The do’s and don’ts of gimme putt etiquette

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.

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