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What is a Mulligan? Understanding This Unique Tradition

What is a Mulligan in Golf - golf ball on the tee image

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Golf is a sport rich in traditions and unique terms. One term that often piques the curiosity of beginners is “mulligan.” But what is a mulligan in golf, and how is it used? This comprehensive guide will delve into the definition, origins, and proper use of mulligans. We’ll also provide tips on when and how to use a mulligan in casual play to enhance your golfing experience. By the end of this post, you’ll have a thorough understanding of what a mulligan in golf is and how it can be incorporated into your rounds.

What is a Mulligan in Golf?

Golfer hitting a second tee shot after a poor first shot on a green golf course.

A mulligan in golf is an informal practice where a player is allowed to retake a shot without penalty. It is typically used on the first tee shot and is not recognized in formal or professional play. Mulligans are most commonly used in casual rounds or friendly matches to give players a second chance on a poorly executed shot.

The Origins of the Mulligan

The exact origins of the mulligan are unclear, but there are several popular theories:

David Mulligan Theory

One theory suggests that the term originated from David Mulligan, a Canadian golfer who, in the 1920s, would retake his first tee shot at the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York. His playing partners began calling this a “mulligan,” and the term stuck.

John A. “Buddy” Mulligan Theory

Another theory attributes the term to John A. “Buddy” Mulligan, a locker room attendant at Essex Fells Country Club in New Jersey, who was known for giving himself second chances on the course.

Colonial Golf Club Theory

A third theory suggests that the term originated at the Colonial Golf Club in Virginia, where a golfer named Mulligan was granted a do-over by his friends after a poor shot.

The Rules of Using a Mulligan

Golfer adjusting stance on the fairway, preparing to take a mulligan with a golf cart in the background.

While mulligans are not recognized in official golf rules, there are some commonly accepted guidelines for their use in casual play:

First Tee Only

Mulligans are usually limited to the first tee shot of the round.

One Mulligan Per Round

Typically, players are allowed only one mulligan per round.

Agreement Among Players

All players in the group should agree to the use of mulligans before the round begins.

No Score Impact

Mulligans are not counted in the official score and are purely for fun and practice.

When to Use a Mulligan

First Tee Jitters

The first tee shot of the day can be nerve-wracking. Using a mulligan can help alleviate some of that pressure.

Practice and Improvement

Mulligans can be a great way to practice and improve your swing in a low-pressure situation.

Casual Rounds

Mulligans are best used in casual rounds with friends where the emphasis is on fun rather than competition.

Tips for Using Mulligans Effectively

Stay Within Limits

Stick to the commonly accepted guidelines of using only one mulligan per round and primarily on the first tee.

Communicate with Your Group

Ensure that everyone in your group agrees to the use of mulligans before the round starts.

Use for Improvement

Treat the mulligan as a learning opportunity. Analyze your first shot, and use the mulligan to make necessary adjustments.

The Impact of Mulligans on Your Game

Group of golfers on the green discussing taking a mulligan, with one golfer holding a putter and others pointing towards the tee box.

Confidence Booster

Using a mulligan can boost your confidence, especially if your first shot didn’t go as planned.


Knowing you have a mulligan can help you relax and enjoy the game more, reducing anxiety and pressure.

Learning Tool

Mulligans provide a unique opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve your technique.

Common Misconceptions About Mulligans

Unlimited Mulligans

Some players mistakenly believe they can take multiple mulligans per round. It’s important to adhere to the commonly accepted one-mulligan rule to maintain fairness.

Use in Competitive Play

Mulligans are not allowed in formal competitions or professional play. They are strictly for casual rounds.

Advanced Techniques for Mulligans

Analyzing Your First Shot

Take a moment to analyze what went wrong with your first shot. Was it your stance, grip, swing path, or alignment? Use this analysis to make corrections on your mulligan shot.

Mental Reset

Use the mulligan as a mental reset. Clear your mind of the previous shot and focus entirely on executing a better shot.

Consistency Practice

Practicing with mulligans can help you develop consistency in your game. The more you analyze and correct your mistakes, the more consistent your shots will become.

Resources for Further Learning

To deepen your understanding of mulligans and other golf terms, consider exploring these high-quality external links:


Understanding what a mulligan in golf is and how to use it can enhance your enjoyment of the game. While mulligans are not part of formal golf rules, they offer a fun and informal way to give yourself a second chance on the course. By using mulligans wisely and within the accepted guidelines, you can boost your confidence, relax more on the course, and improve your overall game. Remember to communicate with your playing partners and use mulligans as a learning tool to make the most out of your practice rounds.

Happy golfing!

If you enjoyed this post, we’re sure you’ll also find our other articles interesting. Check out our how to golf for beginners guide and discover everything you need to know about it.

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