Chipping is one of the most challenging aspects of golf, and it’s really difficult to get it right. However, beginner golfers and high handicappers can benefit from something known as the rule of 12 to improve their short game around the greens.
But what exactly is the rule of 12 in golf? Why is it beneficial? And is it really accurate?
In the sections that follow, we explain everything you need to know about the rule of 12 in golf and illustrate how you can enhance your short game with a few simple steps.
- What is the Rule of 12 in Golf?
- How Does the Rule of 12 Work?
- Do Pro Golfers Use the Rule of 12?
- Is the Rule of 12 Calculation Accurate?
- Is there a Better Way to Work Out Chipping Roll?
- How Do You Judge Chipping Distances?
- How Do You Get More Loft When Chipping?
- What About the USGA Rule 12 Relating to Bunkers?
What is the Rule of 12 in Golf?
In golf, the rule of 12 is a chipping technique that introduces the precise relationship between the amount of roll you will be able to achieve on a shot and the loft of the golf club in your hand.
The number 12 refers to the yards that you can expect the ball to carry after impact. When you use a club with a lower loft, the ball will stay in the air for less time and then roll towards the hole. This type of shot is known as a chip and run.
When you use a higher lofted club, the ball will fly higher and stay airborne for longer. Once the ball returns to the ground, it won’t roll as far due to the extra elevation.
It’s really important to consider roll and carry distance when you’re choosing the right wedge for an upcoming shot. You will need to think about things like hazards in front of you, your lie, and also the firmness of the ground before choosing the right wedge to use.
How Does the Rule of 12 Work?
Fundamentally, the rule of 12 enables golfers to understand the concept of chipping. Because every golf club has a different loft, it’s really important to consider how the ball is likely to carry when you execute a chip shot.
The best way to understand how the rule of 12 works is to illustrate it with an example. If you pick a six-iron out of the bag to play a shot around the green, you can expect it to fly around three yards, and it will then roll approximately nine yards towards the green.
A pitching wedge, on the other hand, is likely to fly six yards and then roll an extra six yards towards the green. In other words, the higher the loft of the club, the more it will fly and the less it will roll, and vice versa.
So, if you’re just short of the green, the lip of the putting surface is flat, and you have a lot of green to work with, a chip and run with a six-iron is an ideal shot to play, as it will roll right down towards the cup.
Most golfers practice the rule of 12 out on the range to perfect their distances, as it helps enormously as far as club selection is concerned out on the course.
Do Pro Golfers Use the Rule of 12?
There’s no doubt that pro golfers use some variation of the rule of 12 when chipping. But at the elite level of the game, players can focus on the feel of the golf club around the green and don’t need to worry too much about the exact distances as explained in the rule of 12.
This is because pro golfers have all of their distances down to a tee and know exactly how to execute a range of shots in and around the green.
If you’ve ever watched a live golf tournament, you’ve almost certainly watched on in awe as pro golfers have executed chip shots to perfection!
So, while pro golfers undoubtedly have the distances in their mind, the rule of 12 is perfect for beginner golfers and higher handicappers, as it’s an excellent way to take some of the guesswork out of club selection, particularly when you’re working on your short game around the green.
Is the Rule of 12 Calculation Accurate?
The concept and calculation behind the rule of 12 are accurate. The key is to pick a landing area between your ball and the pin before executing your chip shot. Then, when you have your distances in mind, it’s much easier to choose the right club for the upcoming shot.
A mistake that many beginner golfers make is that unless you’re able to generate huge amounts of spin, it’s nigh on impossible to land the ball close to the pin and make it stick.
If you try and land the ball by the pin, it will almost certainly roll past and potentially off the green.
Therefore, start by taking into account the lie of the land and the weather conditions before using the rule of 12 to consider which club will help your ball roll towards, not past, the pin.
Although the rule of 12 calculation might deviate slightly depending on various factors, it’s the best way to practice your chipping and to improve your club selection around the green.
As is the case with everything in golf, the more you practice your chipping, the more accurate you will be when you get up to the side of the green.
Is there a Better Way to Work Out Chipping Roll?
For beginner golfers, the rule of 12 is arguably the best way to work out chipping roll. It helps you understand the dynamics behind chipping around the green and takes out much of the guesswork surrounding your short game.
When you become more experienced and improve your chipping accuracy, you can work out chipping roll without relying on the rule of 12.
In golf, this is typically known as ‘feel’ and means that you can choose the right club and execute an appropriate shot based upon what you expect the shot to feel like.
You can then accurately execute your chip shot down towards the hole without worrying too much about the distances because you instinctively know roughly where to pitch the ball so it rolls down towards the pin.
Of course, having a feel for the right chip shot to play requires practice and experience and isn’t something that you can learn overnight! This is why the rule of 12 is such a useful method as you learn to improve your game.
How Do You Judge Chipping Distances?
To accurately judge chipping distances in golf, you need to take various things into account. Firstly is the distance you are from the pin. Clubs with high loft can only travel so far, so you might need to opt for a lower lofted club if you need the ball to run further down towards the pin.
Next, you need to take into account the weather conditions. If the ground is soft and wet, a chip and run isn’t the best option, as the ball will get caught up in the grass on the way to the flag.
In this instance, a high-flighted chip shot would work best, as you can land it closer to the flag, getting the ball to stop in the process.
Another thing you need to think about is the natural contours of the green. If the pin is at the back of the green on an upslope, you can be confident that a pitch and run is a great shot selection, as you have lots of green to work with, and the ball will naturally come to a stop.
However, if the green slopes in different directions and you only have a small landing area, it might be better to go in higher with your approach.
When you think about all these factors, it’s little surprise that so many beginners and recreational golfers think that chipping is one of the hardest parts of the game. The key is to practice out on the range, as this will help you improve your short game considerably.
How Do You Get More Loft When Chipping?
The best way to get more loft when chipping is to pick the right club from your bag. Clubs with the highest loft – typically sand and lob wedges for most players – will help you generate a high ball flight and land the ball softly on the green.
When you opt for a pitching wedge or an iron around the green, the ball won’t fly anywhere near as high as a higher lofted wedge.
Also, you will need to adapt your swing considerably when using an iron for chipping, as you can’t execute a full swing, or the ball will go too far.
Once you have the correct club in your hands, you can let it do all the hard work as far as loft is concerned. Higher lofted clubs are designed to fly high and roll less than clubs with lower loft, so you don’t need to do a great deal to achieve the desired ball flight.
What About the USGA Rule 12 Relating to Bunkers?
The USGA’s rule 12 governs what you can and can’t do when your ball is in the sand. The rule stipulates what a bunker is and when your ball is deemed to be bunkered. After all, there are other areas of sand on the course that aren’t bunkers, particularly on links courses.
Checkout the video below from SwingU about this important rule:
One of the most important aspects of rule 12 to know is that you cannot place your club on the ground in the bunker at the point of address. While you can rest your club behind the ball when you’re preparing an iron shot, you’re not allowed to do this in a bunker.
Rule 12 also stipulates which objects you can and can’t move in the bunker, as well as what happens when your ball finds the bunker wall or a grassy surface within the sand.
It’s not to be confused with the rule of 12, which is a technique used for practicing your chipping, but it’s just as important to learn and understand.
The rule of 12 in golf is an excellent way of improving your short game in and around the green. So many beginner golfers fall into the trap of trying to land the ball too close to the pin when executing chip shots, which leads to the ball shooting past the pin.
When you consider the rule of 12, you can pick the right club from your bag for the shot in question, and you give yourself the best chance of executing the perfect chip shot.
Make sure you spend some time out on the range practicing the rule of 12, and you will see significant improvements in your short game in no time at all.