What Is a Mulligan in Golf? Definition and Facts

Golf rules can be perplexing. Some rules, such as the mulligan, are hard to understand if you’re someone who’s new to this sport.

So, what is a mulligan in golf, exactly?

This post covers everything you need to know about the mulligan, from its purpose to the origin of the name, so stick around.

What Is a Mulligan and How Is It Used?

Simply put, a mulligan is a re-do. It’s a chance to shoot again if one player has made a poor tee shot at the start of the game.

Keep in mind, however, that you can’t find this rule in the official rulebook of the sport. The mulligan is largely a rule in informal games that are played between friends and golf buddies.

Golf Course and Lake

Typically, you’re allowed to take one mulligan per round—during a tee shot or an approach shot. Putt shots and “on the green” shots aren’t given a mulligan.

If you take a mulligan, there’s no score or penalty attached to your prior (bad) shot. Although, it still depends on you and your opponents’ agreed-upon terms at the beginning of your game.

What Is the Origin of the Mulligan Rule?

Although the term has been around since the 1940s, it’s unclear when and where exactly the mulligan rule started.

According to the United States Golf Association, the most popular theories of when and where the mulligan rule began revolve around a golf player named David Mulligan.

The first version tells of Mr. Mulligan, who’s a business owner and a manager of a renowned hotel in New York City. Mr. Mulligan allegedly impulsively re-teed and did a second tee shot after shooting a terrible one.

Golf Course - Clubhouse

According to this story, he called this re-do a “correction shot.” His friends, however, amused by the unusual display, coined a term that they found more fitting—they called it the mulligan.

The second version, while telling of the same Mr. Mulligan, cites a totally different scenario. It apparently happened on a golf course at St. Lamberts.

One day, Mr. Mulligan got out and drove to pick up his regular golf buddies. Now, because the drive to the club was extremely difficult, Mr. Mulligan became tired and shaky. To compensate, his friends allowed him an extra swing with his golf club.

Some Key Takeaways and Facts About the Mulligan

Golf Glove, Scorecard

Now that you know what the mulligan rule is and how it’s used, as well as when and why it started, let’s go over some key takeaways and facts to remember.

  • It’s a rule for casual games, so it’s not allowed in professional golf tournaments.
  • You can only take one mulligan per round, though you and your golf buddies can change that.
  • There’s an opposite rule of the mulligan called the Gilligan, which is a re-do of exceptionally good shots.

Bottom Line

The mulligan is simply a re-do of a bad tee shot. It’s a friendly game rule that’s attributed to a golf player named David Mulligan and has been around for decades.

The Golf Bandit
The Golf Bandit

Hi, I'm Jan. I love golf and I have been playing for a while now. I really enjoy trying out new golf clubs and equipment, and like to review them on my blog. I consider myself lucky as I have access to the latest clubs and gadgets, so I can get a feel for how they perform on the golf course. I also like to share my tips and tricks on how to improve your game, so if you're looking for help with that then look no further! Thanks for visiting, and I hope you find something useful here.

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