The Term “Mulligan” Explained

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To put it simply a mulligan is a do-over of a shot from a previous stroke without penalty. Essentially forgetting that the first shot ever happened.

The term is used when a player hits a particularly bad shot and is reserved only for casual friendly golf games. You may hear it be shortened to just ‘mullie’.

The Term “Mulligan” Explained

These are particularly useful for players who are just beginning to learn the game. It is hard to hit good golf shots every time. A mulligan can be a great way to boost a players confidence if they are just starting their golfing journey.

It can also speed up play since you won’t spend so much time looking for stray golf balls.

Even the most experienced players have their off days. Sometimes all you need is a second chance to get back on track so don’t judge anyone who asks for a mulligan.

Mulligan are never allowed in competitive rounds or official tournaments and events. Although there are no set rules on where you can take a mulligan during an informal and friendly round, it is considered impolite to take one when your original shot ending up in a decent position. It’s also more acceptable to take a mulligan on the tee box rather than near the hole.

While the term originated in golf it has spread across many fields such as other sports, card games and even politics.

Although no one knows exactly where the term comes from it is widely believed that it is named after a golf player called Mulligan who was known for taking a do over or ‘correction’ shot. Especially what is also known as a ‘Breakfast Ball’.

The ‘Breakfast Ball’

The ‘Breakfast Ball’ is the first tee shot of the day that you may need to perform twice. As the first shot there is often a lot of pressure to start the round well, or maybe you didn’t have a chance to warm up properly. Either way, it’s hard not to stress about being perfect on the first shot.

It may seem like a game is fated to go bad when your first shot is out of bounds, but that is what a mulligan is for. Even those who are strict with the rules of golf might be inclined to allow a mulligan when it is the first stroke of the day.

Mulligan-Recall And Gilligan

When discussing mulligans you might hear of “gilligans” or a “mulligan-recall” game. These are used in casual games and sometimes they can even up the stakes.The term gilligan is simply the opposite of a mulligan – having to redo a good shot.

A mulligan-recall game is where each player has a set number of mulligans and recalls. A mulligan of course allows you to redo a shot which was bad, but a recall is used by your opponent to make you replay a good shot. Players often initiate a gilligan by telling their opponent to “prove it!”

Don’t Take Without Asking

When playing in a group it is always polite to ask if you can have a do-over of a shot. Most players will allow it or even offer you one. Of course make sure you offer the same opportunity to your fellow golfers in turn.

When there are wagers involved in a game make sure that any mulligans are discussed beforehand to avoid confusion or even conflict later on.

A group may even allow multiple mulligans from the same spot, each with a different name – Finnegan, Branagan, Flanagan, and finally Craig. 

While a mulligan can be just what you need to get your golf game on track make sure you don’t take too many. It is common practice to only take one or two per round. Golfers have a range of opinions on if and when mulligans are acceptable so check with your playing partners.

Not only do they slow down everyone else’s game, but you personally won’t improve your game if you never learn from your mistakes.

Following the official rules as closely as possible will also prepare you for any tournaments you may participate in or if you’re planning on going pro.

For Casual Games Only

While the use of mulligans can keep a game relaxed and friendly, it is not an actual golf rule, so you will never see this be used in competitive or professional games.

If you are playing a game that follows USGA rules then you will have to just take the penalty. You may even be disqualified from an official game if you allow one to take place.

You may see the use of mulligans in charity games where people can purchase the use of them. This can be a great way to raise money for a worthy cause.

David Shelly
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