We received this question at the LPGA Women’s Network:
“Is there any special pace-of-play rule for putting? My friend said for the casual golfer it’s ok to pick up putts inside 5 feet. My reaction was no way. She said look it up and I did. Not a mention.”
Generally speaking, a player must hole out in stroke play. A player needs to start playing the hole within the teeing area and finish by holing it. If you pick up before holing out in a competition, USGA Rule 3.3 says that you must correct this mistake before making a stroke to begin another hole or before returning your card on the last hole or you will be disqualified.
That said, if we are talking about a casual game among friends, you can agree to do what you want. If you are not playing in a competition and not establishing a handicap with this score, it is acceptable to pick it up as agreed. Five feet away sounds a little generous but you can agree on a distance. “Within the leather”, which refers to an instance where the ball is roughly as far away from the hole as the length of the leather grip on a putter, is an accepted distance often used.
There is no “special pace-of-play rule for putting” but there is an expectation to play quickly and with regard to those behind you. If it’s a friendly game and you are putting for a high score then I would encourage you to pick it up. Some leagues have adopted a “maximum score” form of play that is designed to encourage fast play. The committee decides what maximum score is such as two times par, net double bogie etc and once you hit that number you pick it up. These scores can be used for handicap posting purposes if you accurately predict how many more strokes it would have taken you to hole out.
So if you’re trying to “look it up”, it won’t be stated in black and white in the Rules of Golf but there is some grey in allowing this in a casual game situation.