What Is a Mulligan in Golf? (And 3 Interesting Origins)

what is a mulligan in golf

Are you asking, “What is a Mulligan in Golf?

Are you just starting to learn golf or simply want to know more about the sport? 

Being aware of the terms golfers use is essential to know what you are doing on the course.

In this guide, I will take you through the term mulligan, what it means, its purpose, how it originated, and where you can use a mulligan.

Let’s get started!

What Is a Mulligan in Golf?

golfer needing a mulligan in golf

A mulligan means you get another chance to play redo your stroke if you missed the first one due to an error or your ball went out of bounds. 

Thus, if you hit a stroke and, for some reason, your club does not hit the ball or ends up hitting it extremely badly, you can ask for a mulligan.

This can allow you to hit the ball again, counting as a redo of your original stroke. The original is discarded, and the mulligan is considered in your score.

This can help you get back in the game without losing strokes. This is quite a common strategy used by casual or amateur golfers, especially if there are no stakes or formal rules.

It can also speed up how long it takes to play a round of golf.

Does It Come With a Penalty?

There is technically no penalty involved when it comes to a mulligan.

Thus, a mulligan can essentially give you a second shot without losing out on anything while also letting you regain your dignity after that original poor shot.

In this case, your progress using the mulligan will count in your final score (if you are keeping score) instead of the original shot. No harm done!

Of course, you should note that this only applies to casual games of golf or even amateur games.

If you try this in a professional tournament, you will likely get disqualified or penalized.

How Can It Help?

what is a mulligan in golf

In a casual game, there are several ways in which a mulligan can prove to be useful and helpful. For instance:

  • It can allow you to shoot another stroke for the second time to recover from an error.
  • It can help you progress in the game by lowering your score (provided that you hit the ball right this time around).
  • It can reduce your stress levels in the game that might have been caused by the previous poor shot for which you took a mulligan.
  • It can help save plenty of time in a game, especially if you hit the ball out of bounds in your previous shot. Instead of searching for the ball, you can simply play another stroke and not get involved in the technicalities.
  • It can improve the speed and momentum of the game by giving you a boost of confidence if you hit the ball well.

Origins Of A Mulligan

The origins of the term mulligan are vague and unclear.

There are several theories or versions that you can go through below to get a rough understanding of how this concept came to develop.

However, all of them involve a golfer named David Mulligan, who played in the 1920s in Canada.

These are all as stated by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

  • David Mulligan, a hotelier, ended up hitting a ball out of bounds and simply decided to hit it again in its place. He referred to this as a correction shot, but his partners referred to it as a mulligan.
  • While picking up his friends to play golf in a car he was driving, Mulligan had to go through a rough ride, resulting in his friends rewarding him with an extra stroke.
  • Coming late to the golf course, Mulligan hit a poor stroke in his dazed state and ended up redoing it.

Rules and Restrictions

Based on the official rules of golf, there are no associations with a mulligan or any mention of it whatsoever.

It is, however, clear that a mulligan is prohibited from formal tournaments and matches that fall under governing organizations such as the USGA.

Thus, if a professional player is caught attempting to redo their stroke, they might be disqualified entirely or penalized in some way or the other.

There might be certain restrictions in place when it comes to casual golf, such as how many times you can take a mulligan.

Sometimes, there might even be a review or discussion process to see if you should be allowed to take one at all at a given time.

You cannot take mulligan’s if you are counting your game on a handicap.

Taking a Mulligan

golfer hitting over a pond

When and how can you take a mulligan in a casual game? There are several situations where you might feel the need to take a mulligan. These can include:

  • Hitting a ball out of bounds, especially when you are starting off the game
  • Following up the initial tee stroke to push the game ahead
  • Completely missing out on hitting the ball
  • The ball getting blown away due to bad weather

Make sure you consult the other golfers you are playing with before deciding on a mulligan. It is also important to add restrictions so that neither of you gets too carried away.

Is a Mulligan Universally Accepted?

A mulligan is most certainly not universally accepted. Since it is prohibited by the USGA, using a mulligan in professional matches is completely out of the question.

Internationally, this kind of play is not allowed either. When it comes to casual games, whether or not a mulligan is accepted depends on the people you are playing with.

A mulligan might be accepted in amateur games if the game is not governed by any formal organization.

Final Remarks

This guide has taken you through certain relevant details surrounding a mulligan in golf. While it is not a part of official matches, you can decide to play using one in recreational games if you and your fellow golfers agree to it.

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