Definition: A gimme (spelling may vary) is a short putt that an opponent excuses you from playing because it’s deemed unmissable.
There is no mention of this word in the official rules of golf, and gimmes are not permitted in stroke play, but are commonplace in match play, allowing for a faster speed of play.
“That’s good! Pick it up! Give you that!” Average golfers like us love to hear those phrases — they take away the pressure of that two-footer for a half.
Gamemanship vs sportsmanship
The more competitive golfer can use the gimme as a tactic to create pressure. Having not had to hole a two-footer for 14 holes, but being made to putt out when it really counts, can add to the intensity, or even worse, giving the putt just as you’re about to make the stroke.
But a gimme can also be used to demonstrate ultimate sportsmanship. As Jack Nicklaus demonstrated with Tony Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup. Jacklin needing a 2.5 footer to tie for the Ryder Cup. As Nicklaus picked up Jacklin’s marker, he said, “I don’t think you would have missed it, but I wasn’t going to give you the chance, either.”
I used to play with a guy who was probably the world’s worst putter. He was much older than me, so what he said went. For him, a gimme was anything inside the length of his standard putter, about 33 inches. He was a very good chipper, never had to putt on many holes.
Its all give and take
For me, if its a simple putt (short and straight), even though it has been given, I will always try and hole it anyway, just so my opponent gets in his/her mind that I don’t miss short putts. If you’ve both got shortish putts to half the hole, I’ll ask if they agree to both picking up. If, late in the round, my opponent has a putt to win the hole or the match, ask them to putt. You never know.
The thing is a gimme is what you want it to be. If I remember correctly, Lee Westwood gave a 20-footer to one of the USA pair (who couldn’t win the hole) so that the other player in the USA pair (who was much closer) couldn’t get a read of the line.
Do send us your memorable ‘gimme’ stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll publish some of the best in our monthly newsletter.
Neil is a director of PuttBANDIT Ltd, and co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker. Neil currently plays off a handicap index of 16.1.