What Does Up and Down Mean in Golf? (Plus Tips for Success)

Have you ever been watching a PGA Tour golf tournament on TV and heard the announcers use the phrase “up and down”? 

This quick guide will explain what it means and give you some tips to help you nail more of them to improve your scores.

 

What Does Up and Down Mean in Golf?

An “up and down” occurs when a golfer needs only two strokes to get the golf ball onto the green and into the hole. “Up and down” is a phrase used to describe how good a golfer is at scrambling. The opportunity for an up and down always occurs after a golfer has missed the green in regulation (GIR).

For example, let’s say that a golfer hits an errant iron tee shot into a greenside bunker on a Par 3 hole. To achieve an “up and down”, the golfer will need to get “up” on the green with the first stroke out of the bunker and “down” into the hole with the second stroke. If the golfer needs more than two shots to get the ball into the hole, it is not a proper “up and down”.

Most golfer announcers use the “up” part of the phrase to describe a pitch shot, chip shot, or bunker shot. The “down” portion of the phrase always refers to one putt on the green. The phrase is most commonly used when a golfer is trying to save par with two really good short game shots in a row.

 

How to Make More Up and Downs

Being able to get “up and down” is an essential part of being a scratch golfer. This is because saving par and avoiding a dreaded double-bogey is just as valuable as an eagle. Here are a few tips for making more up and downs.

1. Devote an Ample Amount of Practice Time to Chip Shots

It’s crazy how most golfers will spend an hour at the driving range regularly but will never work on their chip shots. This doesn’t make a lick of sense because the quickest way to lower your handicap is to work on your short game. A good habit to establish is to not practice your full shots until you have worked on your chipping for the day.

When practicing chip shots, don’t just mindlessly hit ball after ball without a purpose. That won’t lead to lower scores on the golf course! Check out these chipping practice drills if you need some ideas on how to properly work on your chip shots.

You don’t even need to be at the driving range to try some of the best chipping drills out there. You can try chipping some small coins in your backyard or on the carpet in your living room. Just make sure you get permission from your wife or girlfriend first 😁

Chipping a small object like a coin will make chipping a golf ball seem easy by comparison. This drill is a great way to make better contact more often with the center of the clubface.

2. Work on a Wide Variety of Chip Shots

If you want to start making more up and downs, you need more than one go-to chip shot in your arsenal. There are three different chip shots that all golfers need to learn: bump & run, flop shot, and lofted chip.

Bump & Run

This style of chip shot should be the go-to for beginner golfers and high handicappers. A bump and run is a low trajectory shot that rolls out nicely without a great deal of backspin.

To execute a proper bump & run chip shot, use a golf club with less loft than a typical wedge. Most folks like to use an 8-iron for these types of shots.

The best way to hit a bump & run is to play the ball off the back foot in your stance and swing the club with a putting stroke. This will eliminate the wrist hinge that causes those awful “chunked” or “bladed” chip shots.

Flop Shot

The flop shot is tough to master but it can come in handy when you are in the rough and trying to chip over a sand trap. A flop shot should fly high in the air but land softly near the pin.

Most golfers prefer to use a sand wedge or lob wedge when trying to pull off a flop shot. Ideally, you want to use a wide stance with 70 to 80% of your weight on your front foot. Play the ball off your left heel with no forward shaft lean.

Lofted Chip

Have you ever watched a PGA Tour pro hit a high chip shot that lands ever so softly on the green? That’s exactly what a lofted chip shot is.

A key to hitting lofted chip shots is to keep a constant speed on both the backswing and the downswing. You can play the ball in the middle of your stance or even slightly forward if you like.

Oddly enough, you want to slice this type of shot, which makes it similar to a bunker shot. As with the flop shot, most golfers prefer to use either a sand wedge or a lob wedge for lofted chip shots.

3. Work Tirelessly to Improve Your Putting Accuracy

Ever hit a great bunker shot from a fried egg lie and then miss a short putt that costs you an up and down? It’s incredibly frustrating, but it happens to all golfers at times. A good way to make more up and downs is to improve your accuracy on short putts.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure you are spending at least 25% of your practice time on the putting green. If you’re pushing or pulling a lot of your short putts, try out Tiger’s Gate Putting Drill (made famous by Tiger Woods, of course). Here’s how it works:

  • Stand three to four feet away from the hole
  • Take two tees and make a “gate” that is slightly wider than your putter’s head
  • Try to make 5 putts in a row with only your right hand
  • Do the same routine with your left hand
  • Now try to make 10 putts in a row with your normal putting grip

Here are some other putting drills that will help dial in your putting stroke and help you make more up and downs. Remember, the putter is the most important club in your golf bag. Make it your biggest asset instead of your biggest liability.

 

 

Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with sports for over 30 years. He's been an avid golfer for more than 10 years and is obsessed with watching the Golf Channel and taking notes on a daily basis. He also holds a degree in Sports Psychology.