When a putt is a gimme
If it’s inside the leather of the putter: Lots of groups call a gimme when a putt stops closer to the hole than the distance from the near lip of the cup to the bottom of the putter grip. It’s a little more than 2 feet.
If it’s inside the length of the putter: This is the same measurement as inside the leather, but the player gets the full length of the putter as the radius.
If it’s inside a certain distance: This is a little bit harder to enforce, but some folks say 1 or 2 feet, maybe even 3 feet.
If it’s inside the scorecard: Sometimes, folks want to give putts but are especially stingy about it, so they whip out the scorecard, which can range from 6-8 inches.
When a putt isn’t a gimme
If it’s to win the hole: No matter the format, a lot of players won’t concede a putt that will win the hole. They want to see that one go in the cup.
If it’s for birdie or better: With so many groups often playing side bets in addition to the main game, putts for birdie or better usually come with a few dollars attached. That’s why they’re rarely considered a gimme.
Never: There are plenty of purists out there who don’t care if gimmes are good psychology or help speed the pace of play. They want everything putted out.
In concept, the gimme putt is supposed to be emblematic of golf’s “gentlemen’s game” mantra. Often it’s anything but, as evidenced at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Many observers cried foul after Elizabeth Moon, who just missed a six-footer to win the match, raked away her ball inches from the cup, only for opponent Erica Shepherd to assert she had not given Moon the putt. If that didn’t qualify as a gimme, what does?
And that’s the issue: the etiquette around conceded putts remains unwritten. Until now, that is. To avoid any future tears or fisticuffs, here are the do’s and don’ts of gimmes.
DO: Give anyone a putt who is out of the hole if it’s for more than par
Pace can be an issue in match play. This keeps things moving.
DON’T: Give any birdie putt
You want that red number on the scorecard, you got to earn it.
DON’T: Endlessly fumble change in your pocket praying your opponent will cave and give it to you
It’s unbecoming. It’s shameless. It’s pathetic.
DO: Be liberal with gimmes on the front, conservative on the back
Not only does this set an affable tone for the round, it has a hint of Machiavellianism sprinkled in: when your opponent needs to make a short putt down the stretch, the lack of reps puts extra pressure on the shot.
DO: Be generous with your father-in-law
The man gave you the green light to marry his daughter. He deserves your eternal fealty.
DON’T: Be overzealous with your boss
Nothing screams ‘brown noser’ like conceding seven-foot sidehillers.
DON’T: Apologize for making your opponent putt
It comes off as insincere, especially if they miss. Plus, you don’t see basketball players patting a rival on the back after a turnover, or a pitcher telling a batter he’s sorry after a strikeout. In that same vein…
DON’T: Take it personal when an opponent makes you putt
If you feel like it’s a gimme, than go ahead and make it, knucklehead.
DO: Putt when the shot is to win the match
This is a competition, after all. Victory is that much sweeter when the ball is retrieved from the cup.
DON’T: Agree to “good-good” on matching four-footers when down 2 holes or more
You’re missing an opportunity to get back into this thing. Moreover, turning down your opponent’s offer could throw them for a loop.
DO: Be stingy with shaky putters
Some feel obliged to show compassion on those with the yips. But do they return the favor when their tee shots soar 30 yards past yours, or their iron play is far more accurate? If anything, make those that struggle with the short game play it out.
DO: Concede the short putt that sends the match into OT
No one wants to win on a botched three-footer.
DON’T: Have a win-at-all-costs mentality
Chances are you’re playing against a friend or acquaintance. There’s a big difference between competitive spirit and being a ****. If you want to go all Suzann Pettersen over $5, that’s your prerogative. Just know you might be playing alone your next time out.
By Joel Beall
This article originally appeared on GolfDigest.com.