My alphabetical list of golf terms stops for the week on the letter M

Over the last two weeks I have given you 12 terms used in golf as I decided to go through the alphabet. My lists included albatross, banana ball, chicken wing, duck hook, even par, ferrules, gooseneck, hacker, interlocking grip, jump, knock down shot and lag putt. My expectation was to finish the alphabet in the next two weeks.

That is not going to happen as my M word is going to consume an entire column. It is a term that everyone is familiar with, but the info was so compelling that our M word deserves special attention. Here we go.

Mulligan — A “do-over” shot that is usually granted on the first tee, this is a term that every golfer (as well as many non-golfers) know. Perhaps the most fascinating concept of the mulligan is its origin.

The most common story dates back to the late 1920s. A Canadian born amateur by the name of David Bernard Mulligan was a prominent member of several golf clubs including Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York.

Mulligan had a regular foursome he frequently drove to the course in a vintage Briscoe, a touring car. Once on the first tee, according to the legend, his playing partners “allowed” him to hit a second ball after mishitting his drive. Mulligan complained that his hands were still numb after driving over rough roads and a bumpy bridge.

In an interview a few years later, Mulligan explained what happened.

“I was so provoked with myself that, on impulse, I stooped over and put down another ball.”

Of course his playing partners wanted to know what he was doing.

“I’m taking a correction shot” he replied.

His opponent asked “what do you call that?”

“Thinking fast, I told him that I call it a mulligan.”

The game ended up with a one shot victory for Mulligan and his partner, thus there was a lot of discussion as to the “free” shot he was granted on the first tee.

The discussion ended amicably and after that day a free shot on the first tee was granted to any member of this foursome if wanted. From there it grew to what it is today. Interestingly enough, the term is used in all walks of life, not just golf. Any person who gets a second chance on anything has been granted a mulligan.

Another story has some credence among historians of the game of golf. A locker room attendant at the Essex Falls Country Club in New Jersey in the 1930s by the name of John A. “Buddy” Mulligan would finish cleaning the locker room daily. If no other members were present he would frequently play a round with the assistant pro and a club member. One day he hit a bad tee shot on the first tee and he beseeched his partners to give him another shot as they “had been practicing all morning.”

They agreed and Buddy loved to regale people with this good fortune which he was allowed each time he played. Other club members loved his story and began using a similar practice.

You may now believe whichever story you want!

Mulligans cannot be used in serious golf competitions, but all of us that play the game recreationally have used the action. Normally a mulligan can only be used on the first tee. Also, if you choose to hit a second shot, that is the one that you play. Every group will alter the “rules” and I’m sure your group has its own design.

I did run across a couple of other terms that involve the mulligan.

A Shiperio means that you have your choice of which ball you want to play when you hit a mulligan. That is what my traveling group uses each week, though I’m sure none of us have ever heard the term Shiperio before.

So how many of you are familiar with a Gilligan. No, I’m not referring to Bob Denver, who went on an ill-fated three-hour cruise. Actually a Gilligan is like a reverse mulligan. A friend of mine told me just recently about the use of it in his golf league on a fun night.

Each golfer was allowed the use of one Gilligan in the round. When your opponent hits a great shot, you can ask him to do it again. For example, if you stick an iron shot a foot from the pin for a kick in birdie, your opponent can ask you to do it again. You will have to take the results of the second shot, with the theory being that you will not likely hit as good a shot.

Roll in a 60-foot putt when your opponent still has his Gilligan left — well, good luck repeating the feat. How often do you think you could sink back-to-back 60-foot putts? Somehow this seems very unfair to me, but remember it is a “fun” night!

Every golfer that I know likes the idea of having a mulligan available, but just how effective are they? I was thinking of this when I drove to Valley View near Galion for my traveling group outing this week. It seems to me that frequently the mulligan shot is very similar to the first one. Your friends quip about consistency doesn’t make you feel any better.

All four members of my foursome hit our tee shots into the trees to the right on the first tee. We all took mulligans. Two of the “do overs” were in the fairway while the other two repeated the first shot.

We recovered five of the six tee shots in the trees, but one was lost. Yes, of course it was mine. Thank goodness we were using the Shiperio because you know which shot we didn’t find!

Al Stephenson is The A-T bowling columnist.

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