NCG's Golf Glossary: What is a Mulligan?
Here at NCG we pride ourselves on being the publication for the everyday player, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to delve into the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.
Sometimes the most obvious terms have the most interesting story, so you might find yourself an interesting conversation starter…
What is a Mulligan?
Those clever bods at the Oxford Dictionary define it as: ‘an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard’.
How would you use it in a sentence?
“That wasn’t a great shot. Why not take a Mulligan?”
What are its origins?
It rather depends to whom you speak. One version is that it dates back to the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Prominent amateur David Bernard Mulligan was allowed to striking a second ball by his playing partners after mis-hitting his drive. He’d driven to Winged Foot in a touring car and had complained his hands were cold.
He originally referred to it as a correction shot, but the term Mulligan followed quickly after.
The alternative theory surrounds John A ‘Buddy’ Mulligan, a 1930s locker room attendant at Essex Fells, in New Jersey.
He’d play a round with assistant professional Dave O’Connell and member Des Sullivan. On one occasion, he hit an opening shot so bad he begged for another chance.
After getting it, he boasted of the feat in the locker room and members began giving themselves Mulligans in his honour.
Which is right? Who knows. Maybe they are both happy coincidences.
Any other business?
While a Mulligan gives an unfortunate player a chance to get a ‘do over’ (as the Americans love to coin it), the practice is open to abuse. Some prominent players have been known to take advantage.
President Bill Clinton was said to routinely take liberties on the course. In his book First Off The Tee, Don Van Natta used the term ‘Billigan’ to describe the number of times he would take a Mulligan to protect his scores.
The current incumbent, Donald Trump, has also been reported – in a piece by Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck – to enjoy a mulligan.