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Should You Putt or Chip From the Fringe?
Know When to Keep the Ball Down

Not a Decision to Take Lightly

Learn how to decide whether or not you should putt from the fringe.  Putting From the Fringe

Making the decision to putt or chip from the fringe is not as easy as it may sound. I'm sure you've heard the age old advice of "always putt it when you can". While that's great advice a lot of players over use this advice and always putt the ball when it's on the fringe. Unfortunately, that might not be the best choice and putting the ball can often be way more challenging. Just like most shots in golf you have to take in a lot of factors before making an educated decision. While a putter does have the advantage of keeping the ball on the ground, sometimes it is better to get a little loft. Yes, keeping the ball down and not messing with getting it airborne and all the things that can affect the ball once it leaves the ground is the safe route usually, sometimes you have obstacles in your way. In this case using a club that has just a little bit of loft like a fairway wood or a hybrid may be the better option. If you need to stop the ball rather quickly, a club with more loft that will spin like a wedge may be the best choice.

Evaluating 3 Factors Will Help You Decide

So how do you decide whether or not to putt the ball or chip the ball? Assessing 3 important factors will do the trick.

1) Can you get the putter on the ball? This is not so easy to determine for some players. If there is long grass behind the ball and your putter is going to get caught in it on the takeaway or even on the downswing then you have your answer. Do not attempt to putt the ball in this situation. You are much better off "putting" it with a fairway wood or hybrid that can slide through the grass or even putting it with a sand wedge. The easy option however is to chip it where you can hit it with a downward blow.

2) Is there a lot of fringe to go through? This is probably the easiest of the 3 to determine. If you have a couple of feet of fringe; piece of cake. If you have 5 feet or more; not so simple. The more fringe you have the more difficult it is going to be to decide how hard to hit the shot. It gets tricky because you have to hit it hard enough to get through the fringe, but then you don't want it running off of the green.

3) How smooth is the fringe? To determine this you just need to look real closely at the grass between your ball and the green. Look for any big bumps, old ball marks, tall tufts of grass or anything else that could cause your ball to bounce or slow it up. You also need to look at the grain. If you determine that the blades of grass are coming towards you then you know that they are going to slow the ball down. If they are going with you it's likely to be a lot more smooth swinging into the ball and the ball will roll more quickly and smoothly.

If after all your calculations your decision is to put the ball, perhaps the biggest challenge is guessing how much speed to put on the putt. Perhaps the biggest mistake made here is not enough speed where the player doesn't get the ball through the fringe or it simply comes up way short. The goal obviously is to hit the ball firm enough to get through the fringe and then roll smoothly to the hole. This will require a few extra practice swings than normal. While making your practice strokes stare down the hole. Get a good feel for what a normal putt that distance would feel like and then add just enough extra to get through the fringe. Remember, sometimes it's easier to chip if there is too much fringe to putt through or it is too bumpy.

The Situation:

You are trying to decide if you should putt or chip the ball from the fringe.

The Solution:

To determine whether it's best to putt or chip the ball from the fringe look at 3 factors:

  • Are you able to get your putter on the ball without getting caught in the long grass?
  • Is there a lot of fringe to contend with?
  • How smooth is the fringe that you have to putt over?

Once you make the decision to putt remember it's important to make enough practice swings to get a good feel for getting the ball through the fringe with enough roll to get to the hole. Thinking of a normal putt from that distance and then adding a little bit more power to get through the fringe is a good rule of thumb.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
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