What Does Up And Down Mean In Golf?

It’s inevitable that at some point in your golfing journey you will come across the term “up-and-down”. So, just exactly what does “up-and-down” mean in golf?

While it can be a relative description of one’s golfing game at a particular time, it’s also a part of the game that consists of a combination of certain types of plays.

In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what “up-and-down” is and even how it can play a vital role in improving your golf scores.

What is “Up-and-down” in Golf?

“Up-and-down” is when a player has missed Green in Regulation (GIR) on a hole, gets on the green with a shot that follows, and then goes on to one-putt the hole.

Simply put, the golfer gets “up” onto the green with an approach shot, then holes the ball “down” in the hole with the putt that follows. The “up” is therefore typically, but not limited to, a short chip shot, pitch shot, or even a bunker shot around the green, while the “down” is always the one putt that comes after.

More often than not, getting “up-and-down” would mean that you are saving par or a bogey and avoiding those dreaded doubles, triples, and even worse. Thus, it can be seen as an essential that could help significantly in lowering scores.

How to “Up-and-down” More Often

There are a number of things you can do to improve your “up-and-down” play that will ultimately make you a better golfer overall – and who doesn’t want to be a better player?

As “up-and-downing” consists of important aspects of the short game, it’s worth the effort to consider giving more attention to this area of your game when you’re out practicing on the range. But how?

Learn different types of chip shots!

By having a variety of chip and pitch shots you’re able to play, you would be able to make better decisions in the type of shot you choose to play depending on the situation out on the course, naturally.

These are the three main types of shots to learn to play from around the green if you would like to up-and-down more often.

Bump and run – a chip shot with a less lofted golf club such as an 8-iron for example. Learn the bump and run here.

Lofted chip – a chip shot with a more lofted club to make the ball stop quicker. A good tutorial on how to play the perfect chips can be found here.

Flop shot – a shot to play when there is virtually no green to work with and/or when you need to get over a hazard or sand trap. A great how-to on golf’s most sought-after shot can be read here.

Mastering these three shots will put you closer to the hole more often and will put you in a much better position to hole putts on the first attempt.

Speaking of Putting…

It would be a good idea to work on practicing your putting in conjunction with the above-mentioned chip shots – there is no point in nailing the chip just to fluff the putt and not getting the “up-and-down”.

Because the goal of your “up” shot is to get as close to the hole as possible, it would make sense to practice putts from this range as well. “What is the range?” we hear you ask. We’d suggest anything from within 10-feet as a realistic objective for a simple “down” putt.

Putting is an area of the game where most people tend to spend a large number of shots, sometimes without actually realizing it.

In a perfect world, the perfect round will consist of 72 shots on a par 72 course. 36, or exactly half, of those shots, would be putts. So, it’s definitely worth putting in some more practice on the putting greens.

Try the 3-6-9 drill to improve your putting from the 10-feet range and you will see a whole lot more putts dropping on the course.

Adding “Up-and-down” to Your Game

Naturally, “up-and-down” will form part of anyone’s game – even the best professional golfers battle to have a consistent GIR percentage. Therefore, each and every golfer can benefit by practicing their short game and, in turn, getting up and down more.

That said, there are many golfers who can add “up-and-downing” as a strategic tactic to their golf game or strategy in order to lower their scores or handicaps. Let us explain…

For most beginners, short hitters, and high-handicappers, hitting the green in regulation from 150+ yards out can prove to be quite difficult. It’s much more likely for the average golfer to get the ball within 10 feet from just around the green, and then making the putt, than it is from hitting the target from far out.

The tactic can work like this: instead of trying to hit the green from 200 yards out with a 3, 4, or 5 iron, rather intend to get it close to the green with an easier-to-hit iron. This will normally also make it easier to stay out of harm’s way as you are able to take the hazards out of play.

Assuming that you’ve got your short game dialed in, even in the worst cases you will walk off the green with only a bogey. Wouldn’t that do wonders for your game? Just by moving the majority of your practicing to your short game rather than the driver or iron-play.

The Most Memorable “UP-AND-DOWN”

Throughout history, there have been some “up-and-downs” in the game with greater significance than others.

Arguably the most famous up-and-down is that of Constantino Rocca in the 1995 Open at St. Andrews. Rocca needed to go “up-and-down” to tie for a play-off for the title against John Daly.

With his chip, Rocca completely duffed the shot, leaving him a long, impossible-looking putt from just off the fringe. Against all odds, Rocca made that putt and was able to advance into the playoff (which he went on to lose against Daly). Watch the drama for yourself in this video!

Herein this lies the beauty of the up-and-down. Even though it wasn’t in regulation, or even in a conventional standard, but it still only counted as two strokes.

Final Thoughts

Not only can you explain to someone that you need an “up-and-down” to save your par the next time you play, but you can use the play to better your game and shoot lower scores as well.

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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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