Rule of 12 Chipping: Use Math to Help your Short Game

If you want to shoot lower scores every round you need to improve your short game… fast!

A good short game can salvage your round even if your ball striking is off. It can also help you go low when your ball striking is on and card some of your best rounds.

Plus, unlike your full swing, a good chipping motion doesn’t sometimes leave your game overnight. It’s a very dependable shot that is great to have in your arsenal when you miss the green and need to scramble.

But did you know there’s a science to chipping? 

That’s right, it’s something called the “Rule of 12” in golf and might just improve your chipping forever. While it’s not an actual golf rule or something you need to adhere to every round, it can have a big impact on your short game. I learned this lesson as a kid in junior golf and 20 years later it’s still stuck with me. 

Keep reading to learn more about this rule and how it can help you have more tap in putts than ever before. 

Rule of 12 in Golf

One thing is for sure, there are a lot of golf rules in the USGA handbook (too many if you ask me). Not to mention having the proper etiquette that makes golf unlike any other sport. 

So, what is the rule of 12 in chipping? While it’s not something that you’ll find in the rules of golf, it’s a unique way to think about shots around the green

If you’re like most golfers you probably don’t have an exact science to chipping. You either putt from the fringe, chip with a wedge/short iron, or play a bump and run shot with a 7 or 8-iron. But it might be time to change up your approach to chipping and have a more formal approach. 

Chip Shots: Rule of 12 Explained 

The rule of 12 in golf is a chipping technique that makes it easy to understand the relationship between loft and roll. Think about it, how many times do you hit a great chip shot but it hits the green and rolls out too much? Or, you hit it perfectly but don’t use the right loft and end up well short of the hole?

Here’s the thing, to play your best golf and not waste shots around the green, it’s vital to chip it as close as possible. The PGA Tour average from 8-feet is only about 50% make rate and the amateur percentages are much lower I imagine. Needless to say, if you want to lower your handicap and play better every round, you need shorter putts.

What is the Rule of Twelve in Chipping

To give yourself better opportunities, the rule of 12 helps you pick the right club for your chip shot based on the total distance. As you probably know, a lower lofted club will release once it hits the green. As an example, a 7-iron will roll out much more than a pitching or gap wedge if you hit it the same distance. 

But how much more is the question that most golfers ask? The rule of 12 makes it easier to understand so you can pick the right club for every chip shot. It’s based on 12 yards for the total shot (36-feet). 

Let’s take a look at how this rule works with three different golf clubs. 

Pitching Wedge (6+6) 

A PW is a great club to use around the greens. A pitching wedge has a high loft (43–48 degrees) and gets a little bit of spin but not too much (like an LW) that you have to worry about it hitting and checking up quickly. Instead, it should hit on the green, spin a little, and then release to the hole like a putt.

Using the rule of 12, a PW should land six yards, then release the next six toward the hole (50/50). It’s a great club because you can basically land it halfway between the ball and the hole.

This is why a pitching wedge is such a great club for the everyday golfer around the greens., even a tight lie. With a simple chipping stroke (which is very similar to putting) you can pop the ball on the green and start rolling like a putt. It’s easier to pick a landing zone about halfway to the cup and chip to that spot.

Of course, you also need to read the putt to account for break and factor in slope as well. If it’s uphill, you might chip it closer to 60% and if it’s a downhill chip go more towards 40%. 

8-Iron (4+8)

The next lofted club for chipping is an 8-iron. Since an 8-iron has a lot less loft, it will release a lot more once the golf ball hits the green. Therefore, you need to land the ball more towards the fringe than the hole.

If you have a 12-yard chip shot and land an 8-iron 50% of the way (like you do with pitching wedge) the ball will hit and roll well past the hole. Instead, using the rule of 12 you want to find a spot that is 4 yards (paces) from the ball and allow more room to release the hole. 

Nothing changes in terms of setup or position of the ball either. You just want to land it further back to account for more roll once it hits the green. Like a PW, you also want to consider the slope and break as well. 

6-Iron (3+9)

The last example to illustrate the rule of 12 is with a 6-iron. While most scratch golfers would never use a 6-iron for chipping, it’s not a bad idea for less experienced players as it gets the leading edge out of the way. But you will need to adjust your landing zone and it is the lowest lofted club you should use near the greens.

Remember, with a lower lofted club the ball will release to the hole more on the putting surface. Using the rule of 12, you want to land the ball three yards away from the original spot and let it release the other nine toward the hole. 


Practicing the Rule of 12 to Improve Your Short Game

If you want to start shooting lower scores and hit your golf goals fast, you need to practice your short game consistently. The good news is that it pays off like compound interest and will benefit you for years to come. 

To practice the rule of 12, grab your PW, 8-iron and 6-iron. Find a chipping green where you can practice 12 yard chip shots. Pace off the shot by walking the distance and insert a tee into the green at 6, 4, and 3 yards from the ball. 

Start by chipping your PW to the tee at the six-feet mark. Then chip the 8-iron at the 4 yard tee, and the 6-iron at the 3-yard tee. This will help you better understand how each club releases differently once it hits the green.

If you’re more of a visual person, you can also put a small cone down as well. Or, a small wash cloth to give you a clear target to chip toward as you hit each club. 

Once you get the feel for it, make sure to read the chip so you can get the break and speed together. Plus, don’t forget to factor in the slope as well. Then, set a goal to see how many you can get in a row inside 3-feet for an easy tap in on the golf course. 

Finally, remember this rule applies to the ball sitting up in a fairway lie. On the practice green, experiment how the ball reacts from a good lie in the rough. Since you won’t get as much spin, the ball will release more from the rough and why you need to use more loft.

FAQs About Chipping

Do you have more questions about chipping and using the right clubs around the greens? If so, keep reading to learn some of the most frequently asked questions and answers below.

Where do you land a chip shot?

Your landing area depends on a few factors, including the total length of the shot, how much green you have to work with, and the slope/break of the putt. 

First, start with the length of the shot by pacing off the chip from your golf ball to the hole. In this example, let’s say it’s 12 yards and slightly uphill to further explain the rule mentioned above. If you have some green to work with (but not a ton) use a pitching wedge.

Find a landing spot that is halfway between you and the hole to chip towards. If it’s uphill, you might want to land a little past your spot to account for slope. Then, go through your pre-shot routine and focus on landing the ball just past your spot. 

Hopefully, it will hit, spin a little, then release toward the cup for an easy tap in putt. 

What golf club do you use for chipping? 

It depends on how much green you have for the shot. If you have a long chip shot with tons of green you can use a putter, wedges, or short irons. While the rule of 12 does discuss chipping with a 6-iron, it’s not recommended for mid-low handicap golfers as it releases a lot.

Always remember this rule; putt first, then chip, then pitch as a last resort.

This rule will make it easier for you to pick a club around the greens and keep it lower. When you do this you’re less likely to have big misses (like a thin or flub chip) that make it nearly impossible to get up and down.

Keep it simple to improve your scrambling and save shots every single round. 


What are the three keys to a good chip shot? 

The three keys to a good chip shot are ball position, weight distribution at setup, and hand position.

First, make sure your golf ball position is in the middle to middle-back part of your stance. This will make it easier to hit down on the ball and make solid contact. Too many golfers play a chip shot too off their front foot and this kills your chances of making a good strike.

Second, make sure 60-70% of your weight is on your lead leg at address position. Paired with the ball toward your back foot, this ensures you make ball first contact. 

Lastly, make sure to get your hands slightly ahead to create forward shaft lean. This will keep the face square and ensure you hit it cleanly. Plus, it’s a good idea to raise your hands up slightly (similar to a putter) to make a simple chipping motion.

These three keys should help you hit chip shots consistently well. To learn more about pitch shots using higher lofted clubs, click here.

Final Thoughts

The rule of 12 is not an official rule of the game but a good way to better understand chipping. This is not a pitch shot where you use the most lofted club in the bag to get the ball airborne. Instead, the goal is to get the ball rolling like a putt sooner.

Read this article if you don’t understand pitching vs. chipping.

Remember, the less loft you use, the more the ball will release once it hits the green. For a 12-yard chip shot, try to keep things simple by using one of these three clubs.

  • Pitching wedge: land it 6 yards on the green
  • 8-iron: Land it 4 yards on the green
  • 6-iron: Land it 3 yards on the green

While this general rule of thumb can help make chipping easier, don’t forget to factor in break and slope too. Plus, if the ball is sitting down in the rough you will need to adjust which club as you won’t get as much spin and the ball will release more. It’s better to use a higher lofted club like a pitching, gap, or sand wedge instead. 

There is some math involved but it makes club selection easier and hopefully leads to lower scores (especially for high handicappers).

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