To Gimme or Not to Gimme?

The “Gimme” Fallacy – Not on Our Course, Thank You!

Some members (including some experienced golfers) appear to be unaware that the option to concede a putt available in Match play does not apply to Stroke play.

While it is part of the tactics available when playing Match play (head-to-head, one-on-one) conceding a putt is NOT available when players are playing Stroke play – ie playing against all the other players where a player’s score for the round will impact on the other 100 or so players in the competition.

The Rules of Golf (the Golfer’s bible) make it very clear – Rule 3-2 clearly states that, in stroke play, if a competitor fails to hole out on any hole and does not correct the mistake before making a stroke on the next teeing ground (or before leaving the green on the last hole), the competitor is DISQUALIFIED.  There are no provisions for a lesser or no penalty.

The committee strongly encourages all members to help newer players (and any player for that matter) to understand the Rules and to stop a player before he breaches a rule rather than reaching an uncomfortable situation where you are forced to report a breach to the Committee.

Obviously, when playing a par, bogey or stableford competition you do not need to continue play to hole out if your score has reached zero, nor do you need to continue play to hole out if you are playing 4BBB and your score for the hole is not going to count because your partner has scored better.  This is also reflected in the specific rules relating to these other forms of play (see Rules 29 to 32). However, if your score is to be counted on any hole, you MUST hole out – concession of the putt is not allowed.

Arguments to permit the “gimme” include the concept that no-one could miss that length of putt, and it speeds up the game, but everyone has their story about the un-missable putt that they or a friend missed, stories of balls on the lip and the putt missed because the club hit the ground and not the ball – even in professional tournaments!

It is often said that golf is one of the few games where the player is responsible for knowing the Rules (Rule 6-1) and for declaring their own penalties – there are many stories of professional golfers (including Greg Norman) disqualifying themselves after being made aware of a rule transgression, and they have more at stake than our few dollars competition fee.

Because a player’s score affects all the other players in the competition, golf administrators consider that knowingly breaking a Rule of Golf without taking the penalty is tantamount to cheating and consider that it is every player’s responsibility to draw a player’s and marker’s attention to the infringement, and even the Committee if the player does not take steps to correct the situation.
Decision 33-7/9 spells this out – Competitor Who Knows Player Has Breached Rules Does Not Inform Player or Committee in Timely Manner – … in order to protect the interests of every other player in the competition, it would be reasonable to expect a fellow-competitor or another competitor to bring to light a player’s breach of the Rules by notifying the player, his marker or the Committee. … It would be appropriate for the Committee to impose a penalty of disqualification under Rule 33-7 on a fellow-competitor or another competitor if it becomes apparent that he has failed to advise the player, his marker or the Committee of a Rules breach with the clear intention of allowing that player to return an incorrect score.

Respected rules expert Barry Rhodes said:

“The truth is that if you play competitive golf then you are a referee! What justification do I have for saying this? Because, in all stroke play competitions, the Rules impose a responsibility on you to protect the interest of every other entrant by ensuring that anyone that you are playing with fully complies with all the Rules. This does not just apply to the player’s marker but anyone else in the competition that witnesses a breach of the Rules by any other competitor.

“Why is that so hard for some to understand? Any non-reported penalty results in just one golfer benefiting and every other competitor in the competition losing.

“The status quo ensures that players are encouraged to obtain a better understanding of the Rules and if you are not respecting the Rules of Golf when you play, then you are not playing golf.

“I hope that this article encourages you to ‘referee’ your fellow competitors more diligently in stroke play competitions. It is your duty to all the other competitors. Of course the best way to do this, in order to avoid the risk of an unpleasant incident, is to stop a player before he breaches a Rule. Giving information on the Rules is not advice and is to be encouraged.”

One further point that you should consider before offering to “concede” a putt, Rule 1-3 provides a disqualification penalty to BOTH players concerned for agreeing to waive the penalty incurred – watch out!  Although the Committee does not condone a player ignoring any of the rules, situations may arise where you see a less experienced player making a minor infringement a rule that is unlikely to affect the results of the competition, and believe that there is more to be gained by teaching rather than penalising, make sure that you only discuss the rule after the round, otherwise you risk both being disqualified under Rule 1-3.