What Is A Mulligan In Golf? [Should You Use One?]

Golf is a fun, popular game, most of the time. But it’s also very challenging.

Even the best players in the world hit bad shots occasionally, so is most likely we amateurs will hit a fair few poor shots each round.

Fortunately, when it comes to friendly golf, there’s an age-old term which helps us out on the course.

Introducing a mulligan. But what actually is a mulligan in golf? Let’s take a look.

What Is A Mulligan In Golf?

What Is A Mulligan In Golf?

What Is A Mulligan In Golf?

A mulligan is an unofficial rule in golf which allows a golfer to replay a shot if it’s been hit poorly.

If a bad shot has been played, the golfer can drop another ball and have another go at hitting the shot without any penalty incurred.

A mulligan may only be used in a friendly golf match, such as a round with your mates, a charity golf day or a golf society.

If you asked for a mulligan whilst playing in a more official golf competition, say, at your local golf club, you’d get some pretty funny looks and probably be done for trying to cheat.

If you’re playing in a friendly match with your golf buddies, all players must agree on the mulligan rules before anyone can start calling a mulligan.

It’s important to establish how many mulligans are allowed per player and when you can use them. There might also be a cost for mulligan use, such as a £1 per mulligan goes into the charity box.

A similar golf term is a “breakfast ball” which basically is a mulligan but on the first tee shot of the day. This is great for when you’ve got an early tee time and don’t have time to warm up.

Why Are Mulligans Used In Golf?

Mulligans are a great way of keeping golf more fun and less frustrating.

It’s not the easiest game in the world to master, by using mulligans, it gives less experienced golfers the chance to still have a good time out on the golf course.

A mulligan gives a golfer a second chance at a shot, a correction shot if you will. Perhaps they’ve just shanked their tee shot into the water hazard.

By using a mulligan, they can have another go at the shot and won’t incur any penalty shots for the first tee shot played.

Not only does a mulligan help keep the game more fun for golfers, but it also helps to speed up play.

Instead of spending ages looking for a golf ball to keep a score going, a golfer can just ask for a mulligan and keep the round moving. There’s nothing worse when you’re out for a quick nine holes and you’re stuck with a slow group in front, taking forever to look for their balls.

Generally speaking, mulligans are only used for tee shots. This is because a tee shot is often the shot that’s most likely to lead to a lost ball.

How Many Mulligan’s Can You Use?

There’s no strict number on the number of mulligans which you can call in a round of golf, however, generally speaking, no more than 2 or 3 a round is the accepted amount.

Ideally, the number allowed needs to be determined before the round begins. This might be from the competition committee if you’re playing in a fun event or a charity day.

Or if you’re just out for a friendly golf game, make sure to discuss with your playing partners before the round starts to decide on how many will be allowed.

When To Use A Mulligan In Golf?

As an unofficial rule in golf, a mulligan should only ever be used when you’re playing a casual round or when it has been clearly stated that mulligans are allowed.

Therefore, if you’re playing a competition, it’s never a good idea to ask for a mulligan from your playing partners.

The use of a mulligan is ultimately up to the people you’re playing with (provided you’re not in an official competition) and you will have hopefully discussed this before the round has begun.

When to use a mulligan is very much down to when you feel like it would be best used. But you also have to think carefully about the situation in which you take the mulligan.

If you hit a poor opening tee shot and there’s a big queue on the first tee, it’s probably not a great idea to use a mulligan.

If you hit another poor tee shot for the 4th hole in a row and your ball ends up in the water – now could be a good time to ask for a mulligan.

Generally speaking, the use of a mulligan in golf should only be if you’re having a bad round. If you keep hitting bad shots and the round is beginning to turn from fun to sad, that’s when you can start claiming a few mulligans.

If you’re absolutely lighting the golf course up and playing really well, then you hit one bad tee shot, it’s probably best not to ask your playing partners for a mulligan. They’ll almost certainly be a little annoyed you’re playing so well, and asking for a mulligan will only make that worse.

History Of A Mulligan In Golf

There’s a couple of different stories for where did the term mulligan originate from, all of which are a little cloudy as to whether they’re actually true. Let’s have a quick look.

David Bernard Mulligan

David Mulligan was a Canadian amateur golfer back in the 1920s who is claimed to be the reason behind the mulligan in golf.

David Bernard Mulligan’s story is a little unclear but the most likely event was when he was out playing Lambert Country Club with his friends, his first tee shot was hit offline.

He then decided to play a ‘correction shot’ from the same spot and his partners decided it would be known as a ‘Mulligan’.

John A. Mulligan

John Mulligan was a locker room attendant at Essex Fells Country Club in the 1930s. Always bust working, he didn’t ever get the chance to go out and practice.

So, whilst out on a round of golf with some of the local professional golfers, Mulligan got frustrated after hitting a poor shot and asked for an extra shot, claiming that he never gets the chance to practice his game, unlike the professionals who are always playing.

Final Thoughts

A mulligan is a great unofficial rule in golf with gives players the opportunity to replay their previous stroke.

As long as you’re comfortable with who you’re playing with and it’s just a casual round of golf, mulligans are totally acceptable, but always be wary of asking for too many mulligans.

Mulligan FAQs

How many strokes is a mulligan?

A mulligan is essentially an extra free shot so doesn’t count as any extra shots. Simply drop another ball and play it as if it were the previous shot.

Are mulligans only off the tee?

Mulligans are usually only allowed from a bad shot off the tee. Sometimes less skilled golfers might be allowed to have a mulligan on other subsequent shots, however, this needs to be decided by the other golfers in the group.

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

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