge that's struck through the top-center of the ball -- a concept known as blade putting. Other players feel better choking down on the longest iron in their bag, pressing it forward to reduce the loft and making a putting stroke.
Will your golf club allow it?
While the Rules of Golf have no problem with a golfer using a club other than putter on the putting green, many golf clubs and facilities do. Many expressly ban players from using any club other than putter while on the green, even if that means negatively affecting their score.
For example, Riviera Country Club plays host to the PGA Tour every year. Their par-3 sixth hole features a bunker in the middle of the putting surface, leading to situations where a golfer might want to chip over the bunker to get closer to the hole with their next shot. However, for the regular membership and guests, that is banned. For the PGA Tour, it's allowed.