To shoot good scores, you have two options – you can either hit every green or learn how to get up and down effectively.
Since the former is pretty much impossible, you’ll have to turn to the latter to save your scores.
There is nothing wrong with striving to hit a lot of greens in regulation, of course, but you are going to miss at least a few along the way. The scores you record on those missed-green holes are going to go a long way toward determining your total when your round is finished.
Two Sides to the Equation
As the name would indicate, there are two pieces to the puzzle here – the up, and the down.
The ‘up’ half of the equation is the chip or pitch shot you hit to (hopefully) get your ball on the green. The ‘down’ portion is the putt that you need to make in order to finish the job.
The players who are able to consistently make par after missing the green are capable on both sides of the job. They know how to play the ball up onto the green nicely, and they have the confidence (and technique) needed to knock in those putts.
Solid Fundamentals Around the Green
The first step you should consider taking to improve your up and down skills is to work on your technique with your wedges. You need to be able to strike your chip and pitch shots cleanly if you are going to control the distance that the ball travels.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari chips onto the third green on the first day of the golf PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, south west of London, on May 24, 2018. / RESTRICTED Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Some of the key fundamentals to monitor are a steady head position, body weight leaning slightly toward the target, and hands that move all the way through the shot.
Most golfers fail to practice their chipping and pitching frequently enough to actually make progress. Turn this part of your game into a priority and you might be surprised to find how quickly you can improve.
Give Yourself a Fighting Chance
One of the keys to getting up and down a high percentage of the time is simply to place your ball in a good spot. This is where the concept of the ‘short side’ is so important in golf.
The short side is the side of the green where the hole is located. If you miss with your approach shot on the short side, you won’t have very much room to work with when chipping or pitching. It’s likely that your chip shot will run past the cup, and you’ll be faced with a long par-saving putt attempt.
While finding the short side is inevitable from time to time, do your best to play to the wider side of the green, especially on tough approach shots. When you miss in a place that gives you plenty of room to work with, your odds of saving par and moving on without losing a shot go way up.
Good strategy goes a long way on the golf course and steering clear of the short side is one of the most important strategic steps you can take.
Another Bit of Strategy
In addition to playing to the wide side with your approach shots, you can also do yourself a favor by playing to the low side with your chip and pitch shots.
If you favor the low side of the hole when chipping onto the green, you are more likely to be left with an uphill putt to save your par. You can be more aggressive on uphill putts, since they don’t come with the risk of the ball running away beyond the cup should you happen to miss.
When given the option between an uphill three-footer for par and a slippery downhill putt from the same distance, the wise golfer would take the uphill option each and every time.
The defining challenge of getting up and down consistently is learning how to deal with the variety of situations that you will encounter. For instance, on one hole you may be chipping from a flat lie on the fairway-length grass. On the next hole, however, you’ll find yourself on a slope in the rough.
So, are you able to adapt your technique successfully to deal with these kinds of dramatic changes?
Of course, the best way to learn how to deal with a variety of situations around the greens is to practice. Rather than dropping a bunch of golf balls on a flat patch of closely mown turf for your practice session, try to hit shots from as many different positions as possible.
Go ahead and hit some chips from a good lie, but also give yourself challenging lies to see how you do. Then, when tough situations present themselves on the course, you will be ready to respond with a great shot.
A Mental Reset
There is a physical component to the challenge of getting the ball up and down, but there is a mental component that should not be ignored, as well. When you miss the green with an approach shot, you are likely to feel a little bit frustrated.
If it was an easy shot that you let get away, you might even be downright angry. And that’s okay. Golf is a difficult game, and every player feels those emotions from time to time.
Tiger Woods of the US throws his club after missing a putt at the 18th hole during the third round of the 6.1 million USD CIMB Classic golf tournament at The Mines Resort and Golf Club in Kuala… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
What you don’t want to do is allow those emotions to impact your ability to get the ball up and down. Use the time between hitting the approach shot and hitting the chip shot to settle down, regain your composure, and refocus. Once you walk up to your ball around the green and start to make a plan for your chip or pitch shot, that errant approach should be nothing but a distant memory.
Knowing you have the ability to get up and down can do wonders for your golf game. Not only will having a strong short game help you to save strokes when you miss the green, but it will also help you to relax when playing your approach shots.
You’ll know that you can still save par even if you miss the green, so you shouldn’t feel as much pressure to be perfect. Instead, you can feel free to make your best swing and hope that you hit the target. Even if you don’t, those short game skills can be put to use in saving a par before moving on to the next hole.