What is a Mulligan in Golf: Definition & Rules

Have you ever found yourself wishing for a second chance in golf? Well, look no further! If you’ve heard the term “Mulligan” being thrown around on the course and wondered what it means, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we will delve into the definition and rules of a Mulligan in golf, giving you a clear understanding of this unique aspect of the game.

So, let’s tee off and find out all about what a Mulligan in Golf is and how it can enhance your playing experience. Let’s dive in!

Understanding the Mulligan in Golf: Definition & Rules

What is a Mulligan in Golf

Golf is a sport that requires precision, skill, and a fair amount of patience. It’s a game that challenges players to conquer the obstacles that lay in their path and achieve the lowest score possible. However, we all know that sometimes things don’t go as planned, and mistakes happen. That’s where the concept of a “mulligan” comes into play.

A mulligan in golf is a do-over shot, or a second chance, that allows a player to nullify their previous stroke and retake the shot without penalty. It’s an opportunity to correct a mistake or simply have another attempt at a challenging shot. This unique aspect of the game offers golfers a chance to recover from a poor shot and potentially improve their overall performance.

Origin and Evolution of the Mulligan

The origin of the term “mulligan” in golf is often a topic of debate. Several theories exist regarding its etymology, but one popular belief traces it back to a Canadian golfer named David Mulligan.

Legend has it that Mulligan, a well-known member of the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, would often take an extra shot off the first tee. His playing partners began referring to this act as a “Mulligan,” and the term stuck.

While the exact origin may remain unclear, the concept of the mulligan has been embraced by golfers around the world. It has become an integral part of the game, allowing recreational players to enjoy a more forgiving experience and encouraging a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere on the golf course.

Rules and Guidelines for Using a Mulligan

While the idea of a mulligan may sound appealing, it’s important to understand that there are rules and guidelines associated with using one. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. Inform Your Playing Partners

Before utilizing a mulligan, it’s considered good etiquette to inform your playing partners of your intention. This ensures transparency and avoids any confusion during the round.

2. Limitations on Usage

Mulligans are not recognized in official golf rules and are typically only allowed in casual or recreational play. The number of mulligans permitted may vary depending on the specific course or group. It’s essential to clarify the rules and limitations before beginning your round.

3. First Tee Mulligan

The most common and widely accepted use of a mulligan is on the first tee. It’s often referred to as the “first tee mulligan” or the “breakfast ball.” This allows players to start their rounds with a fresh shot and shake off any initial nervousness or tension.

4. Stroke Replayed

When taking a mulligan, the player must replay the same stroke that was previously made. This means that the ball is not moved to a different location, and the conditions remain the same. The purpose of a mulligan is to give the player another chance to execute the shot correctly, not to gain an unfair advantage.

5. No Penalties

One of the greatest benefits of a mulligan is that it carries no penalties. The original stroke is simply disregarded, and the player continues without any additional strokes being added to their score. This allows golfers to rectify a poor shot without the fear of worsening their score.

6. Not Applicable in Competitions

It’s important to note that mulligans are generally not allowed in formal competitions or tournaments. These events adhere to strict rules and regulations set by governing bodies such as the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A). In such settings, the use of a mulligan would be considered a breach of the rules.

Pros and Cons of Mulligans in Golf

Like any aspect of the game, mulligans come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


  • Increased enjoyment: Mulligans can make the game more enjoyable for recreational players by offering an opportunity to recover from mistakes and keep the round moving smoothly.
  • Improved confidence: Being able to retake a shot can boost a player’s confidence, which can have a positive impact on their overall game.
  • Practice and skill development: Mulligans provide a chance to practice specific shots and strategies, allowing players to refine their skills and technique.


  • Distortion of scores: Mulligans can mask a player’s true ability by removing strokes from their scorecard. This can lead to a distorted perception of skill level.
  • Unfair advantage: In casual play, there is a risk that some players may abuse the mulligan rule, taking excessive do-over shots and gaining an unfair advantage over others.
  • Not applicable in competitive play: The use of mulligans is generally not allowed in formal competitions, which means players may find it challenging to adjust their mindset when transitioning from casual to competitive golf.

Alternatives to Mulligans

While mulligans are a popular option for golfers seeking a second chance, there are alternative approaches that can help improve your game without bending the rules. Here are a few alternatives to consider:

1. Practice Swings

Before taking your shot, incorporate practice swings into your routine. This allows you to work on your technique and get a feel for the shot without actually hitting the ball. Practice swings can help build confidence and improve your chances of executing a successful shot.

2. Positive Mindset

Maintaining a positive mindset throughout your round can significantly impact your performance. Instead of dwelling on a poor shot, focus on the next opportunity to make a good one. Stay optimistic and trust in your abilities to bounce back from setbacks.

3. Course Management

Strategically planning your shots and considering the layout of the course can help you avoid difficult situations. By carefully selecting your clubs and aiming for safer targets, you can minimize the need for mulligans and reduce the likelihood of making costly mistakes.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you practice, the better you become. By dedicating time to improving your skills at the driving range or practicing specific shots, you can build the confidence and consistency needed to perform well on the course. Take lessons from a golf professional to refine your technique and gain valuable insights into the game.

A mulligan in golf is a valuable tool that provides golfers with an opportunity to correct mistakes and enjoy a more forgiving round. While it’s important to adhere to the rules and guidelines associated with mulligans, they can enhance the overall experience for recreational players.

However, it’s essential to strike a balance between utilizing mulligans to improve your game and recognizing the importance of accurate scoring in competitive play.

So, the next time you find yourself in need of a second chance on the golf course, go ahead and take that mulligan, but remember to enjoy the game and appreciate the opportunity to improve your skills.

What is a Mulligan in Golf? – Craig Hocknull PGA

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Mulligan in Golf?

A Mulligan in golf refers to a second chance, or do-over, that a player is allowed to take if their initial shot did not go as desired. It is essentially a free extra stroke that can be used to replace the first shot.

How is a Mulligan different from a regular shot?

A Mulligan is different from a regular shot because it is not counted towards the player’s official score. Instead of counting the stroke and potentially adding to the player’s scorecard, a Mulligan allows them to disregard the first shot and try again without any penalty.

Are there any specific rules for using a Mulligan?

The rules for using a Mulligan can vary depending on the golf course and establishment. In some cases, players may be allowed to take a Mulligan on every hole, while in others it may be limited to a certain number per round. It is important to check with the course or tournament organizers for any specific Mulligan rules that apply.

When is the best time to use a Mulligan?

The best time to use a Mulligan is when the player feels that their first shot was not up to their usual standard or if they simply want another chance to make a better shot. It can be used to alleviate pressure or frustration from a poor initial shot, but it is ultimately up to the individual player to decide when to use it.

Is using a Mulligan considered cheating?

No, using a Mulligan is generally not considered cheating as long as the golfer follows the designated rules and regulations set by the golf course or tournament. As long as the Mulligan is allowed and used within the specified guidelines, it is considered a legitimate part of the game.

Can a Mulligan be used in professional golf tournaments?

In most professional golf tournaments, the use of a Mulligan is not allowed. Professional players are expected to play by the rules, and a Mulligan is typically seen as a recreational or casual practice. However, it is always best to check the specific rules and regulations of the tournament in question to confirm whether Mulligans are permitted.

Final Thoughts

A Mulligan in golf is a term used to describe a do-over shot that allows players to take an additional shot without incurring a penalty. It is often used as a friendly gesture or to rectify a poor shot. The rules surrounding Mulligans vary, and they are typically not allowed in professional or tournament play.

However, in casual rounds, players can agree to use Mulligans to enhance their enjoyment. In conclusion, a Mulligan in golf refers to the opportunity to take an extra shot, and it is a way to bring a sense of fun and fairness to the game.

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