With HISTORY MAKER GOLF in the hands of gamers for the last couple months, probably no aspect of the game has had more interest and inquires than the chips! I thought it would be helpful to compose some thoughts on the subject from my perspective as the game's designer.
Short of saying there is NO "right" or "wrong" way to use chips, let me just say that there are multiple strategies which can work, or fail! For many of the scenarios I'll be discussing, there will be situations where chip usage will/won't be advantageous. Hopefully, mapping out these ideas will provide MORE clarity, rather than less!
As an aside, much of this discussion will be in a "game" context, rather than a "simulation" context. That is, the use of chips will be described in terms of how it benefits the gamer. If you were hoping for a guide to make, say, Tiger Woods use chips more aggressively than Ernie Els, this article won't be much of a help, sorry. Someone may suggest creating profiles for real-life golfers based on their risk-taking or risk-aversion, with a die roll range that determines whether they spend a chip or not—I'm going to politely pass on that! If there's someone who is familiar with the tendencies of golfers who would like to tackle that sort of project, great! Not me.
Let's start with a question sent to me by John C. Weber, who has been playing out a series of awesome tournaments with both fictional and real-life golfers, posting his results on the PLAAY Games Delphi Forum. John wrote, "It seems to me the most mis-interpreted rule is the 'can't spend a chip to earn a chip' rule, given that all the examples apply to the same shot, not a later shot on the same hole."
To illustrate what John's getting at, let's say you spend a red chip to cede control on a CORDIAL hole, and end up with a CLUTCH putt for BIRDIE. Normally, you'd earn either a blue chip for making it or a red chip for missing—but in this case, NO chip would be awarded. (Note that this would also be the case if you chose to spend a chip to improve the golfer's ability on a CLUTCH putt, say, from neutral to GOLD: his chance of making the putt would be increased, but—whether he made the putt or missed it—no chip would be awarded.
Or, suppose you spend two chips to gain control of a DAUNTING hole. On the golfer's tee shot from the main chart, he gets a "Gallery Cheers" result. Normally, that would earn him a blue chip—but NOT in this case.
Or, maybe you spend a chip to purchase a black die "1." You roll a white die "5," which gives control to the hole and you end up sending your first shot into the rough. However, you have a green die "1," which generates a WOW! result from the hazard chart. Normally, that would earn a blue chip—but NOT in this case.
Having said all this, I must emphasize that if you occasionally forget this rule and award chips (heck, even if you frequently forget!), it's NOT going to mess up the game. Golf is a funny game of quirks and breaks, and it's my opinion that an unearned chip can easily be "imagineered" to be part of the narrative. So, don't sweat it.
This would probably be a good place to point out that you CAN spend a chip after having earned one from an earlier shot on the same hole, provided you DIDN'T spend one to get there. For example, you roll a white die "1" giving you control, and from the main chart you get a "Gallery Cheers" result from the tee. Blue chip. You also get a green die "3," and you have the HERO quality, meaning it's an EASY putt for BIRDIE. You can then spend the blue chip to convert it to a GIMME putt for BIRDIE—IF you want to.
From here, it seems like the natural next question to address is, "When to Spend?"
I've played countless rounds of HMG, and even now I'm finding it a challenge to organize my thoughts on this. For me, it often comes down to "gut" rather than "science." Like real golf, a lot of it is based on your confidence level at the moment. I can think of many times when I've spent a blue chip to improve a MODERATE putt for par to EASY, simply because I was struggling and felt like I REALLY needed to make par. Other times, I've banked chips and attempted a MODERATE or even a DIFFICULT putt for BIRDIE just because I had a hunch I might make it! During my recent visit to Arizona, Al Wilson and I played a few rounds of HMG head-to-head. There were several times when I heard Al say, "Really!?" as I spent (or didn't spend) a blue chip. So, there are no hard-and-fast answers here.
One thing that should definitely be taken into consideration, though, is the difficulty of the course ahead of you. Ideally, you want to have some chips in reserve as you tackle the back nine at Augusta or St. Andrews. It's always nice to have a couple chips at the ready as you tee off on the final hole in a tight tournament. Sometimes this means you hoard a chip and accept a more difficult putt early in the round so that you have that extra focus available late, when presumably the need could very well be crucial.
Then again, there are times when there is "no tomorrow," and chips must be spent to stay in contention. I'm thinking specifically of a golfer who's, say, six strokes back of the leader facing a DIFFICULT putt for PAR on the third or fourth hole. Miss that one, and you're off the table. So again, there are no hard-and-fast answers here.
But we have to start somewhere. All things considered, it seems best to look at the question of "When to Spend" in terms of the different colors of chips, blue and red.
The game is set up so that the majority of chip decisions you'll make involve blue chips. We've sort of jump-started the discussion in the previous paragraphs, and in the interest of time and web space I won't re-hash covered ground. But it should be clear that spending a blue chip from the tee has benefits—and consequences (namely, spending a chip at the tee precludes earning one later on that hole). A chip spent at the end of a hole has fewer ramifications than one spent early. So think carefully before you spend!
The lists that follow are not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive, but rather to serve as idea-starters. What are the best and worst ways to spend chips in HMG? Let's discuss...
BEST Ways to Spend BLUE Chips...
• Converting EASY putts into GIMME putts for BIRDIE. In my opinion, this is the best use of a blue chip. Your odds of sinking the putt and gaining a stroke increase from 66% to 97%.
• Gaining control of a DAUNTING or SEMI-DAUNTING hole. While nothing is guaranteed, spending a chip to gain control of a DAUNTING hole is usually a smart move. A hole with the DAUNTING quality will typically generate perhaps 10% birdie and 30% bogey or more. Gaining control of the hole, especially with a very good golfer, can practically reverse those percentages.
• CLUTCH putts for poor or average putters. This is a smart move for two reasons. First, it improves the golfer's chances of sinking the putt by 33%. Second, it eliminates the red chip that normally would be earned if the putt were missed. A SEMI-RUST putter has a 66% chance of missing a CLUTCH putt and earning a red chip. Spending a chip reduces the chance of missing to 33% and eliminates the chance for a red chip. The effect is similar for a normal/neutral putter, the difference being that a normal putter foregoes a better chance (50%) of sinking the CLUTCH putt without using a chip, and in so doing, loses an opportunity to earn a second blue chip.
• Black die "1" on a DIRECT green. This is more a personal favorite than an empirically-endorsed move, but think about it: On par 5 holes, when the golfer controls, dice rolls 1-2-3, 1-2-5, and 1-2-6 will all generate an EAGLE chance. If you buy a black die "1" here, you'll hit the green in two and have a shot at an EAGLE putt on green-silver combos of 23, 25 and 26—that's a 1 out of 6 chance. If you've got a second chip to spend here, you'll be looking at an EASY putt for EAGLE! Now, of course, this can all be undone if you buy the black die "1" and then roll a white die "5" or "6!" You could spend a chip to gain control, and a second chip for the black die "1" but then you'd have no extra focus for the putt, which would then be MODERATE. So it's a calculated risk—but, that's golf!
WORST Ways to Spend Blue Chips...
• One of the worst ways to spend blue chips is, well, to NOT spend them! In other words, there's no sense in going to the clubhouse with a fist full of blue chips. So, as you draw near the end of the round it may be wise to adopt a "use 'em or lose 'em" approach. Personally, I try not to have more than three or four chips on hand for any golfer.
• In some cases, reducing the difficulty of a BIRDIE putt doesn't have a generous payoff. It makes sense to reduce from EASY to GIMME, as your chance of making the putt balloon from 66% to 97%, a 30% boost. Reducing from DB DIFFICULT to DIFFICULT, however, only increases your chances about 8% and it's still a long shot.
Personally, I feel like it's best to be rid of red chips as quickly as possible. Even so, that doesn't mean it's always best to divest yourself of them immediately, at any cost.
BEST Ways to Spend RED Chips...
• Ceding control to a DAUNTING hole. If a hole has a control of 5, there's a pretty good chance the hole is going to control anyway. The downside here is that you lose the chance for the white die "6" which, if rolled and "played safe," cancels out the red chip AND gains an easy (and much-appreciated) par. This is why I don't roll the white die, BTW, "just to see what would have happened." Too often, it seems, I roll a white die "6."
• Downgrading a CLUTCH putt. This may surprise you, but in many ways this can be a good move. Let's say the golfer is facing a CLUTCH putt for BIRDIE, neutral for putting, with a 1-3 success range. Spending a chip here makes him RUST, with a "1" required to sink the birdie putt. But, it also eliminates the chance to earn a second red chip by missing the clutch putt. (Remember,"you can't spend a chip to earn a chip.") Thus, this move could be thought of as a "play safe" lay-up for par. Now, at the risk of over-explaining things, if you don't spend the red chip, and you make the CLUTCH putt, the blue chip you earn will cancel out the red one you had, AND you get a BIRDIE. But if you miss, you'll now have TWO red chips.
• Impacting a DIFFICULT putt for BIRDIE. Playing a red chip here only reduces your success rate by 8%. Or, to put it another way, if you roll a 2 through 6 on your putt, you'd have the same result with/without the chip and on a putt roll of "1" you still make it half the time (decided die bullet). Of course, if you miss, you're facing a DIFFICULT putt for PAR. Can you play a red chip to make the putt DB DIFFICULT and then "play safe?" Yes. And that might be a very good idea.
• Impacting a GIMME putt for PAR. Playing a GIMME as an EASY putt for par adds a scant 2% chance of failure.
It's also worth mentioning that spending a red chip to buy a black die "6" can make sense under certain circumstances. For example, a neutral or even DAUNTING hole with high control, but one which has either an advantageous path to the right of the fairway, or few "killer" hazards (i.e., water or out of bounds).
WORST Ways to Spend RED Chips...
• Impacting a GIMME putt for BIRDIE. Playing a red chip here to convert to an EASY putt for BIRDIE reduces your chance from 97% to 66%. Now, maybe early in a final round, this might make sense. (In fact, I do recall an event where Sergio Garcia got a Tourney Day result of six red chips to start the round, and I spent two of them on the first hole converting an EASY putt for BIRDIE to DIFFICULT.) It certainly makes sense if you end up rolling a "1" through "4." But it seems to me there are better ways to get rid of a red chip.
• Ceding control to a DB CORDIAL hole. It's not exactly a "bad" way to spend a red chip, but it's not as attractive an option as it may seem. First, you'll lose the white die "6" auto-birdie. Personally, I'd rather gain a stroke on the leader and hold on to my red chip (for later dispensation). Second, if you land on a GolfCam symbol, you'll lose the opportunity to gain a chip through making a CLUTCH putt. (That might be a good thing, though, if you're a poor putter!) Third, by ceding control you'll usually have about a 60% chance of landing in a hazard or rough, with a best-case scenario of saving par.
In playing the game, I've encountered a couple opportunities for creative chip management...
• Using a BLUE Chip on the SECOND Putt. Let's say you're facing a DB DIFFICULT putt for PAR, and you have a blue chip. You could spend that chip and increase your odds of sinking the putt from 16% to 33%. OR, you could attempt the DB DIFFICULT putt without the chip. If you sink it, you saved par AND earned a second blue chip! If you miss, THEN you spend the chip, improving the DIFFICULT putt for BOGEY to MODERATE. It works similarly with BIRDIE putts, albeit with a lesser chance of sinking the first putt.
• Using a BLUE Chip to Attack the Green. Whenever my golfer has earned a third chip, I will always consider Attacking the Green and stealing a birdie at the next white die "6" opportunity. No guarantees, but with two chips to spend, I like the odds of getting to the green with a (converted) EASY or GIMME putt for birdie. The position of the golfer relative to the leader and upcoming course terrain, of course, are always are considerations here.
As we've discussed, chips can be used to set the black die result from the tee. A blue chip can be used to purchase a black die "1" or "6," a red chip can only purchase a black die "6." (Incidentally, for future editions, I may simplify this rule to say that a blue chip can be used to purchase ANY black die number; although I can't think of a reason why you would buy, say, a "2" or "3," there may, in fact, be scenarios where it would actually make sense.)
For holes with a high control number, buying a black die "1" is akin to attempting to pull the shot to the left side of the course, while buying a black die "6" represents an attempt to push the ball to the right. In both cases, the idea would be that you're trying to either avoid particularly difficult hazard threats, or increase your chance of landing in advantageous circumstances (i.e., a CORDIAL square symbol).
For holes with a low control number, buying a black die "1" is akin to playing aggressively for birdie or eagle. This is because of the way I structured the main charts, with the better results on the top half of the boards, which are guided by lead die "1" results. It stands to reason that purchasing a black die "1" will guarantee that you'll get a lead die one result, effectively eliminating any result on the game board below 1-6-6, IF the golfer controls.
For holes with a low control number, buying a black die "6" has a different, and NOT inverse, effect. It's possible to buy a black die "6" and still get a good result from the main chart. However, you are reducing your chances of a lead die "1" by 33%. It's intended that buying a black die "6" represents a golfer taking a deep breath and re-setting with a more relaxed swing, "blowing off stream" as it were. The mechanic was included as a way for red-chipped golfers to respond to their "funk."
NOTE that spending a chip to purchase a black die does not negate the white die result. That is, whether the hole controls or the golfer controls, the purchased die goes into effect. But, what about a white die "6" result? Originally, I felt that the "blue chip for patience" option should remain intact. However, as I'm writing this, I'm filtering this concept through the "can't spend a chip to earn a chip" blanket rule. Specifically, should you get a blue chip for patience if you roll a white die "6" after having spent a chip to purchase a black die "1" or "6?" In the interest of consistency, I'm going to say no. I realize that I may have said otherwise in an e-mail or forum post. Executive decision here! In this situation, you'd still choose to "play safe" or "attack the green" but no blue chip would be earned for playing safe, IF you spent a chip to purchase a black die "1" or "6." As I think about it, it makes sense: spending the chip to purchase a black die represents aggressive play. So if a white die "6" occurs, it only makes sense that you'd "attack the green."
I hope this article has been of some help in illustrating the use (and mis-use) of chips in HMG. Not everything decision is clear-cut, and none are completely without risk. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!