Originally Posted by maughan67
This is a regular topic of conversation (argument?) between me and a golfing friend. So I have been round the houses on the various issues many times.
Holing out - save perhaps from literally tap-in range - is all part of the game of golf, and is also arguably one of the most satisfying aspects. It is satisfying because it is fraught with all sorts of subtle risks and dangers and difficulties - even from a couple of feet. I am sure we have all seen people miss from very short distances, because they tug it or over hit it or whatever. It happens. And our average score is increased accordingly. So, if it is all part of the game, why would you not want to always hole out?
Slow play is always cited as an "excuse" for gimmes. Slow play, however, should be addressed by getting the "non-technical" bits of your game right - walk a bit more quickly, be ready to play when it is your turn, learn not to take 10 practice swings etc etc etc. But abandoning a great part of the game (see previous paragraph) is not the way to do it. This comparison may be slightly facetious (although not entirely), but you don't end a game of football 5 minutes early to "save time": I don't give my squash opponent the game when he has reached 8 points to "save time". I know golf takes a lot longer, but that is the nature of the game you have chosen to play - it will take multiple hours. Saving 5 minutes total by not playing the whole game (tee to green to hole) is not the way to shorten the round.
Of course, there may well be instances in a casual round when it is a short putt that you are very confident you would make, AND there is a good golfing reason to save a few seconds here and there to avoid a problem getting worse, eg your group has taken a long time on that hole (looking for a ball or someone having a bad hole) and the group behind has caught up and has been waiting just a bit too long to justify you taking the luxury of holing out (congestion happens in certain circumstances, even with the best will in the world - we all know when it is time to move it along). However, holing out from 3 feet (or even 2 feet) in that circumstance is all part of the game and is no different (I would say) to placing your previous 40 foot lag putt 3 feet from the hole "to save time", as you would "probably" have got it there had you taken your time over it. Why does the last shot of the hole have to be the one that is abandoned? (If you are holding up the group behind so badly that you feel unable even to hole out from 2 or 3 feet then maybe you should be letting them play through anyway.)
Being given a gimme in match play is a different situation altogether. As far as I can tell, giving a gimme is almost always a strategic decision by the giver, to prevent the givee from getting into the groove of shorter putts. It is not a time saving device (in that context).
The other issue is one of handicaps. It is my understanding from this forum (but please correct me if I have got this wrong!) that in the US, you can have gimmes in a h'cap round. In the UK (where I play), only rounds played in a club competition (or designated as a h'cap round before the round starts and marked by a club member under competition rules) can count towards h'cap - ie no gimmes *whatsoever*. So that removes the issue altogether. In a casual round (ie you are not playing against the rest of the field), you can of course do whatever the group collectively wants to do. But in such a round, whilst I am happy for anyone to take whatever gimme they want (it doesn't affect my round), and I won't make a scene if someone wants to give me an occasional gimme, I would still ideally want to hole out everything (bar maybe one-handed tap-ins) because, as I have said above, 2 and 3 footers most certainly have their own challenges and therefore enjoyment and satisfaction.
(I don't intend to open a big debate about the differences between the US and UK systems, but allowing gimmes to count in h'cap rounds where the player would "probably" or "likely" have made the putt seems to conveniently ignore the statistical reality that that of course means that some of those putts would have certainly been missed - possibly as many as 49% of them. Even if it were only, say, 25%, that still means that the true gross score could/would have been, say, 1 or 2 shots more on average per round, had the player holed out everything. Surely over time that rather flatters the h'cap?)
My aforementioned friend is a very experienced, good player (and a thoroughly reasonable and sensible person generally) and is very interested and respectful of the traditions of the game. I am more of a newcomer to the game (but that is not to say that I don't know how to conduct myself on the course - I hope). The issue of tradition/respect often comes up when we discuss gimmes. But I do not see gimmes as anything to do with tradition or respect, or otherwise improving the game: they are simply (unrealistic) shortcuts that erode a very enjoyable aspect of the game and (save for the exceptional situations I have described) they do not save time (or at least are not the cause of slow play and/or are not the way to speed things up).
My view is: play the game - the whole game - and enjoy the process of holing out. If you want to pick up, that's your prerogative, but don't be surprised if I want to putt (and quite possibly occasionally miss) short putts. At least I then know my score is truly my score.