What Is A Mulligan In Golf?

A Mulligan in golf is a way to ignore a bad shot – but it is not part of the rules of golf

Time for a Mulligan in golf?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What Is A Mulligan In Golf?

A Mulligan in golf is a shot which is allowed to be replayed without penalty and as if the first shot had not even happened. Thus if a player is unhappy with a bad shot, he or she can simply repeat it. It is against the rules of golf, but it is used in some social games.

As it it against the rules of golf, there are no set rules as to how and when it can be used – this has to be agreed between the players. There are normally limitations to the taking of Mulligans, either in terms of how many can be used during a round, or when they can be used – sometimes a Mulligan can only be used on tee shots, sometimes only for the first tee shot of a round.

Some charity golf days allow participants to buy Mulligans in advance to be used during the round as part of the fundraising.

How did the term Mulligan originate?

No-one is sure. Most stories agree it was after a chap named Mulligan, but they differ as to who this Mr Mulligan was. Some versions have him as Canadian golfer David B. Mulligan, who arrived flustered on the 1st tee and played a bad drive, and then declared he would play it again calling it “a correction shot”. Another version has it coming from the locker room attendant at Essex Falls Country Club in New Jersey, John A. Mulligan, who wanted to be able to replay a bad shot as had been at work all day, unlike his playing partners who had had time to practise and warm up.

What is the Mulligan-Recall golf game?

This game involves each player being awarded a set number of Mulligans and Recalls. A player can call a Mulligan after one of their own poor shots; however the other players can also call a Recall on another player. A Recall is effect also a Mulligan but it is imposed on a player by his or her opponents. In a Recall a player can make an opponent replay a good shot.

What is a Gilligan in golf?

A Gilligan is in effect the opposite of a Mulligan. With a Mulligan a player can replay a bad shot with a Gilligan a player’s opponent can make them replay a good shot. Neither Mulligans or Gilligans are part of the rules of golf, but are used in some social games by prior arrangement.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Roderick is the author of the critically acclaimed comic golf novel, Summer At Tangents. Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is also the author of five non-fiction books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.