The History Of (Golf) Concessions

The recent WGC Match Play and USGA Four-Balls brought up the increasingly debated topic of when to concede or not concede. In our non-confrontational world, any three-footer or less not conceded is seen as an act of tyranny worthy of armed invasion.

But as the USGA's Michael Trostel and Victoria Student write, the history of concessions has been fascinating, entertaining, stymie-related and a tad controversial. All of my favorite things!

Trostel and Student write:

In the 1920s, conceding putts was still a hotly debated issue on both sides of the Atlantic. In the July 1927 issue of Golf Illustrated, William Henry Beers blamed “generous British golfers” for the custom’s introduction to the game, arguing that it cheated players of valuable practice and brought to light the differences in British and American opinions on the topic.

“American golfers have been criticized for holing out in all matches, which is done for the practice thus gained, and to keep accurate scores for club handicaps. For doing this, American players have been accused of ‘being passionately fond of keeping scores’ and delaying the progress of the players behind by holing out. There is no golf player in the world today who is so good on the putting green that he can afford to lose a large percentage of putting practice that he is deprived of with an opponent who picks up his ball whenever he pleases, or knocks his opponent’s ball away from the hole and concedes the putt.”

British writer and GB&I Walker Cupper Bernard Darwin felt differently. Darwin contended that “the holing out of putts which cannot affect a match, but which are holed purely for private satisfaction, is ‘frankly a bore.’”

That's our Bernie!

According to Darwin, “Americans make a fetish of keeping individual scores. This insistence upon scribbling little figures on a card is not only a waste of time but actually defeats the sporting spirit which is a fundamental principle of match play.”

Did I mention I love Darwin? Go on...

Golf Illustrated writer George Trevor vehemently opposed Darwin’s views. He described the American practice of always holing out a result of values integral to American culture, writing:

“This American insistence on keeping personal scores is basically sound as well as satisfying to the soul. It is the cornerstone upon which our national golf progress is founded, making, as it does, for the precision of play rather than sloppy, slipshod habits. The American feels that anything worth doing at all is worth doing well. Holing out putts breeds confidence and puts the stamp of finality on a man’s game. Not holing out cultivates a sloppy mental attitude.”

Twitter spat before there was Twitter!