What is a Mulligan in Golf ?

WA mulligan can save your round. It can prevent you from suffering an unfair consequence from a single bad shot, a consequence which can turn a potentially decent round into a bad one. It can allow you to reset, take a deep breath, and start over. I know this sounds like something I could use every now and then, and unless you’re Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy I’m sure you could too. If that’s the case, you probably want to know more. You’re probably asking yourself right now; what is a mulligan in golf?

What is a mulligan?

Put simply, a mulligan is the opportunity to take back a shot, and have it again. It’s the opportunity to simply ignore that snap hook which settled on the wrong side of a tree trunk, resigning you to a double bogey at best before you’ve even left the tee. It’s the opportunity to pretend that your ball didn’t fly into the middle of the lake, and to replace it exactly where it sat prior to you taking out a huge tuft of turf during your swing.

With a mulligan, the idea is that you receive no penalty for your bad shot. You won’t be charged with an extra stroke for taking the mulligan, nor will you have to walk 100 metres across the adjoining fairway to find your ball. All you have to do is reach into your bag, put down a new ball, and swing again.

Are mulligans legal?

Put simply, no. Not at any competitive level anyway. Competitive golf, unfortunately, generally requires you to play the game without the mulligans, and bear the brunt of the consequences for your poor shots. If you’ve played much golf you’ll know how unfair this can sometimes feel. How unfair it feels when you’re playing the best round of your life through 13 holes, before a horrible tee shot on the 14th leaves you scrambling to stay in single figures and ruins your day.

The only place mulligans may be accepted is in social golf. If all players in a casual game of golf agree, there is nothing stopping you from allowing a set number of mulligans throughout a round. If you’re feeling really generous, you don’t even have to set a limit. If you mess a shot up, why not just take have another one!?

Of course, most people have at least a little competitive streak inside of them, and as a result probably won’t get the same sense of satisfaction from the game if endless mulligans were allowed. As a result, most social groups don’t apply the rule, though in games among friends it isn’t uncommon to see the occasional mulligan taken here and there.

Where does the idea of a mulligan come from?

The story goes that the concept of a mulligan was created somewhat on a limb a little under 100 years ago by, unsurprisingly, a man with the last name Mulligan. Mulligan messed up his first tee shot one day, and promptly teed up a second ball. He claimed the first one didn’t count as he still had cold hands from the drive to the course. Upon being questioned by his friends, he claimed the cancellation of his first shot was called a Mulligan, and hence the beautiful idea of ignoring your bad shots became a part of history.

The concept of a mulligan is evidently more relevant for your run-of-the-mill golfer, rather than the absolute best in the world. One of the things which makes the stars of the PGA Tour so great is their ability to ensure even their very worst shots are generally pretty good. Having said that, it isn’t uncommon to see them fluff a shot here and there. Take a look at this video of Sergio Garcia earning himself a 13 at this years Masters. It isn’t just amateurs like us who need a mulligan or four every now and then!


So, to recap; a mulligan is an idea which allows you to take back a bad shot, and simply have it again. In general, mulligans are nothing more than a pipe dream for golfers after they hit a bad shot. In any competitive environment they aren’t allowed, as much as we would love them to be, and even in social situations many players won’t be generous enough to allow you to take mulligans whenever you like. If you have any more questions about what a mulligan is, feel free to post them in the comments!

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