Golfing glossary: Gimme, gimme, gimme – that putt

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The golfing term that's brought out the best and worst in golf

Here at National Club Golfer we’re the publication for the everyday player and so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give you a step-by-step introduction to the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.

 

This week, it’s the golfing term that’s brought out the best and worst in the sport.

 

Word of the week: Gimme

 

It sounds like something a small child would say. Gimme, gimme, gimme, but no five letters in golf can scramble the mind more than this one innocent little word.

 

We’ve all been there. You cosy a long putt towards the hole, sidle up towards the cup and then cast a nonchalant glance at your opponent – while trying to look like you’ve just been told you’ve only got a few weeks left to live.

 

You’re willing them to utter that glorious phrase. That’s good.

 

Dictionary definition: A gimme is a short putt that an opponent excuses you from playing because it is considered unmissable.

You’re willing them to utter those glorious phrase. That’s good." What this actually means: This is trickier than you might think. Of all golf’s many traditions, this one has more scope to cause an argument than any other.

 

Unpleasantness usually arises when players argue about whether such a putt should be given or not.

 

You see, the Rules of Golf might span more than 300 pages but there’s no mention of gimmes.

 

It’s completely informal. Do this during a competition and you’ll quickly find DQ next to your name on the results board.

 

It’s a staple of matchplay, though, and the more Machiavellian among us use it as an evil tactic to unsettle our adversaries.

 

You might not have to hole a short putt all day, until the match is on the line, or you might set yourself over a tricky three-footer and pull back a trembling putter head only to be spared at the last second.

 

Best and worst 

A gimme was responsible for one of golf’s most enduring images of sportsmanship.

 

No-one with any love for the game can fail to instantly recognise the sight of Jack Nicklaus with his arm round Tony Jacklin at the 1969 Ryder Cup.

 

“I didn’t think you were going to miss that putt, but I didn’t want to give you the opportunity,” were the Golden Bear’s immortal words as he picked up Jacklin’s marker and conceded the two footer that gave GB&I a tie against the Americans at Royal Birkdale.

 

Nicklaus’ teammates were reportedly not too amused at his magnanimous gesture but it was a piece of sportsmanship Suzann Pettersen might have done well to remember 36 years later at the Solheim Cup.

 

American rookie Alison Lee, paired with Brittany Lincicome, rolled her 12 footer narrowly past the hole on the 17th green of her fourballs match with Pettersen and Charley Hull at St Leon-Rot.

 

The Englishwoman started walking off the side of the green and Lee, erroneously believing the putt had been given, picked up her ball.

 

But Pettersen stepped in – arguing it hadn’t been conceded – and the Americans lost the hole.


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Lee and Hull were both left in tears and the women’s game’s biggest team competition had a major diplomatic incident on its hands.

 

Pettersen and Hull won the match and the Swede was roundly derided for her ethics.

 

Whatever the rights and wrongs, it did the Europeans no good in the end. A fired-up USA team, ignited by perceived injustice, overcame a 10-6 deficit in the singles to wrench the Solheim Cup away from the home side’s grasp.

 

So just remember next time you are wondering whether to give that tiddler, a little putt can mean an awful lot.

 

Origin: It’s as obvious as you would think, the word deriving from “give me”, as in “will you give me that putt?”

 

Use it in a sentence: “That’s a gimme, right? What? YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE ME PUTT THAT?”

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