Succinctly, a ‘gimme’ is a putt so short golfers consider it unmissable, so if conceded by another player, it can be picked up and counted as a holed putt. The word means “give me,” as in “give me this one?”
But very importantly this is an unofficial agreement by recreational golfers. In STROKE PLAY (including Stableford), a gimme has no place within the Rules of Golf. There are no circumstances, when a gimme can be used in a competition played under the official Rules of Golf or a round posted for handicap. In MATCH PLAY, either player may formally concede a stroke, a hole, or the entire match at any time, and this may not be refused or withdrawn. This is the only ‘gimme’ available in the Rules. This begs the question; what length of putt is unmissable? The real answer is none; we’ve all seen a player casually ‘waving’ a putter at a ball inches from the hole with the ball being almost or completely missed and an extra stroke incurred.
“The least thing upset him on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of butterflies in the adjoining meadows.” P.G. Wodehouse The unofficial rule for the length of a gimme is “inside the leather” – that is, if a ball is closer to the hole than the distance from your putter head to putter grip when laid flat on the green. However the reality is that formal measurements are rarely made as this removes one of the main aims; that is to speed-up play. Some golfers abuse the practice by imagining longer and longer putts as unmissable. It’s another one of those golfing ‘rules’ which can be sabotaged and must rely on individual integrity.
‘Inside the leather’ is the usual gimme length If your recreational group decides to accept gimmes, you might still choose to take the putts so that a handicap adjustment can be made and you can boast about real pars, real birdies or better. Many golf instructors consider gimmes counterproductive to good putting, suggesting that you need to see and hear that ball drop into the cup to build confidence and learn how to avoid the putting ‘yips’!
“A ball is holed when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.” – maybe not this one but a likely gimme! “A tap-in is a putt that is short enough to be missed one-handed” Henry Beard Golf in Thailand adds another twist. It’s common to find a white circular line marked around the hole about the usual gimme length. This does not suggest that the Rules of Golf have been overruled, that’s not possible. Caddies may also urge players to take a gimme, or in the local parlance “Give, Give, Give!” However it’s only your playing partner, not the caddie that can make the offer. In concept, the gimme putt is supposed to add to golf’s sportsmanship.
Often it’s anything but, as evidenced at international match play level when Norway’s Suzann Pettersen refused to concede a putt after walking off the green in the 2015 Solheim Cup.
That is usually recognised as a concession signal but was ruled otherwise with no verbal exchange. The lesson is that words such as “that’s a give”, “take it” or “that’s in” must be heard before the ball is picked up.
Tears after ‘gimme confusion’ at the 2015 Solheim Cup If using the gimme formula is causing disharmony in your social group it may be better to go back to the ‘real rules’ to stay friends. Some other etiquette considerations are: DON’T: Endlessly fumble in your pocket praying your opponent will cave-in and give it to you. DON’T: Apologise for making your opponent putt. It comes off as insincere, especially if they miss. DON’T: Take it personally when an opponent makes you putt, just go ahead and sink it!
DO: Be liberal with gimmes on the front 9, conservative on the back. This sets an affable tone for the round, but increases the pressure in a tight finish. Some golfers think about how their generosity may affect an important relationship with their playing partner. Being kind-hearted to your father-in-law is one thing; however nothing screams ‘brown-nosing’ like conceding seven-foot downhill putts to the boss!