The Ultimate Mulligan*

The term “mulligan” has become rather commonplace in our culture.  In golfing parlance, it refers to a player being granted a do-over after a less than satisfactory shot.  In popular culture, it simply means a person gets a second chance to get something right.

I always understood that mulligans in golf were something granted by one amateur to another or just used as a revenue gimmick when purchased at a fundraising golf tournament.  Surely, mulligans have no place in professional golf.

Not so fast, Mr. Caddyshack.

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a mulligan in professional golf!

In one of the more bizarre golf stories you will ever hear, GolfDigest.com recently reported that Jesper Parnevik, a PGA Professional golfer received a penalty for NOT taking a mulligan during the October 13, 2019, final round of the SAS Championship.   “Huh?” was my response to reading the story of a missed opportunity for a do-over.

Here’s what happened.  Parnevik had a short putt to make bogey.  His ball rimmed the hole and took a 180-degree path back toward him, hitting his foot.  A frustrated Parnevik tapped it in for what he thought was a double bogey.  Only later did he learn from rules officials that he was entitled to replay the putt under Rule 11.1.b, Exception 2.  The rule states that “When Ball Played from Putting Green Accidentally Hits Any Person, Animal or Movable Obstruction (Including Another Ball in Motion) on Putting Green: The stroke does not count, and the original ball or another ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated).”

Apparently, failing to take advantage of that rule incurs a one-stroke penalty.

There are many times on the golf course that I could use a mulligan.  Hey, there are many times in life that I would like to have a mulligan.  Alas, in life, actions have consequences.  You make a mistake, and someone pays for it.  Too bad life doesn’t have a Rule 11.1.b, Exception 2.   

Or does it?

A dear friend recently hit rock bottom in his life.  A series of poor decision-making had left his family, work, and finances in a mess.  He summed it up by saying, “I am just broken.”  To which I responded, “we are all broken.” As if reading my mind and expecting me to start preaching at any minute, he became defensive and preemptively dismissed me by stating, “Religion is not for me.  It may be good for you, but it doesn’t work for me.” At that moment, he was so emotionally distraught that he needed a helping hand and an understanding shoulder to cry on more than any verbal encouragement to change the direction of his life.  But I so wanted to say that “religion” isn’t for me either.

I guess, in a way, reading about this rare rule in golf about a do-over prompted me to reflect that while life may not offer mulligans for past mistakes, you can impact the future by changing today.

Do-overs in life may not be an option, but start-overs always are.

A Start-over, or if I may use the term, the Ultimate Mulligan, starts at the Cross.  Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came so that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”   

Religion doesn’t provide life, but a Relationship with Jesus does.  And an abundant one at that; an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, and self-control.

One of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, had this to say about religion. “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

I don’t think Jesus would be very fond of religion, either.

Lewis went on to say in his book Mere Christianity, “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

How do we use the Ultimate Mulligan?

Start by realizing that you need to change.  Your current “I can do it all by myself” philosophy is inadequate to give you life abundant.  To use a golf metaphor once again, I like how Pro golfer Craig Stadler answered a question as to why he was using a new putter,  Because the old one didn’t float too well.”  Is it time to change putters?  Is it time to try something different to drive your life?

Here are a few initial steps to consider.

  1. Humble yourself, and realize you need something bigger than yourself.
  2. Be thankful for what you have, however much or little it may be.
  3. Stop regretting the past.  If forgiveness is needed, ask for it. 
  4. If lessons were learned, don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of a good mistake.
  5. Stop worrying about tomorrow.  As Corrie Ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
  6. Be a giver of grace. When friends or family make mistakes, offer them a mulligan, a do-over. 
  7. Be a willing receiver of grace.  When someone offers you a mulligan, set your pride aside and accept it.
  8. Remember, brokenness is a universal human trait.  As author Anne Lamott has said, “Man is born broken.  He lives by mending.  The grace of God is glue.”

To my friends who are broken — just as I am — I say life may not offer mulligans, but God offers grace.  He is the God of second chances. His glue has mending qualities.  It’s all found at the Cross.

And grace is better than a mulligan. 

Again, quoting writer Anne LaMott, “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

And that’s what I call the Ultimate Mulligan.


* Author’s Note:  The term Ultimate Mulligan is not original.  I came across this phrase in the book The Mulligan by Ken Blanchard and Wally Armstrong.
Photo by Aryan Singh on unsplash.com

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