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The Small Things Stopping You from Getting Up and Down

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Getting up and down is an essential skill for any golfer. There is a certain range where it becomes less about hope and more about expectation. It’s different for every golfer, but as your handicap lowers that range expands.

No golfer will ever be perfect within their self-assigned range. But, a high conversion rate means lower scores—without adding distance or making any other improvements. The main issue is golfers overestimate their circle and make the same mistakes over and over. We’ve identified a few of the most common, as well as some ways for you to make sure you’re making the most of your par-save opportunities.

Why it’s important to get up and down

A 5-handicap hits around eight greens in regulation each round. A 15-handicap hits half that number. The numbers are lower than what most people expect, but also reminds us there are plenty of opportunities to chip and save the hole.

Hitting your second shot close to the green and getting up and down lowers your scores beyond expectations. In doing so, you push past everyone who hits the ball equally as well. You’ll be in the same scoring category as better golfers, and as the rest of your game catches up, you’ll maintain a strong competitive advantage.

Where people tend to go wrong

PGA Instructor Craig Waryan at Bird Golf’s Arizona golf school will tell you that mid-handicap players go wrong in two major areas, club selection and target spot. He’ll also tell you these two go hand-in-hand.

What many golfers have a hard time wrapping their head around is that simplicity reigns supreme. It does not always need to be a flop shot and it does not always need to check up immediately.

Club selection

Using an 8-iron or pitching wedge is effective because distance and direction are controlled more easily with a smaller swing. Even using a sand wedge is effective for an inexperienced golfer if you keep the swing short and know what’s ahead. By taking away loft, you increase how far your ball will travel without extending your swing.

Many mid and high-handicap golfers tend to hit shots they are not comfortable with—or at least shouldn’t be. Sand and lob wedges have a small margin for error, which is exacerbated by players with lesser skills.

It may not always be pretty, but a conservative approach is usually enough to add pars to your scorecard, and at minimum avoid double bogeys or worse.

Finding a landing spot

The other aspect of converting within your up and down circle is target lines and landing spots. If you read the green before a wedge shot, even a 20 yarder, you can be more confident in allowing the ball to roll. Walking up to the green also confirms how much or how little room you have to work with.

When there is a back pin, you should never take the risk of flying the green. The opposite and better choice means a possibility of running your ball over the green. In this scenario, you picked a landing spot just a bit too far, but the return shot is more manageable.

When you pick conservative plays and closer landing spots, you are playing the odds of eliminating big mistakes. These decisions lead to higher percentage par putts.

How to practice

Being able to hit the same club varying distances is key to getting up and down around the course. There is no standard up and down situation, and by practicing in this way, you can be ready to land short shots at different targets.

Besides hitting the same club different distances, you should work on hitting different clubs the same distance. This helps for landing the ball over obstacles and knowing how hard to swing regardless of room available. Whether it’s the range or on a short game practice area, this practice will translate to on course success.