A mulligan, in a game, happens when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action.

Mulligan in golf

In golf, a mulligan is a shot retaken, due to an errant shot. Like gimmes, mulligans are strictly prohibited in the official rules of the game, but are commonplace in social golf. Traditionally, mulligans are allowed only on the first tee shot (usually one per round) and are not just taken at any time of the golfer's choosing. Golf tournaments held for charity may even sell mulligans to collect more money for the charity.

Some social golf games also allow one mulligan per nine holes (thus two for a round of 18).

Some golfers also allow for the "rolling mulligan," which can replace a taken mulligan shot that is no better than the original shot. In other words, the player retains his or her right to play a mulligan later in the round-- thus the "rolling."


There are many theories about the origin of the term. The United States Golf Association (USGA) cites three stories explaining that the term derived from the name of a Canadian golfer, David Mulligan, one time manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, who played at "The Country Club of Montreal" golf course, in Saint-Lambert near Montreal during the 1920s. One version has it that one day after hitting a poor tee shot, Mr. Mulligan re-teed and shot again. He called it a "correction shot," but his friends thought it more fitting to name the practice after him. David Mulligan then brought the concept from Canada to the famous U.S. golf club Winged Foot. A second version has the extra shot given to Mulligan due to his being jumpy and shaky after a difficult drive over the Victoria bridge to the course. The final version of the David Mulligan story gives him an extra shot after having overslept, rushing to get ready to make the tee time.

An alternate, later etymology credits a different man named Mulligan — John A. "Buddy" Mulligan, a locker room attendant at Essex Fells, New Jersey. In the 1930s, he was known to replay shots.

According to the USGA, the term first achieved widespread use in the 1940s.

According to the author Henry Beard, Mr. Thomas Mulligan was a minor Anglo-Irish aristocrat and passionate golfer, who was born on May 1, 1793 and lived near Lough Sclaff, on the Shannon estuary, in a modest manor house called Duffnaught Hall, which was totally destroyed in a mysterious fire one week after his death on April 1, 1879. According to the author, "Inasmuch as strokes taken after play is concluded on the 18th hole do not count towards the total entered on one's tally card, it seems to me eminently reasonable that any shots struck before play is properly commenced with a satisfactory drive on the first tee, should be of no more consequence to one's score than those swings which one has made by way of practice in the course of hitting balls upon the driving ground." In short, the player's first tallied stroke for a game is the first playable drive from the first tee, and any shots made beforehand are not scored.

Another early story from golf goes back to old terminology referring to a "mull", a small hill of grass or dirt used to tee the golf ball for easier striking prior to modern tees. When a bad shot was played, the player told his caddy "I'll have a mull-again" to play another shot.

Other uses

The term has found a broader acceptance in both general speech and other games, meaning any minor blunder which is allowed to pass unnoticed or without consequence. In both senses, it is implied that a mulligan is forgiven because it was either made by a rank beginner, or it is unusual and not indicative of the level of play or conduct expected of the person who made the mulligan.

Often though in the realm of a fantasy sport, especially baseball, certain team owners who drop a player only to regret it several hours later, call on their respective commissioners to Undo or grant a mulligan in order to reverse the transaction, even though the player is in the waiver pool. While mulligans are typically reserved to the sound discretion of the league commissioner, they should be used extremely sparingly and only in such instances of legitimate human error, rather than in cases of mistake resulting from carelessness, laziness, or inexcusable neglect.

The word can also be used in instances outside of sports, in real-life situations. For example, it has been used commonly in relationships to replace the term 'cold feet', where a person messes up the relationship the first time around, for various reasons relating to 'cold feet', then regrets the screw up, and wishes for a mulligan having realized how ridiculous the initial action was. Much like the pressure of the first tee shot in front of strangers to start a round of golf, the first stab at a serious relationship is similarly pressure-packed; however, as with a golfing mulligan, a relationship mulligan allows the person to be much more relaxed and focused on the second attempt, having understood what went wrong on the first attempt. Another example is in politics, where the losing candidate in a party primary may be able to run again in the general election on another ballot line. In the 2006 Connecticut US Senate race, many Ned Lamont supporters accused Senator Joseph Lieberman of running a mulligan race as an independent, since he had lost the Democratic Party primary. In the 2008 American Democratic primary elections, the term mulligan has been used to describe the possible redo elections in Michigan and Florida, after their results were declared invalid due do the early scheduling of the contests, against Democratic party rules.

In certain circles, especially among binge drinkers, individuals have been known to "take a mulligan" in regards to their actions while drinking.

Collectible card games

In Magic: The Gathering, a player may declare a mulligan after drawing his initial hand at the beginning of each game. If such a declaration is made, the player puts his cards back into his deck, shuffles, and draws a new hand with one less card. A common reason for declaring a mulligan would be getting a hand with no mana sources, that is, a hand that has no playable cards. The player may repeat this until they are satisfied, or the number of cards in their hand reaches zero.

This mulligan style is known as the Paris mulligan, although it was first used in 1997 at the L.A. Pro Tour tournament as a test for the new system. It was mistakenly left in the Paris Pro Tour player's packet and this is where it finally got its name. Before that, the mulligan functioned differently. If a player had either 0 or 7 lands in his starting hand, that player could show his or her hand to the opponent, shuffle, and draw a new hand of seven cards. This was only allowed once. The new rule removed the requirement of revealing the hand to the opponent and made the mulligan a much more strategic part of the game, creating trade-off and risk where before there was none.

A recent expansion to the rule in an online play allows a player in a multiplayer game to show his hand to the other players and replace it with a new hand if an opening hand has 0, 1 or 7 lands. If a player chooses to mulligan, any other player may chose to replace his hand as well without revealing the cards.

Unlike golf, mulligans in Magic are legal under game and tournament rules, and are more frequently associated with poor luck than lack of skill.

Upper Deck Entertainment's VS System employs a mulligan rule similar to the rule in Magic: The Gathering.

In the Pokemon TCG a player may declare a mulligan when during their draw they have no Basic Pokemon in their hand. At this point they must show the hand to their opponent, shuffle the cards back in to the deck and draw 7 new cards. The opponent has the choice of drawing one card from their deck and adding it to their hand as well.

There is no limit to the number of mulligans that can be declared.

In UFS the rules are a bit different. "After drawing their hands players may decide to take what is called a mulligan. The player who will be taking the first turn has the opportunity to take a mulligan first. Then the player who will take the second turn has the opportunity to mulligan. Players may only take one mulligan at the beginning of the game. If a player decides to mulligan all the cards currently in their hand are removed from the game and they draw a number of cards equal to their character’s printed hand size.


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