Most golfers are aware of the term mulligan as a lot of golfing groups use it on a regular basis. The term refers to a second shot from the first tee, if indeed the first one was not up to snuff. In essence, it is a "do-over."
My weekly traveling group uses mulligans. It has also become commonplace on my golf trips. Not every golfer takes advantage of the extra shot. In fact, when one of my buddies hits a good first tee shot, he usually brags by saying "I don't need no stinking mulligan." Grammar is not necessarily one of our strong suits.
Though most of us are aware of the word, I wonder how many know where the term came from. I was on the USGA Museum website and looking under FAQ (frequently asked questions) when I found an explanation - sort of. There is some question as to the validity of the answer I found as it cannot be verified.
Several clubs and several people stake claims to its origin, but the most widely accepted version involves a gentleman named David Mulligan, a hotelier who played at the St. Lambert Country Club in Montreal, Canada during the 1920s. Though Mulligan gets credit for the term there are different versions of the story as to how it happened.
The first story suggests that it was an impulsive sort of event that created the term. One day David Mulligan hit a very long drive off the first tee, just not straight. Acting on impulse he re-teed and hit again. His partners found it all amusing, and decided the shot that Mulligan himself called a "correction shot" deserved a better name, so they called it a "mulligan."
Story 2 - Mulligan played regularly with a group of friends at St. Lambert, and in the morning he drove to pick up his golfing buddies. The road into the club was reportedly bumpy and "windy" and just sort of generally poor with a bridge of bumpy railroad ties. An extra shot was allotted to Mulligan, the driver of the car, on the first tee because he was jumpy and shaking from the difficult drive.
Story 3 - Mulligan showed up late to the course, having scrambled to get out of bed late, and get dressed and get to the course on time. He was frazzled on the first tee, hit a poor shot, and re-teed.
Now which of these versions you want to accept is up to you. Personally I'm going with the first one and I'll explain why.
One of the things I have discovered in my 40-plus years of playing golf is the fact that one almost never oversleeps on a day that involves playing the game. You may have to set an alarm to get up for work, but I always wake up when it's for something fun, like playing golf. I have only been late for a tee time once and that was because a policeman wasn't impressed with my speed in getting to the course. He made me "later" - and poorer!
I have played a lot of golf courses in my day and I can't recall any driveway leading to a course being in such poor condition that it caused me to be jumpy and shaky. Therefore I'm not buying explanation number three.
However, I can believe the man hit a drive long and far but not straight. We've all been there - at least the not straight part - and who wouldn't re-tee the ball if no one complained about you doing so.
Though I am willing to concede that David Mulligan may well have been responsible for the term as used in golf, I thought it would be responsible on my part to check on any other use of the term. So, I looked up the only other mulligan I am aware of - and that would be the stew!
I would suggest that you NOT find out what goes into that concoction. I mean, do you really want to know what "snipes" are and why anyone would want to put them into your supper?
So there you have it. If you have always wondered where the term mulligan came from - wonder no more. I'll let you go now because I know you're going to look up Mulligan Stew!
Al Stephenson is The Advertiser-Tribune's golf columnist.
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