Ask anyone who’s remotely familiar with the game of golf who they believe are the most familiar names in the sport. You’d likely hear such legends as Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer or Woods. All great choices…all clearly world class golfers.
But let me suggest the name Mulligan. After all, it’s a name invoked daily by scores of golfers across the globe.
Admittedly, there is considerable debate about the origins of the term ’mulligan.’ However, the most widely accepted all focuses on a gentleman named David Mulligan who was a regular at the St. Lambert Country Club in Montreal, Canada during the 1920s. Mr. Mulligan was a well-to-do hotelier in the first half of the century, a part-owner and manager of the upscale Biltmore Hotel in New York City, as well as several large Canadian hotels.
One story about the origin of the term Mulligan recounts it was the result of impulse. One day Mulligan hit a very long drive off the first tee. The problem was the drive went long…in the wrong direction. So, without seeming to think twice about it he re-teed and hit again (legend has it his second drive flew straight and true). His partners found the episode amusing, and decided they’d call this ‘gift’ a “mulligan.”
Another story places Mulligan scheduled to play golf with a group of business associates at St. Lambert Country Club in his hometown of Montreal. The morning of the outing he drove to pick up his golfing party. The road into the club was reportedly extremely bumpy. To make things even more turbulent, the wind was howling and overall weather conditions were poor. Mulligan was said to be very jumpy and shaking from the difficult drive, so his golf partners graciously extended him the opportunity to forget his initial tee shot (which had found its way into a nearby pond) and begin anew, if he so desired. History does not record if he took them up on their gracious offer.
The final story relates to a day when David Mulligan showed up late to the course. Having scrambled to get out of bed to get dressed, he raced to meet his golfing party on time. Apparently he was so frazzled on the first tee that he hit a poor shot. Looking sheepishly at his partners, they agreed to allow Mulligan the opportunity to try and do better by allowing him another tee shot.
Regardless which of these three Mulligan legends is true, they all provide simple, but significant lessons we can apply to our own lives. Namely, that a Mulligan is a gift, a chance to begin anew, an opportunity to try and do better in the future after making an error. Hence, a “Mulligan” is golf’s version of generous forgiveness. And although in friendly play a mulligan is granted to a golfer following an errant shot—in life it’s an act of the will in which we deal graciously with others when we aren’t required, or expected, to do so. In other words, it’s a choice to forgive that extends beyond words into deeds…an undeserved favor we choose to freely giveaway.
Forgiveness is something virtually all Americans think is good — 94% surveyed in a nationwide Gallup poll said it was important to forgive. But sadly, it’s not something we frequently choose to offer (in the same survey, only 48% said they usually tried to forgive others).
In the original Greek the word for forgive literally means “to release or let go of.” In simple terms then, forgiveness is to freely choose to let go of your right to hurt the person who hurt you. From such a perspective, extending forgiveness to another is akin to you’re saying, “What the person did to me was wrong. They have hurt me deeply and deserve in some way to pay for their offense. But instead, I am choosing to grant them an unwarranted favor, the gift of forgiveness, thus releasing them of the obligation they have to repay me for their wrongful actions.
To grant instead, the gift of a mulligan.
Each time we witness an act of forgiveness, we are shown its power to heal or to break a seemingly unending cycle of pain. However, medical and psychological studies repeatedly show that forgiveness is not only good for your soul, but good for your body as well. As it turns out, people who practice forgiveness:
- Benefit from better immune functioning and have lower blood pressure;
- Have better mental health than people who don’t forgive;
- Have lower amounts of anger and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression;
- Maintain more satisfying and longer-lasting relationships.
The truth is, when we allow ourselves to feel like a victim or sit around dreaming up how we might retaliate against someone who hurt us, our negative thoughts take a toll on our minds and bodies and ultimately, on the quality of our lives. But when we choose to exercise a “Mulligan Mentality,” we set into motion a powerful cycle of healing that benefits everyone involved.
How generous are you in granting mulligans? Is there a situation or a person you know who could benefit from your undeserved favor, today?