Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

When is it Okay to Take a Mulligan?


Golf is an emotional game with equal levels of reward and frustration. Therefore, you need to keep your emotions in check whenever you are playing. Although controlling your emotions may seem challenging, golf rules offer different solutions. For example, the handicap rule ensures you have a fair shot at winning the game, regardless of your opponents’ golf skills and experience. Another way golfers manage their in-game frustration is through mulligans. Keep reading to discover more about what is a golf mulligan and its significance to your gameplay.

So, what is a mulligan in golf?

A mulligan is a golf rule that allows you to retake your shot without impacting your current score. The rule recognizes that players can sometimes hit the ball incorrectly. As such, a mulligan allows them an opportunity to correct their shot to improve their final score.

However, special conditions must be met before accepting a mulligan in your game. The following section lists some of the reasons to accept a mulligan.

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When Should You Take a Mulligan in Golf?

Here are some in-game scenarios when you should consider playing a mulligan.

·      You hit a lousy tee shot.

Most amateur players are unaware that different golf clubs produce different shot results. For example, your 3-wood is the best club to achieve shots of nearly 210 yards. As a result, you can request a mulligan if you feel your first shot did not go as planned.

·      The ball lands in the bunker.

Sand bunkers are a common hazard in professional golf courses. Typically, they are shallow sand pits with raised barriers, making playing the ball more challenging. As such, most golfers try their best to avoid them during gameplay. However, you can request a mulligan from your fellow golfers if you feel you can achieve a better shot.

·      Failure to reach the green. 

Similarly, you can request a mulligan to improve your chances of reaching the green. Typically, your opponents will accept the request if your gameplay is causing delays.

·      Losing your golf ball in inaccessible areas.

Most golf courses operate in secluded environments, depending on the developer’s theme. Therefore, they introduce different hazards to make your experience more entertaining. For example, they can introduce water hazards to a hole to test your skill level. Typically, all golf balls that land in water hazards belong to the golf course. As such, mulligans allow you to continue participating without affecting your final score.

The above are the most common scenarios where golf accepts mulligans. However, you should remember not all golf formats permit mulligans in their rules. For example, official tournaments such as the PGA Tour do not permit mulligans in their gameplay. Instead, the practice is more common in charities and friendly games.

How many mulligans can you request?

Typically, you can request up to two mulligans when playing a friendly game. In addition, these are only available during your game’s tee-off phase. However, charity golf games offer more freedom with their mulligans. For example, you can request up to five mulligans when playing nine-hole golf, provided you can pay the additional charge.

Therefore, always ask about mulligans before participating in a game. It will help in reducing player conflict as the game progresses.

Is there a difference between mulligans and your golf handicap?

A mulligan is a stipulation that allows you to retake your shot without affecting your overall score. In addition, the stipulation is not allowed in official golf tournaments. Therefore, it does not count to your golf ranking.

Conversely, golf handicaps are official calculations of your average game scores. Most golf associations use your ten best scores out of the twenty recent rounds to determine your ranking. As such, achieving a lower handicap score indicates that you are a good golfer.

When did golf start offering mulligans?

Depending on your source, there are several accounts of when mulligans first made it to golf. Keeping this in mind, below are the common theories among golfers:

·      David Bernard Mulligan.

Some golfers say the term originates from David Bernard Mulligan, during a golf game the Canadian played in the 1920s. He played a second shot during the four-player game and said it was a correction shot. Since then, golfers refer to correction shots as mulligans.

·      John A. Mulligan.

John Mulligan was a New Jersey locker room attendant who would occasionally play golf with his friends. However, they would always allocate an extra shot to him to compensate for his skill level. As such, the term is a homage to the privilege John received from his golf buddies.


Despite their checkered history, mulligans enable golf players to improve their skills in tournament-like scenarios. As such, you can concentrate on your technique without worrying so much about your final score.

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