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Ask for a ruling with Cory Armstrong

Q I just took up the game of golf. My friends have taught me not to accept "gimme" putts and to hole everything out. As I'm watching this week's PGA Tour tournament on TV, I'm seeing countless putts being picked up. Why is this?

- Terry (Lexington, SC)

A Terry, there are two distinct forms of play: stroke play and match play. Most golfers nowadays play stroke play where we record a score for each hole and add them up at the end of a round. Match play consists of one side (i.e. a player or two partners) playing against another over a stipulated round. The game is played by holes, and a hole is won by the side that holes its ball in the fewer strokes. The state of the match is expressed by the terms: so many "holes up" or "all square" and so many "to play." For example, after 15 holes, a player could be 2 holes up and 3 holes to play.

Rule 2-4 "Concession of Match, Hole, or Next Stroke" allows a player to concede a match at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that match. A player may concede a hole at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that hole. Also, a player may concede his opponent's next stroke at any time, provided the opponent's ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with his next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.

So, what you will often see in match play is an easy putt being conceded. Tour professionals almost never miss one to two-foot putts. If Tiger Woods missed his birdie putt three inches left of the hole, his opponent would, in all probability, concede the putt.

Every once in a while you'll see a player get into so much trouble before he reaches the putting green that he can't possibly win or even halve a hole, and he may choose to concede the hole and just move on. Match play is a great form of play for that very reason. You can play aggressively, enjoy yourself, and not worry as much about having a terrible hole. The worst thing that can happen is that you lose one hole.