Golf is a game rooted in tradition, etiquette, and respect. And one unique tradition that adds nuance to the game is the “gimme.” But what exactly is a gimme in golf?
What Is the Definition of a Gimme in Golf?
A gimme in golf is a very short putt that the other players agree can count automatically without being played. It’s a shot that is assumed would not have been missed, so it is conceded rather than played out.
Essentially, a gimme is an unmissable putt that the players mutually agree does not need to actually be putted. It’s a time-saving convention built on the shared assumption that the tap-in putt would have gone in anyway.
The term “gimme” is a colloquial slang contraction of the phrase “give me.” When a player has a short putt remaining, the others may say “that’s a gimme” or “I’ll give you that one.”
Key Attributes of a Gimme:
- Very short putt (usually 2 feet or less)
- Deemed unmissable by the group
- Conceded rather than played out
- Still counts as a stroke
- Aimed at saving time
So in summary, a gimme in golf is a putt so short that it would be virtually impossible to miss, so the other players allow it to be counted without being played.
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When Are Gimmies Allowed in Golf?
The use of gimmies is common in casual round among friends, but the rules of golf actually prohibit taking gimmies in stroke play tournaments.
However, they are accepted practice in match play. Here are some key guidelines:
- Stroke play – Gimmies are not permitted. All shots must be played.
- Match play – Either player can formally concede a stroke, hole, or the entire match at any point. This allows for gimmies.
- Casual rounds – Gimmies are commonly taken among amateur golfers to speed up play.
So gimmies are built into the structure of match play through the concession process. But in formal stroke play events, all shots must be played as the rules dictate.
Should You Take Gimmies in Casual Rounds?
For amateur golfers playing casual rounds, gimmies are a widely accepted way to keep things moving. But there are a few factors to consider:
- You should putt everything within 3 feet during a practice round. This builds consistency under pressure.
- Only take gimmies when playing for fun or with friends. Avoid it if you want an accurate handicap.
- Make sure the group agrees on what constitutes a gimme distance (e.g. within 12 inches).
- Be reasonable – only take gimmies on shots you’d truly never miss.
- Don’t overdo it – gimmies should be occasional, not every hole.
The bottom line is that gimmies have their place in friendly games, but should be avoided if you want to track your scores closely.
Why Do Golfers Take Gimmies?
Golfers take gimmies for a couple primary reasons:
To Speed Up Play
- Skipping very short putts keeps the game moving. This is the main incentive.
Maintain Flow and Rhythm
- Having to go through your routine on a 6 inch putt can disrupt momentum and feel redundant.
- No one wants to miss a tap-in and look incompetent, even though it happens.
Maintain Realistic Scores
- A few gimmies per round counters good shots that hit the edge or lip rather than dropping.
Part of Friendly Games
- Gimmies add informality and collegiality to casual weekend play.
For most golfers, gimmies strike a balance between being competitive and having an enjoyable round with friends. The time-saving aspect is the biggest motivation.
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What is Considered a Gimme Distance in Golf?
Gimme distances can vary somewhat based on the players and the situation, but some general guidelines are:
- 12 inches or less – This is the most common gimme distance. If you’re within a foot, pick it up.
- 24 inches – On the longer end for gimmies, but some groups may allow putts within two feet.
- 6 inches – A good rule of thumb for practice rounds or for newer players. Builds consistency.
- 3 feet – Generally too long for a gimme, barring a severe break or spike mark.
The gimme distance should be clarified amongst the group before the round so everyone is on the same page. The range is often influenced by factors like the players’ skill levels, how serious the match is, and course conditions.
Ultimately it requires some discretion and golf etiquette. A reasonable gimme improves pace of play without handing out freebies.
Do Gimmies Count as Strokes in Your Score?
This is an important point – gimmies may not be played as strokes, but they still count as strokes in your final score.
So if a player gets a gimme, he or she does not actually execute the stroke on the green, but still adds that shot to his or her scorecard.
For example, if you reach the green in regulation, then have a gimme putt conceded from a foot away, your score for that hole would be:
- Drive + approach shot + gimme = 3 strokes
So gimme putts may be given as concessions and not literally taken, but each gimme still counts as an official stroke in your score. Keep this in mind when taking gimmies, as they impact your total.
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Notable Rules and Etiquette for Gimmies
Taking gimmies appropriately and tactfully is part art and part science. Here are some key pointers on the protocol:
- Do not ask for a gimme – wait for it to be conceded by your playing partners.
- Only provide a gimme if you truly feel the putt is a tap-in that couldn’t be missed. Don’t give one just to be nice.
- When conceding a gimme, pick up and hand the ball to the player so he/she does not actually putt.
- Be cognizant of skill differences in the group. Offer gimmies judiciously to avoid giving anyone an unfair advantage.
- Gimmies should generally only be taken on the last hole or two if they could affect the match outcome.
- Limit gimmies during practice rounds so all players can work on holing out short putts.
- Never take a gimme during tournament stroke play. Follow all rules punctiliously.
Gimmies should enhance the spirit of the game, not undermine it. Employ proper discretion, agree on guidelines before teeing off, and use common sense.
Famous Gimmie Putts Throughout Golf History
While most gimmies occur without much fanfare during casual weekend play, some have directly impacted major championships and iconic moments:
- 1999 Ryder Cup – Justin Leonard made a 45-foot birdie, after which Jose Maria Olazabal conceded his 3-foot par putt, giving the U.S. the win.
- 1969 Ryder Cup – Jack Nicklaus conceded Tony Jacklin’s 3-foot putt on the final hole, resulting in the first tie in Ryder Cup history.
- 2019 Solheim Cup – With the matches tied, Suzann Pettersen had a 1-foot putt conceded to clinch the win for Europe.
- 1986 Masters – After Greg Norman’s great final round, Jack Nicklaus conceded his 4-foot par putt on 18, saying “I don’t want to be standing out here giving you this putt all day.”
- 2021 PNC Championship – Tiger Woods and his son Charlie were taking gimmes throughout the round, highlighting the family fun.
These examples illustrate how even at the highest levels, gimmies can play a decisive role while also representing golf’s congeniality. They’ve created some unforgettable moments.
Are Gimmies Allowed on the PGA Tour?
While gimmies may be taken routinely by amateurs, they essentially never happen during professional tournaments on the PGA Tour and other pro circuits.
The rules do not actually prohibit gimmies in stroke play. But professionals would never concede putts to other competitors in tournaments with money and prestige on the line.
PGA Tour players almost always hole out every single putt, even if it’s just tapping down a ball marker. Here are some reasons the pros do not take gimmies:
- It could alter the outcome of high-stakes competition. No freebies are given.
- Consistency and confidence matter. Holing short putts is crucial.
- It’s about integrity and completing every hole properly.
- Leaves no room for questions or uncertainty.
So while collegial gimmies between amateurs are widely accepted, they have no place in elite professional events. It would violate the spirit of fair competition.
Famous Putts That Were Not Conceded as Gimmies
Just as some gimmies have made history, certain crucial putts that were not given have also been pivotal:
- 1989 Masters – Scott Hoch missed a 2-foot putt on the first playoff hole, allowing Nick Faldo to win.
- 1991 Ryder Cup – Bernhard Langer missed a 6-foot putt that would’ve retained the cup for Europe.
- 2012 British Open – Adam Scott made a clutch 8-foot par putt to force extra holes against Ernie Els.
- 2021 PGA Championship – Phil Mickelson made a pair of bombs, denying Brooks Koepka gimmies that could’ve forced a playoff.
- 2016 U.S. Open – Dustin Johnson sank a ~6-foot eagle putt that locked up his first major title.
Of course, not every short putt will be made under pressure, but attempting them is part of competition at an elite level. No concessions are given.
Do Gimmies Go Against Golf’s Spirit of Playing Every Shot?
This is a fair question. Some traditionalists argue that selectively not playing certain shots goes against golf’s essence as a game of total integrity.
Purists believe that every stroke on every hole should be played to produce an authentic score. For them, gimmies may be seen as conferring an advantage rather than just saving time.
Others counter that gimmies are emblematic of golf’s emphasis on honor, trust, and respect among competitors. When properly used, they reflect the gentlemanly spirit of the game.
There are reasonable points on both sides. Ultimately it comes down to personal philosophy and preference. Utilized judiciously, gimmies can be acceptable even among purists. But they should never be over-used or abused.
What is the Origin of the Term Gimme in Golf?
Gimme is the universally used and understood term for conceded putts today. But how did this quirky golf colloquialism become so ubiquitous?
The term itself appears to be an American coinage. “Gimme putt” arose as a slang phrase in the early 20th century, likely on golf courses in the northeast U.S.
The word gimme is simply a verbal contraction of the phrase “give me.” So when requesting a short putt be conceded, it became shortened to “gimme.”
This informal term, with its connotation of being freely given as a gift, captured the concept perfectly. Its catchy rhyme and breezy pronunciation made it highly memorable.
From these promising origins in the American vernacular, “gimme” steadily extended its reach and became entrenched golf shorthand everywhere. Next time you use it, appreciate the handy word’s evolution!
So in summary, “gimme” is an organic golfing neologism that originated as a verbal shorthand for “give me (that putt)”. Its origins are traceable to the early 1900s among American players. From those roots, it has achieved worldwide golf ubiquity.
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Should Gimmies Be Eliminated From Golf Entirely?
Purists may argue gimmies have no place in the game whatsoever, while others believe they play an important situational role. There are merits to both viewpoints.
Here are some potential pros of eliminating gimmies:
- Upholds tradition of playing every stroke.
- Produces true scores without concessions.
- Develops short putt skills.
- Removes any uncertainty on rules.
And some potential cons:
- Slows down play significantly.
- Can damage confidence on short putts.
- Reduces enjoyment for casual players.
- Loses nuance and situational flexibility.
There are also compromises like limiting gimmies to casual play or imposing strict distance limits.
In the big picture, gimmies are so deeply ingrained in golf that banning them outright seems unrealistic and unnecessary. But they should always be used judiciously rather than as an expectation.
- A gimme in golf is a concession made for an extremely short putt that players agree does not need to be attempted.
- Gimmies are allowed in match play golf, but prohibited under the official rules of stroke play.
- For amateur recreational play, gimmies help pace of play when used reasonably, but should be avoided if tracking handicap.
- Any gimme putts not actually taken still count as strokes on the scorecard.
- Etiquette calls for gimmies only being conceded, not requested directly.
- Professional golfers make no concessions – every putt is attempted during tournaments.
- The term “gimme” likely derives from an early 20th century American vernacular contraction of “give me (that putt)”.
So in summary, the gimme is an organic, situational golf tradition that provides flexibility and efficiency, but should be employed carefully and sparingly to preserve the integrity of the game. When in doubt, just play every shot!