What Does Up and Down Mean in Golf

‍Golf is a game of precision and strategy, and one of the key skills every golfer aims to master is the ability to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible. One term that is frequently used in golf is “up and down.” But what exactly does it mean? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the definition of “up and down” in golf, its significance, and how you can improve your up-and-down success rate.

What Does “Up and Down” Mean in Golf?

In golf, “up and down” refers to the act of taking only two strokes to get the ball into the hole when your ball is resting around the green or in a greenside bunker. It involves getting the ball up onto the green with the first stroke and then holing the subsequent putt with the second stroke. Essentially, it means successfully navigating the short game to save par or better.

While the technical definition of an up and down includes any two strokes that result in the ball going into the hole, it is commonly used to describe shots played from just off the green or from greenside bunkers. These situations present a challenge that requires skillful execution to achieve a positive outcome in just two strokes.

The Importance of Mastering Up and Down Shots

Being proficient in up-and-down shots can have a significant impact on your overall score and performance on the golf course. It allows you to recover from missed greens or difficult lies and save strokes when your approach shot falls short.

By successfully executing up-and-down shots, you can avoid unnecessary bogeys or worse and maintain momentum during your round. It demonstrates your ability to navigate challenging situations and showcases your skills in the short game, which is often considered the most delicate and crucial aspect of golf.

Different Perspectives on Up and Downs

While the concept of up and downs may seem straightforward, there are varying opinions and interpretations among golfers and golf organizations. The PGA Tour, for example, focuses on measuring scrambling, which is the percentage of times a player misses the green in regulation but still makes par or better. They do not specifically track up-and-down statistics.

One reason for the lack of consensus on the definition of up and downs is the difficulty in determining where a “long short game shot” ends and an “up and down shot” begins. This discrepancy makes it challenging to compare different players’ up-and-down percentages accurately.

Examples of Up and Down Shots

To better understand what constitutes an up and down, let’s explore a few examples:

  1. A player is on a par-3 hole and misses the green on the tee shot. They then chip the ball onto the green and successfully make the subsequent putt. This is considered a successful up and down.
  2. Another player is on a par-3 hole and also misses the green on the tee shot. However, they chip the ball onto the green but miss the putt. This is an unsuccessful up and down.
  3. On a par-4 hole, a player hits their tee shot behind a tree, forcing them to chip out sideways and resulting in a missed green in regulation. They then hit their third shot onto the green and make the putt. While this is a successful scramble opportunity, it does not count as an up and down because the shot into the green was an approach shot, not a shot hit from around the green.
  4. In a more extreme scenario, a player hits their first tee shot out of bounds. They then miss the green on their next shot but manage to chip the ball up and make the putt. Although this is an up and down, it is not considered a successful scramble because the player did not make par or better.

Pros and Cons of Tracking Up and Down Statistics

As with any statistical measure, tracking up and down percentages has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore the pros and cons:


  • Measures short game proficiency: Tracking up and down statistics provides insight into a player’s ability to get the ball in the hole in two strokes from around the green. It showcases their skill in the short game, which can be a differentiating factor in their overall performance.


  • Binary statistic: Up and down statistics are binary, meaning they only measure whether or not the criteria for a successful up and down are satisfied. They fail to capture the nuances and intricacies of the shots played.
  • Lack of consensus on definition: The lack of a widely agreed-upon definition for up and downs makes it difficult to compare players’ different percentages accurately. The subjective nature of determining what constitutes an up and down adds to the ambiguity surrounding this statistic.

Recommendations for Comprehensive Analysis

While up and down statistics can provide some valuable insights, it is essential to consider them as part of a broader analysis. Here are some recommendations for a more comprehensive evaluation of a player’s short game performance:

  1. Strokes Gained Around the Green: Look at the Strokes Gained Around the Green metric, which isolates shots hit from around the green. This measure provides a more detailed analysis of a player’s performance in the short game without being influenced or affected by other factors not designed to measure short game proficiency.
  2. Strokes Gained from Different Distances and Lies: If possible, analyze Strokes Gained data from different distances and lies to gain further insights into a player’s short game strengths and weaknesses. This data can help identify specific areas for improvement and guide practice sessions.

By combining up and down statistics with Strokes Gained metrics, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of a player’s short game prowess and identify specific areas for improvement.

Sand Saves: A Specific Type of Up and Down

Within the realm of up and downs, there is a specific type known as “sand saves.” Sand saves are defined by the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour as the percentage of times a player was able to get up and down once from a greenside bunker, regardless of the score. This statistic focuses specifically on successful outcomes from bunker shots.

In 2021, the average sand save percentage on the PGA Tour was just over 50%. Among the top performers in sand saves that season, Brooks Koepka stood out with 51 successful saves from 78 bunkers.

Tracking Up and Down Opportunities and Success Rates

Many golfers find value in tracking their up and down opportunities and success rates during rounds of golf. By doing so, you can identify strengths and weaknesses in your short game, allowing you to focus your practice efforts on areas that need improvement.

There are various golf stat tracking systems and apps available that can help you keep track of your up and down performance. Alternatively, you can simply write “Up and Down” on an unused line on your scorecard and mark each hole where you have the possibility for an up and down, noting whether you succeeded or not.

Tracking up and down statistics can provide valuable feedback on your progress and serve as a motivating factor for improvement.

Learning from the Pros: Up-and-Down Stats on the Professional Tours

Golf pitch

The professional golf tours, such as the PGA Tour, provide comprehensive statistics on the world’s best golfers, including their up-and-down performance. These stats offer insights into how professional golfers excel in the short game and provide benchmarks for aspiring players.

The PGA Tour, for instance, tracks two key categories related to up and downs: sand save percentage and scrambling.

  • Sand Save Percentage: This statistic measures the percentage of times a player successfully gets up and down from a greenside sand bunker, regardless of their score. It directly reflects a player’s ability to execute successful up and down shots from the bunker.
  • Scrambling: Scrambling is defined as the percentage of times a player misses the green in regulation but still makes par or better. While it is not a direct measure of up and down proficiency, it indirectly reflects a player’s skill in recovering around the green and making successful up and down shots.

Recent leaders in sand save percentage on the PGA Tour include Rickie Fowler with a 67.69% success rate in 2017 and Sean O’Hair with a 62.42% success rate in 2016. In the scrambling category, Ian Poulter led with a 67.36% success rate in 2017, followed by Steve Stricker with a 66.01% success rate in 2016.

Improving Your Up-and-Down Success Rate

If you want to improve your rate of success on up-and-down opportunities, focusing on your short game is key. Here are some tips to enhance your up-and-down skills:

  1. Short Game Practice: Dedicate regular practice sessions to chipping, pitch shots, bump-and-runs, and bunker shots. These shots require finesse and touch, so honing your skills in these areas will significantly improve your ability to execute successful up and down shots.
  2. Putting Practice: Putting is a crucial part of the up-and-down equation. Work on your putting skills, especially from different distances and on various green surfaces. Developing a consistent putting stroke and reading greens effectively will help you convert more putts and complete successful up-and-downs.
  3. Seek Instruction: Consider taking lessons or seeking guidance from a golf professional to improve your short game technique. They can provide valuable insights, tips, and drills specific to up-and-down situations, helping you refine your skills and develop a more reliable short game.
  4. Study Instructional Resources: Utilize online resources, such as instructional videos on platforms like YouTube, to learn from golf experts and gain insights into effective up-and-down techniques. Search for videos on chipping, pitching, and bunker shots to find valuable tips and drills to incorporate into your practice routine.

Remember, improving your up-and-down success rate requires practice, patience, and a willingness to adapt and refine your technique. By focusing on your short game and putting in the effort, you can become a master at getting the ball in the hole in just two strokes.


Mastering the art of up and down shots in golf is crucial for any player looking to improve their overall performance. Understanding the definition of up and down, tracking relevant statistics, and honing your short game skills are essential steps on the path to success. By incorporating the recommendations outlined in this guide and putting in the necessary practice, you can elevate your up-and-down proficiency and enhance your golfing experience. So, embrace the challenge, embrace the short game, and start mastering the art of getting the ball in the hole in just two strokes.