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Post by Archived Topic » Mon May 17, 2004 12:01 pm

What is the origin of "mulligan"? Kevin - USA
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon May 17, 2004 12:15 pm

Note: An old response, which was largely nonsense, has been removed.
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Re: mulligan

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed May 16, 2012 2:14 pm

I read the following in Sunday’s New York Times:
<2012 “Honduras Takes a Mulligan: A small country’s big decision to start [[the economy]] from scratch. At least in one city.”—New York Times Magazine, 13 May, page 19>
Not knowing what a mulligan is I did a Wordwizard search and found that John (a.k.a. trolley) had mentioned it back in 2009 as follows:
We always asked for another kick at the can. It meant another chance, a do-over, a mulligan.
And, ‘another kick at the can,’ ‘another chance,’ a ‘do-over’ is consistent with the content of the above New York Times article, which talks about building a new economy – a second chance – for Honduras.

I’ll begin with the most authoritative source, the OED which updated its listing in 2012. However, to my surprise, it fails to mention the fact that the term has come to be used outside of golf (do-over, . . .), a significant point that the other sources quoted below also skip – strange!


MULLIGAN noun [[sometimes capitalized]] Golf colloquial: An extra stroke allowed after a poor shot (especially a tee-shot) in a friendly game, not counted on the score card.

Etymology: Probably from the name of David. B. Mulligan (1871–1954), Canadian-born hotelier and amateur golfer, who is said to have coined the term at the Winged Foot Golf Club, New York State, in the 1930s.


Definition: A mulligan most simply put is a ‘do-over.’ Hit a bad shot? Take a mulligan and replay the stroke.

A mulligan is never ‘legal’ under the ‘Rules of Golf.’ Mulligans are most often played during friendly rounds by golf buddies; or during charity of playday tournaments. If mulligans are for sale, that means the golfer can buy, say, three mulligans for a set price. The sale of mulligans is sometimes used as an additional fund-raiser at charitable events.

Are there rules governing the use of mulligans? No - whatever a group of golfers agrees upon is what counts (unless you are using mulligans in a tournament setting - then do what the tournament organizers tell you).

The most common mulligan customs, however, include using mulligans only on the first tee; and using one mulligan per nine holes. It's most common for mulligans to be used only off the tee; some groups might also allow mulligans from the fairway. It is rare for mulligans to be seen on the putting green.

As with all recreational golf customs, the use of mulligans varies from place to place. They are common in the United States, but rarely seen in the UK, for example.


MULLIGAN: An extra stroke in golf awarded after a poor shot and not counted on the score card. The name dates from the 1940s and according to one account derives from a bottle called a ‘Mulligan’ kept on the bar in American family-type saloons. It contained a concoction of pepper seeds and water that could be added to ‘spice up’ one’s beer, the effect being a shock to the system similar to the humiliating blow of being granted an extra shot at one’s ball.


MULLIGAN: When you’re allowed to take a mulligan in golf—a free shot not counted against the score after your first one goes bad—you might not be emulating some duffer of days gone by. Mulligan probably comes from the brand name of a once-popular sauce that was standard in barrooms. This potent seasoning of water and hot pepper seeds was sometimes mixed with beer, and jokers swore that it ate out your liver, stomach, and finally your heart—just what happens when you accept too many mulligans on the golf course. On the other hand, there are those who say that mulligan derives from the name of Canadian David Mulligan, who in the late 1920s was allowed an extra shot by his friends in appreciation for driving his friends over rough roads every week for their foursome at the St. Lambert Country Club near Montreal [[versus the OED’s Winged Foot Golf Club, in New York State]].

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1936 “Another McIntyre-ism is the use of the ‘mulligan’—links-ology for a second shot employed after a previously dubbed shot.”—Big Springs Daily Herald (Texas), 5 May, page 4/5>

<1947 “General Eisenhower got away from the first tee gracefully on his second shot, taking advantage of the rule of ‘Mulligans,’ to smite one far down the middle after hooking his first shot into the trees.”—Washington Post (D.C.), Sports Section, May, page 8/7>

<1965 “Magnanimously, the hustler will allow his prey a Mulligan off the tee now and then.”—Esquire’s World of Golf by H. Graffis, xii, page 174>

<1989 “‘Really, I wish we could play the whole thing over again,’ said second baseman Marty Barrett. ‘I wish we could take a mulligan.”—Boston Globe (Massachusetts), 2 October>

<2000 “Emmylou Harris requested and received a mulligan after flubbing the start of her duet with Mary Black on ‘You'll Never Be the Sun,’ . . .”—Washington Post (D.C.), 15 May>

<2010 “Botch a test, blow a presentation at work, invest in the wrong company, commit an embarrassing faux pas, forget to send in taxes: Just take a mulligan. No questions asked. No penalties assigned. . . . Sometimes the need for a mulligan runs deeper. Sometimes you need a mulligan for whole eras of your life.”—Love Beyond Reason by J. Ortberg, page 62>

<2012 “Don't be surprised if Congress gets a mulligan to reform the health care system.”—The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), 18 April>

Ken – May 16, 2012

Re: mulligan

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri May 04, 2018 5:35 pm

Another recent example of the use of ‘mulligan.’
<2018 “In one of his first interviews since joining Mr. Trump’s legal team, Mr. Giuliani appeared to briefly stun Sean Hannity of Fox News by asserting that the president had reimbursed his personal lawyer for a $130,000 hush payment to Stephanie Clifford, a pornographic film actress — a contradiction of the president.

‘I want to clarify something,’ Mr. Hannity said, offering a do-over to Mr. Giuliani, an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate and longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s. Instead of taking a mulligan, Mr. Giuliani repeated the assertion.”—The New York Times, 3 May.>

Ken Greenwald — May 4, 2018

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