Here's What 'Inside the Leather' Means In Golf

"Inside the leather" refers to a measurement: It's the distance from within which short putts in a casual golf match are automatically conceded. In such a match, or a round of golf between friends who use gimmies, when the golf ball is "inside the leather" on the putting green, the putt is conceded or is called a gimme.

Which brings up the question: How far from the cup does a golf ball have to be to be called inside the leather? Turns out the current definition of inside the leather that most golfers use, and the original meaning of inside the leather, are two different things, two different distances.

We'll first explain the current usage of the term, then tell what the term originally meant.

Most-Common Current Meaning of Inside the Leather

So, your golf ball is within a couple feet of the hole on the green, and you'd really rather just pick it up as a gimme putt. Will your buddies let you do that? That probably depends on whether or not the ball lies "inside the leather" in relation to the hole.

The yardstick, so to speak, is your putter, which has a clubhead on the bottom end and a grip on the top end. And "inside the leather" corresponds to the distance from the bottom of your putter up the shaft to the bottom edge of your putter's grip. That is "inside the leather." If your ball is closer to the hole than the distance from the bottom of your putter to the bottom of your putter's grip, then it is inside the leather.

So, with a conventional putter, inside the leather roughly means about two feet. But some putters are longer than others, and some golfers use belly length putters or long (broomstick) putters. If such a golfer is in your group, you might want to hash out an agreement among your buddies before the round begins which putter will be the "official" inside-the-leather measuring stick for the round.

Many inside-the-leather putts can be eyeballed. If your ball is six inches from the cup, then obviously it's a concession or a gimme. But there can be disagreements when a golf ball is closer to the 2-foot range. What many golfers do in such situations is the same thing Justin Thomas is doing in this image:

To make an "inside the leather" measurement, lay the head of your putter inside the cup (be careful not to damage the hole) and your putter shaft on the ground next to the disputed golf ball. Is the entire ball within the part of your putter that is bare shaft? Then it is inside the leather.

The Original Meaning of Inside the Leather

Once upon a time, nearly all putter grips were made of leather. That is the origin of the term: the "leather" in "inside the leather" is from those old leather grips.

Which takes us back to the original meaning: When "inside the leather" first entered the golf lexicon, it referred to the length of the leather grip itself. And since grips on conventional-length putters are rarely more than about 12 inches in length, that means that the original meaning of "inside the leather" referred to putts of about one foot or less in length.

Some golfers today still define the term as that shorter measurement, but the vast majority of golfers use the longer measurement as the definition.

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