Rules Guy: In match play, can you give a putt to your opponent as the ball is rolling toward the hole?

Golfers putting

How long do you have to concede a putt in match play?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

As an act of gamesmanship, can I give my opponent a putt after it has been struck but before it reaches the hole?
—Kelly Frank, Rochester, N.Y.

That is some really serious three-dimensional chess, Kelly — except that you can make a concession only before the stroke is made, so the putt your opponent hit counts.

If it goes in, the concession is irrelevant. If it misses, the concession applies to the next stroke, so the next one is good even if your opponent blows it 10 feet past the cup. We’ll conclude by noting that gamesmanship isn’t next to godliness.

For more match-play guidance from Rules Guy, read on …

In the Players Edition of the Rules of Golf, Rule 3.2d, “Your responsibilities in match play,” it says: “If you and your opponent deliberately agree to ignore a breach or penalty you both know applies, you are both disqualified.” My question is what are we disqualified from — the hole, the round? We play in a friendly but competitive league, and I’ve seen these things happen often.
—Jim Rutherford, Phillips, Wis.

Jim, you are forbidden from picking up a golf club ever again! Just joshing.

Players who knowingly flout the Rules of Golf are flogged with a 1-iron to their posterior until they can explain Rule 12.2b(3). Still joshing!

Ball on green
Rules Guy: Is backstopping legal in four-ball match play?
By: Rules Guy

You are disqualified from the competition; whether the league wants to impose further sanctions outside the Rules of Golf is a private matter the Rules don’t delve into. There is one relevant exception that Rules Guy finds fascinating: In match play, you are free to overlook an opponent’s breach of the rules. You’re playing Frankie Foot-Wedge and want to keep his repeated transgressions to yourself? That’s fine, since you’re potentially hurting only yourself or your team; this is not considered waiving a Rule of Golf.

What you can’t do is make your opponent aware that a penalty should be applied and then not do so — once you’re both aware, the penalty is obligatory. So with apologies to that persistent Mercedes advertisement on golf telecasts, either mum’s the word or it isn’t.

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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