What is a Mulligan in Golf? A Deep Dive Into Second Chances

What is a mulligan in golf? Our helpful reader's guide will walk you through the backstory of what a mulligan is and where its name originated. We'll also take a look at its use in the modern game and the rules surrounding it.
If you've ever played a game with someone only to have them call for a mulligan when they make a mistake, then you may have wondered what they meant. If you hadn't heard of a mulligan before you might even have gotten into an argument about it.
Mulligans are especially common if you play golf. The sport of golf is where the term mulligan came from. But what is a mulligan in golf exactly? And where did it come from?

In this helpful reader's guide, we'll give you an in-depth look at what a mulligan is, the rules surrounding it, and the stories about the origin of the term.
Simply put, a mulligan is when you get a second chance to do something after you've failed to do it the first time. Often, use a mulligan when the first chance they took was a mistake because of bad luck or something outside of the person's control. In the name of fairness and sportsmanship, their opponent might allow for a mulligan.

But what is a mulligan in golf?

But, you may be asking yourself, if they aren't allowed in official play why are they so popular?

Where the Name Comes From

Mulligan Rules

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As stated earlier, the only strict rules about mulligans are the ones that ban them from official play, but there are many informal rules about how and when to use them in casual play. These aren't strict rules, because you use them casually.
You can make any rules for the use of mulligans that you want as long as all the competitors agree on them. However, there are some commonly held rules that are the default for casual games on most golf courses. We have them here so you can know ahead of time.
You can make any rules for the use of mulligans that you want as long as all the competitors agree on them. However, there are some commonly held rules that are the default for casual games on most golf courses. We have them here so you can know ahead of time.

Among groups that allow for a mulligan to be used, if it can be used for any type of shot, then generally 18 are allowed per round. This is because mulligans are usually only allowed on tee shots because tee shots are known to be a more difficult shot, and it's easy to put a new ball on the tee rather than try to figure out exactly where you took your last shot from.

A variation on the use of mulligans is that they're only allowed to be used on the first shot of the round. Sometimes multiple mulligans might be used for the same shot. In that case, each shot is given other playful names including:
  • Branagan
  • Flanagan
  • Finnegan
  • Craig
It's a good idea to discuss what the mulligan rules are in any game before a situation happens where someone asks for one, that way everyone knows what the rules are ahead of time, and you can avoid arguments.

Other Uses

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The term mulligan has become so popular that people often use it outside of golf. This includes as a figure of speech and when playing other games.

When used in speech, it's come to mean any mistake that is allowed to pass without consequences. 

In other games, the use is similar, a mistake that is ignored and allows the person to redo the attempt.

Final Thoughts

So what is a mulligan in golf? At its most basic, it's a term used after you've taken a bad shot and you want to have another try without affecting your score.

So, the next time you golf or play another game, and someone asks for a mulligan, you'll know the many interesting backstories to the use of the term.

Featured Image via Pexels

Adam Jenkins
 

I’m certainly no expert on the game of golf, but I am someone who knows what it’s like to start out completely overwhelmed. From one beginner to the next, here's to a better golf game!

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