What is a "Mulligan" in Golf? Everything You Need to Know.

What is a Mulligan in Golf?

In golf, a "mulligan" is a do-over or second chance at a shot with no penalty during a casual round of play. Usually, mulligans are reserved for spectacularly poor shots off the tee.

While there are no mulligans in competitive play, taking one or more mulligans is usually fine in a casual round of golf. They're often even agreed upon when making friendly wagers.

When to Take a Mulligan

New golfers and golfers with high handicaps in general often struggle to keep the ball in play when hitting off the tee for a variety of reasons.

First, a driver, the club you take most of your tee shots with, can be hard to hit straight. While all golfers can occasionally hit a slice or a hook, these errant shots happen more frequently for less skilled golfers. A bad slice or hook will often leave your tee shot out of bounds, which is not a fun way to start a hole.

You will likely find that you're more stressed during a tee shot than you are taking subsequent shots. On a tee shot, you want to get off to a good start on the hole, and you'll have the other members of your group watching you closely.

These reasons make tee shots the most common time to use a mulligan.

Golfers will occasionally take a mulligan for long shots following their tee shots, but it's bad form to try to take a mulligan close to or on the green.

First Tee Shot of the Day

Stress and the desire to build momentum is particularly high when taking the first tee shot of the day. Even among my golf buddies who will otherwise follow the rules of golf to a T, they're usually in favor of a mulligan or "breakfast ball" on the first tee shot of the round.

Check with Your Group Before Taking a Mulligan

Before taking a mulligan, make sure that the other players in your group don't mind. Often, they'll even offer you the option.

When playing casually, it's nice to offer a mulligan to another player who hits a poor shot so that they don't have to ask for it themselves.

If you're making any sort of wagers or competing in any way with other golfers, you should establish how many (if any) mulligans will be allowed before the round starts.

Don't Take Too Many Mulligans

While most golfers will be okay with you taking the occasional mulligan, you definitely don't want to be taking one on every other tee.

There's no "correct" amount of mulligans to allow yourself, but it's poor golf etiquette to take more than a few per round. This is especially true if your use of mulligans begins to slow the pace of play significantly.

You should also limit the number of mulligans you take for your own sake. If you're not consistent with the rules you play by, you won't know whether you're improving or just cheating yourself. For example, a newer golfer may always want to give themselves a mulligan on the first tee and maybe one other time per round.

A Mulligan is Not a Golf Rule

"Mulligan" is not an official term as far as the rules of golf are concerned. Mulligans are not allowed in professional play or any amateur competitions abiding by USGA rules.

If you were to hit a tee shot out of play, depending on where the ball goes out, you'd need to either drop a new ball with a one-stroke penalty or hit another tee shot with a one-stroke penalty.