Conceded Putts and Their Role in Golf Matches

Paul Casey conceded a putt to Steve Stricker at the 2008 Ryder Cup
Paul Casey conceded a putt to Steve Stricker at the 2008 Ryder Cup.

 Andrew Redington/Getty Images

A "conceded putt" is a putt that your opponent in a golf match gives you; that is, your opponent allows you to count the putt as made without requiring you to actually stroke it into the hole. As soon as your opponent tells you he's conceding your putt, your putt is considered holed. If you were laying three and your putt is conceded, you pick up your golf ball, mark down a "4" on your scorecard and move on.

Important: Conceded putts exist in the Rules of Golf only for match play. Conceded putts are not allowed under the rules in stroke play; in stroke play, you must always putt your ball into the hole. ("Gimmes" exist in stroke play, but are illegal under the rules. If you are playing by the rules, conceded putts are allowed only in match play.)

The act of telling an opponent you are conceding her putt is called "conceding the putt" or "giving the putt"; a putt that's been conceded is a "concession." (A golfer can also concede a hole or the entire match in match play, but conceded putts are common and the other types of concessions are not.)

Reasons to Concede a Putt and the Strategies Involved

Why would anyone concede an opponent's putt? Shouldn't you force them to make every putt on the chance they might miss? Well, if the opponent's ball is just three inches from the cup, a concession might be given just as a means of expediting play.

If the opponent's ball is two feet from the cup, then the decision whether to concede becomes trickier. Of course, conceded putts are not required; if you want to make your opponent hole out on every green, make every putt, just don't offer any concessions.

The notion that one should never concede a putt to an opponent in a match is certainly one that is held by many golfers. There are three schools of thought—three types of tactics—among golfers when it comes to concessions:

  1. Never concede a putt. Every putt is missable, after all, no matter how unlikely; even a 6-inch putt can be yipped. So force your opponent to hole-out every single time. If you take the never-concede-a-putt approach, understand that your opponent is not going to offer you any concessions, either.
  2. Concede every putt that is short enough. "Short enough" here means inside the leather (or whatever length you decide on). This approach will speed up play, and, perhaps, foster goodwill: A golfer who is conceding every very short putt is more likely to have the same-length putts of his own conceded.
  3. Concede very short putts early, but not late. This is a tactical approach favored by some golfers that works (assuming it works at all) on the theory that you should deny your opponent a chance to get comfortable over those short knee-knockers. Golfers who don't get to roll any of those short putts into the hole early in a match (because of concessions) might be more prone to miss such a putt later in the match when the pressure is higher and when a concession is suddenly withheld.

No matter the match play strategy you employ, this bit of advice from pro golfer turned broadcaster Gary McCord, in the instructional book Golf for Dummies, is wise:

"Always ask yourself whether you'd fancy hitting the same putt. If the answer is 'no' or even 'not really,' say nothing and watch."

Your concession strategy might also be influenced by how much you know about your opponent. Knowing your foe to be a strong or weak putter, or to have a strong or weak mental game, can influence when and how often you concede a putt.

Concessions Are Given, Never Requested

Note that conceded putts are not something you should request; concessions are solely at the discretion of the opponent. It's entirely up to you whether your match play opponent gets to pick up his ball without stroking it into the hole; it's entirely up to your opponent whether or not to concede your putt. No asking for a concession!

Can You Rescind a Conceded Putt?

Let's say you inform an opponent you are conceding a putt. But before he picks up the ball, you change your mind. Can you rescind the concession?

No. A concession means the ball is holed. As soon as you concede an opponent's ball, that ball is considered holed and your opponent's play of that hole is over. And if a golfer who had a putt conceded putts anyway and misses? Doesn't matter. When a concession is given, that golfer's play of a hole is over.

What to Say to Concede a Putt

Do you announce to your opponent, "Attention Opponent! Let it be duly noted that I hereby concede your putt!"? You could do that!

Most golfers who are giving a concession simply say to their opponent, "that's good" or "pick that one up."

If you ever hear something from an opponent and are unclear whether your putt has been conceded, ask them to repeat it and clarify. Never pick up a ball up unless you are certain a concession was offered.