Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Giving Putts

“That’s good.”

Are there two better words to hear on the golf course? It usually means you just stuffed an approach shot to three feet or better. Your opponent wants to reward you for the finely struck shot by giving you the short putt.

But when do you give putts to your opponents? What’s your cut-off length? Are you consistent with the length of putts you give?

Would you give this putt? I covered
a golfer last week who didn't.
I covered a major state amateur tournament last week for Houston Links and DFW Links magazines. After qualifying in stroke play, the tournament was decided by match play. The golfer who won wasn’t giving anything. I mean, the opponent’s ball had to be hanging on the lip of the cup for a concession.

Anything outside of 10 inches had to be cleaned up.

The first time I saw it in the final match, I didn’t think much of it. Then it happened again. And again. The golfer who had to keep putting out the one-footers clearly was rattled over the situation. Probably factored into the loss.

At the time it was happening, I felt like the golfer who wasn’t conceding one- and two-footers was somehow being disrespectful -- to the opponent and quite possibly to the Game of Golf. 

After a discussion with rules official from the event, I felt differently. The rules official set me straight: “It’s match play. When it comes to giving putts, you can do whatever you want.”

Fine. The Rules of Golf. I get it.

But was it wrong to not concede one-footers? Is it poor sportsmanship or superior strategy?

Part of me says it must not have been wrong to refuse conceding short putts. After all, the golfer used the stingy tactic all week and it led to victory (in a final match upset, I might add).

When I play with my buddies, I like to give as many putts as I can. If it’s questionable, I’ll error on the side of concession. “Pick it up,” I’ll say.

Of course, I have an agenda. I hope my opponents will give me the same-length putts, too.

This was the length that was given by
the winner of the event I covered last week.
Sometimes they do, but not always.

My good friend Scott in Brooklyn talks about his strategy of giving four- and five-footers early and often in his matches. But when it comes down the stretch on the final few holes, he won’t give three-footers or even two-footers. Just turns away and makes them putt it out.

His logic is that the opponent hasn’t had to make a short putt all day because of the concessions, so when the heat is on, they’re likely to miss.

I suppose that’s gamesmanship.

How do you handle giving putts in your standard games? What is acceptable?

The answer might be that it’s one thing to give putts when you’re playing with your buddies for $5, a soda or even $100. It’s another thing all together when you’re playing for a club championship, a state amateur title or even a USGA national championship.

I don’t blame the golfer I covered last week who wouldn’t concede the one-footers. It wasn’t disrespecting the opponent or the game. In fact, it was part of the game. In stroke play, you largely play against the golf course. In match play, you play against your opponent. Period. The non-conceding strategy rattled the opponent and led to a huge victory.

But it was painful to watch.

- Mark

1 comment:

  1. I'll never forget missing an 18 inch put on no. 4 of the Pine Forest Country Club-White Nine a couple of years ago during the Houston City Championship Pre Qualifier....for a smooth seven. That was painful. :)