Explaining the Concession in Golf Matches

What is a concession in golf? In match play (not stroke play) the option exists under the Rules of Golf for one golfer or one side to concede a putt, a hole or even a match to another golfer.

Putt concessions are the most common; in fact, they are routine in matches. Hole concessions are uncommon, but do sometimes happen; and match concessions are the rarest. Even when one golfer has a huge, embarrassing lead over another, the trailing golfer will almost certainly (and certainly should) play out the match rather than conceding.

The three types of concessions in match play:

  • Putt concession: When an opponent concedes your putt, he is telling you that your putt is good — you don't have to actually hole out. Putt concessions happen all the time in match play. When one is given, the golfer receiving the concession is considered holed out and play of that hole is over. If Golfer A has a one-foot putt that Golfer B knows A is going to make, B might say, "pick it up" or "that's good" as a way of conceding the putt.

  • Hole concession: Let's say your opponent striped his drive down the middle of the fairway, then plunked his approach right in the middle of the green. You, meanwhile, put two balls in the water and then needed three strokes to hack out of thick rough. Clearly, you've lost the hole already. In a hopeless situation like that, you might just go ahead and concede the hole. A hole concession is a waving of the white flag on an individual hole in match play: I give up, you win this hole, let's move on to the next hole.

  • Match concession: Same as hole concession, except you are giving up on the entire match. It's important to note that while hole concessions are nothing unusual (although it's uncommon for a hole to be conceded before reaching the green), match concessions are very rare and considered bad form. Maybe you lost the first eight holes of the match. No doubt you're going to lose the match — but you should still keep playing (and keep trying your best) until your opponent actually does close out the match.

Those are the three types of concessions in golf. Remember, conceding a putt, a hole or a match is only "legal" according to the rules in match play, not stroke play (although many recreational golfers do employ gimmes in stroke play). Concessions are usually offered by one player to another, but it is not against the rules to ask an opponent to concede your putt.

Note also that there is a golf club in Florida named The Concession. It was co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin and is named in honor of a famous conceded putt that happened in a match between the two during the 1969 Ryder Cup.

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