What Is The Rule of 12 In Golf Chipping?

Introduction

We have a couple seasoned instructors on staff here at Golfer’s Authority.  Over a beer the other day, I asked them what the most important part of the game was for amateurs.  Without any hesitation, they both said chipping and pitching.  Furthermore, they insisted it was the part of the game that amateurs struggle the most with.

Their logic makes sense.  Just think about your own game.  How many greens in regulation do you hit in an average round?  Is it 13 or 14?  Probably not.  That’s what Tour Pros average. 

That means you’re missing quite a few greens during the round.  As a result, you end up with a lot of pitches and chips.  And if you’re going to score, you have to execute these shots if you’re going to give yourself a reasonable chance to save par. 

Eventually, they told me about the Rule of 12 in chipping. . .

What is the Rule of 12 in Chipping?

Fundamentally, the Rule of 12 helps you understand the relationship between the loft of the club and how much a chip or pitch will roll. 

The system operates using 12 as the number of yards you want the ball to travel on a chip or pitch.  When you use a lower lofted club to chip, the ball stays in the air for a short distance and rolls the majority of the way to the hole.  Conversely, higher lofted clubs fly farther and higher, and don’t roll out as much. 

This simple system is a great way for beginners to tangibly wrap their minds around the basic concepts of chipping.  With enough practice, amateurs can get a feel for how hard to hit different clubs, how far they can expect them to carry, and how much they’ll roll out.

What to Expect With Different Clubs

Again, the Rule of 12 operates under the assumption that you’re trying to hit chip shots 12 yards with different clubs. 

When you don’t have a long way to carry a shot and plenty of green to let it roll out, using a lower lofted club, like a seven-iron is the best choice.  With this club, you can roughly expect the ball to carry three yards and roll the next nine.

For shots where you have to carry the shot a little farther, a club with a little more loft is a good option – maybe a pitching wedge or nine-iron.  A twelve-yard shot might carry five or six yards and roll the remainder of the way.

Occasionally, you’ll encounter shots that require you to carry the ball most of the way to the hole and stop it quickly.  For these shots, a sand wedge or lob wedge is the best choice.  Depending on the firmness of the green, this type of shot might carry eight or nine yards and only roll three or four.

How Accurate is the Rule of 12?

Early reports from both instructors and students are that the Rule of 12 is fairly accurate.  Is it foolproof?  Of course not as conditions at every course are different. 

However, when you practice this method on a flat surface, you can quickly gain the feel and trust you need to execute basic chips and pitches.

How Do I Practice the Rule of 12 for Chipping?

Putting this method into action is pretty simple.  All you need are a practice green, a handful of balls, some tees, and your three favorite chipping clubs (maybe seven-iron, pitching wedge, and sand wedge). 

The first step is to examine the green for a relatively flat spot where you can hit a 12-yard shot with your lowest lofted club.  Put a tee down just off the green to mark your first location.

Find another hole 12 yards away where you can carry your next lofted club five or six yards and let it roll to hole.  Mark this spot with a tee. 

Lastly, choose another 12-yard shot where you have to carry the ball most of the way with your most lofted club.  Put a tee down here too. 

Now that you have each spot marked, spend some time hitting shots with your three different clubs.  Before long, you’ll begin to develop a sense of how hard you need to swing, how the ball comes off the clubface, and how it reacts when it hits the green.

Can I Use More Than Three Clubs to Chip?

Absolutely!  The great thing about chipping is that you can get as creative as you want, and that means using different clubs.

When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to use three clubs to develop your touch and technique.  Once you feel comfortable with these, experiment with some other clubs to see what works.

Conclusion

Every golfer wants to shoot lower scores.  The problem is most folks spend all their practice time on the driving range, and not nearly enough time working on their short game.  In reality, learning to chip and pitch proficiently is the fastest way to get those scores down where you want them. 

If you’re new to the game, or your short game could use some serious improvement, give the Rule of 12 a try.  It’s simple to do, and highly effective.

Paul Liberatore

Paul Liberatore

Founder of Golfers Authority

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