The Up-and-Down in Golf

What It Means, How to Track Them, How to Improve Yours

A young golfer chips the ball for an up and down during competition at The Drive, Chip and Putt Regional Championships at Torrey Pines Golf Course
This golfer is trying to get up-and-down from just off the green, chipping the ball from the fringe. Kent Horner/Getty Images for DC&P Championship

The golf term "up and down" refers to the act of taking just two strokes to get your golf ball into the hole when your ball is resting around the green or in a greenside bunker. If you accomplish that, then you've achieved an "up and down."

Imagine you've struck your tee shot and also hit the approach to the green, but your approach shot comes up just short of the putting surface. If you make an up-and-down, however, you can still make par. What you need to do is get the ball up onto the green with the first stroke, and then down into the cup with the second strokes. Two strokes from off the green to get into the hole equals and up-and-down.

Technically, you can use "up and down" to describe any two strokes that result in the ball going into the hole. But in common usage, "up and down" is almost exclusively applied to shots from just off the green and from greenside bunkers, situations where using only two strokes to hole out is the most likely positive outcome.

How Golfers Use the Term

Golfers employ several different constructs when talking about up-and-downs. For example, a golfer might say, "I need to get this up and down to make my par." Or: "I made my putt to get up and down."

A fellow-competitor might offer a congratulatory, "Hey, nice up-and-down."

You might hear announcers on television golf broadcasts say, "He made an up and down on the last hole" or "If she gets this up and down, she'll save par."

Note that you do not have to "save par" to claim an up-and-down. If you are around the green and get the ball up onto the green and then down into the hole in two strokes, you've made an up-and-down regardless of what your score on the hole is.

Up-and-Down Stats

Many golfers like to track their up-and-down opportunities and success/failure rates during rounds of golf. Many golf stat tracking systems or apps give you the ability to do that.

Or you can just write "Up and Down" on an unused line on the scorecard. Then mark each hole where you have the possibility for an up-and-down and note whether you succeeded or not.

Such simple stat tracking can help you improve by identifying strengths and weaknesses in your game—showing which parts of your game you need to most focus on during practice time.

The professional golf tours provide statistics on the world's best golfers that show, either indirectly or for some specific situations, how good they are at getting up and down.

The PGA Tour, for example, has two stat categories that relate to up-and-downs, sand save percentage and scrambling.

The tour defines Sand Save Percentage as "(t)he percent of time a player was able to get 'up and down' once in a greenside sand bunker (regardless of score)." So that's a direct measure of up-and-down success, albeit only out of greenside bunkers.

And the tour defines the scrambling stat as "the percent of times a player misses the green in regulation but still makes par or better," which is an indirect way of measuring how good a PGA Tour golfer is at up-and-downs.

Obviously, pro golfers are far, far better than the rest of us at making up-and-downs, so don't be intimidated if you check those PGA Tour stats. Recent sand save percentage leaders on the PGA Tour include Rickie Fowler (67.69-percent in 2017) and Sean O'Hair (62.42-percent in 2016). Recent leaders in scrambling include Ian Poulter (67.36-percent in 2017) and Steve Stricker (66.01-percent in 2016).

Improving Your Up-and-Down Success

Want to improve your rate of success on up-and-down opportunities? Then work on those short shots around the green: chipping, pitch shots, bump-and-runs, putting from the fringe, bunker shots and so on. And of course, it helps if you can make a putt or two! But the key is getting that first shot of the up-and-down closer to the hole.

YouTube is a great place to find golf instructional videos on every topic of the game. See "The Basics of Great Chip Shots," for example, and "When to Putt, Chip or Putt from Off the Green" (hint: favor chipping over pitching when all else is equal), two videos that directly relate to up-and-downs. Search YouTube for up-and-down for more short game videos.