Day Brightener – The Art of the Gimmie

By Mick Kemper

I attended the 2002 US Senior Open at Caves Valley Golf Course in Maryland. While standing in a large crowd behind the 11th green, I saw Arnold Palmer and his army round the corner of the fairway. He proceeded to hit his second shot onto the green about 30 feet from the hole.  As he reached the green and surveyed his putt, a spectator yelled, “it’s good, Arnie, pick it up.” 

Short putts are the Bermuda Triangle of golf. Just ask Scott Hoch who missed a 2 foot putt to lose the 1989 Masters. Missing a short putt is like fumbling at the goal line, dropping a pop up for the final out, or driving across the country to discover Wally World is closed. It is devastating.

Fortunately, amateur golfers have a vaccine for these blown putts, a get out of jail free card, it’s called a “gimmie”. It works like this. You are standing over a three foot putt to save par. Sweat is running down your back into your Tommy Johns and dread is creeping into your fragile psyche. You are agonizing over the proverbial question, “Do I ease it in or ram it home?” Then suddenly you hear those magic words, “That’s good, pick it up.” 

Accepting a gimmie is easy. Before your conscience sets in, quickly pick up your ball and slink off the green like a shoplifter exiting a convenience store. 

On the other hand, conceding a putt is more complicated than judging figure skating. Is the golfer worthy? Is the ball within the so called circle of friendship or just a distant cousin? What is a reasonable distance? An arms-length? A size 12 golf shoe? The height of your average circus midget?  There is no definitive rule. It is an art.

Some guys are generous and hand out gimmies like after dinner mints, sometimes even before the lag putt has stopped rolling. I love these guys. They are the Mother Theresa’s of golf.   

The other mothers of golf are the players who would rather donate a kidney than concede a putt. These are the guys who keep score in ink, who use a pocket calculator to split the lunch tab, and who believe a gimmie is an assault on the integrity of the game. Keep in mind, this is a game typically played by hackers in baggy shorts who have already taken two mulligans and several foot wedges just to survive the front nine. What integrity? 

So, if you struggle with administering a gimmie, here are some helpful guidelines:

Daylight Savings Time

The foursome waiting in the fairway has been watching your group blast from one greenside bunker to another, chunk chips, plumb bob, and debate who putts next. This is more frustrating than waiting for a senior citizen to back out of a parking space at Walmart or watching Joe Biden trying to complete a sentence. Just grab your balls and get off the green. All putts are good.

Code Blue

Your playing partner is on life support. He has landed in every bunker, splashed in every pond, and bounced off more trees than a squirrel on crack. You cannot bear to see him take another stroke. It is your civic duty to stop the bleeding and administer the Kevorkian gimmie. No range limitations in this case. If his ball is closer to the hole than to Akron Ohio, it’s good. Knock it away before he tries to hit it again.

Nothing at Stake

Pros putt out because they are playing for big money, coveted trophies, and trophy wives. For the average golfer, missing or making a short putt is more meaningless than a cup of decaf coffee or a political campaign promise. Give him the putt. There is no good reason not to.


The guy has stroked a winding 125 foot putt from just off the green to within three feet of the hole. Reward him. Let him pick it up. He earned it. It is better than watching him lip out, melt down, and try to disembowel himself with his putter. 

Human Kindness

Your buddy helps you tune up your car, mows your lawn when you are on vacation, and laughs at all your dumbass jokes. You owe him that testy three footer as a gesture of friendship. It is golf’s version of sending a fruit basket. 

No Mercy

If you are embroiled in a highly competitive match and your opponent has been talking smack, there is no such thing as a gimmie. Make him putt every putt. It’s Cobra Kai time, it’s time to sweep the knee.


If the player is an obnoxious blowhard, an arrogant know-it-all, a despicable cheat, or a relative of Governor Cuomo, there are no gimmies. The circle of friendship only extends to the rim of the cup. 

Gimmies have been prevalent throughout history and occur every day of our lives. The Ruler of Greece once told famed sculptor, Calamitous, that his Venus di Milo statue was so beautiful there was no need to finish the arms. True. A gimmie is when a traffic cop pulls you over and only gives you a warning or when the grocery store clerk honors your expired coupon without price checking your Adult Depends over the store microphone. 

However, let the record show that not all gimmies are desirable. Last night, in the middle of a rare but passionate love making session, just as I was about to enter the launch cycle, just as I was pondering the proverbial question, just as I was about to ecstatically self-proclaim “you da man”, my wife stopped me and said, “That’s good, dear, pick it up.”

So, remember, if someone does not graciously accept a gimmie, do not be offended. Understand that sometimes in the game of golf and in life, to derive a full sense of satisfaction, a man needs to hear the rattle of the ball at the bottom of the cup. Sometimes, you just need to putt out.

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