If you’re a new golfer, you might be trying to improve your chips for the short game. The Rule of 12 for chipping can be a great asset to help you learn how to make good chips.
The Rule of 12 is a way to decide which club to use for a chip based on the desired rollout to in-flight distance. Divide the rollout distance by the in-flight distance, then subtract that number from 12. The result corresponds to the club that will perform the desired chip.
Here’s your guide to the Rule of 12 for chipping.
How-to Use the Rule of 12
Finding a straight answer about the Rule of 12 is tricky. I’ve given it to you as directly as possible: 12 minus the ratio of rollout distance to in-flight distance. If the result is 9, you use a 9 iron for the chip, or if it’s 8, you use the 8 iron, and so on. For 10, you use the pitching wedge, and 11 means you should use the sand wedge.
That’s the theoretical side of the rule. Now, let’s look at a practical example to show you how to apply it in-game. I’m using feet here, but you can use paces instead, as long as each of your paces is the same length. Because the distances only affect the ratio, units don’t matter.
In this example, the hole is about 24 feet away, and you’re just off the green. You want to chip the ball so that it flies 8 feet to get on the green, and then rolls 16 feet to get as close as possible to the hole. 16 divided by 8 is 2, and 12 minus 2 is 10. That means you’ll use a pitching wedge for the chip.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might have a chip where you’re starting out very close to the green, but your landing area is a lot farther away from the hole than you are. Let’s say the hole is 15 feet away, and you want the ball to fly 3 feet and roll the 12 remaining feet. 12 divided by 3 is 4, and 12 minus 4 is 8, so you’ll use the 8 iron.
When you need a chip to get onto the green and close to the hole, you will want to pick your landing area first. Decide where on the green you want the ball to land. This should usually be 3 to 6 feet onto the green, no matter how far away the hole is from there.
With that in mind, choose your landing spot, then measure out your distance to that spot, and the landing spot’s distance to the hole. You’re not aiming to get in the hole with the chip shot, just close enough to the hole to get a good shot in to finish.
Golf club loft
The Rule of 12 is based on the variety of lofts between golf clubs. Each club in your set should have the same swing weight, but the club heads themselves are angled differently. That means the ball gets hit at a different angle depending on which club you use for the swing.
A lower loft will make the ball fly lower but farther. A higher loft will make the ball go higher up on its flight, but it won’t cover much distance. A higher loft also means that the ball hits the ground at a harder angle, which affects the way it rolls.
For example, say you’re 3 feet off of the green, and about 20 more feet away from the hole from there.
If you used a pitching wedge for the chip, the ball wouldn’t easily make it to the safe landing area, and it wouldn’t roll far from where it landed, either. If you tried the same shot with the same energy with an 8 iron, it would be a little better, but still not great.
A 6 iron, though, with the same amount of swing, would make it onto the safe landing zone and get close enough to the hole for an easy shot to finish that hole.
That’s why the Rule of 12 is so helpful, as it was developed with those loft differences in mind to help you do just a little bit of quick math to figure out which club to use for your chip shot.
Rule of 12 chipping accuracy
If you haven’t had much experience with the Rule of 12, or you’ve heard people complaining about it or dismissing it, you might wonder whether it’s a good rule to go by. A lot of people wonder whether the Rule of 12 is accurate. I’m here to tell you that it is, and it’s a helpful tool for beginning golfers.
But if it’s accurate, then why are there so many doubters? Here are a few possible reasons for doubting, along with why those worries are unfounded.
It wasn’t always the Rule of 12. The rule was originally developed by Paul Runyan, but when he made it, it was the Rule of 11. It worked the same way but used 11 instead of 12. However, manufacturers have changed the way they made their clubs since then, which meant the rule had to be adjusted.
If you use old clubs from before that adjustment, you will want to use 11 instead of 12 in your calculations.
What club to use for chipping
If you’ve tried the Rule of 12 before but were disappointed, it may be that your technique is the problem. Every chip shot requires individual consideration when you consider how hard to hit the ball. It’ll take practice to learn to estimate the swing energy you’ll need for a shot, so practice and experience the feel of it.
Swing energy won’t affect the ratio of in-flight to roll-out. It only affects the distance that a given club will hit the ball. Practicing chipping is a matter of getting the technique right and matching the swing energy to the distance your want the ball to go. Choosing the right club is still important for the distance, but it won’t help if you don’t hit hard enough.
While practicing the Rule of 12, you want to practice using a variety of clubs to see both carry and roll once the ball lands on the green. This technique can be used with low-lofted irons like 4 and 5 irons, all the way up to your hybrid and 3 wood. The team at Red Gate Golf recently completed a blog post to help you determine What is a complete golf set.
The final problem, and probably the worst, is the danger of inaccurate interpretations of the rule. You may have seen various charts on how the rule works for the different clubs, but I’ve found that a lot of these don’t line up with the theory of the rule or practical demonstrations of it.
The solution to this problem is for you to do some experimentation yourself to see how it works in action.