Let’s start by clarifying that we are not here to debate the use of mulligans. This article, much like science fiction movies that force you to accept certain realities as part of the plot (don’t get me started on any movie about guys going up in space to stop asteroids), is based around the notion that mulligans do exist and are used by many around the globe. Got that?
I’m not here to argue for or against the use of mulligans. On that topic, I will be standing over there in the corner, with my fingers in ear humming loud noises and pretending I don’t see anything. So let’s accept the premise that mulligans exist, shall we? What shots deserve them the most? What shots make you want to walk up, grab the ball and put it right back down where it was before you ruined your round and four hours of your day?
There really is nothing worse then coasting along around par and then making an octal bogey because you, well you….you probably did one of the below things. Should you really shoot an 80 instead of a 76 because of one swing? Oh crap, don’t answer that, we are not here to discuss that. We are here to discuss why you ended up with that 80. And here are some guesses:
1) The OB first drive
A classic staple of any terrible round. You get to the course early, you sink every putt on the practice green, you hit pure shot after pure shot on the range. It’s 8:15am and the sun is up, not a cloud in the sky, not super windy — going to be a great day. Maybe you make a little small talk on the first tee, “Hey Jim, what did you get up to last night?” followed by a few obviously predictable quips about your married friend being forced to do something by his wife, your single friend having a few too many and your workaholic friend already answering texts and emails on his Blackberry. Life is good. Oh it’s your turn to tee off now, no problem. Just stick that tee in and take a couple of practice swings from good measure. Start your nice smooth backswing and smack! Oh crap. It started a little left but might be OK, might be OK….oh god, please let it be OK. Aaaaaand, it’s not OK. Here’s some advice: just put the 80 on the card and save yourself four hours.
2) The 2-foot lip out early in the round
On the surface, it’s just one shot. But we all know that’s not true right? Usually the dreaded 2-foot lip out is either for birdie or par on one of the first three holes. Still, at that time you’re still optimistic. Maybe you started par-bogey and then hit it tight on the third hole — let’s say it’s a par 3. Walking up to the ball you’re thinking,
“No problem. Tap this in and get back to even and I’m golden. I’ve got the rest of the round ahead of me.”
You probably take for granted that you are going to make it. Maybe don’t give it a full read, I mean, it’s just a tap in right? You are not going to miss this. You might even say, “Guys do you mind if I just tap this one in to get out of your way?” As soon as the ball leaves the putter face you know something is wrong. It starts too far right. You want to reach out and stop it but you know you can’t. You sheepishly look at your playing partners who give you the “Hey that’s golf” look. In the end, it’s just one shot. Yeah right. What are the odds of you making par on the next hole? The smart money is not on yes.
3) The disastrous second — going for a par 5 in two
This shot has been frustrating golfers for years. The par 5 is the hole golfers of all skills and abilities have visions of making birdie on. It’s usually the first hole you birdie when you take up golf, and it’s the hole that stabilizes your round as you get better, either by getting you back into your round, or just ending a ride on the bogey train. Golfers of all abilities step up to the tee on par 5’s expecting good things. And that feeling only gets stronger and stronger after you knock one down the fairway and begin your walk to the ball with visions of making a 4, or god willing, a 3. But then something happens, the group on the green seems to be taking way too long.
Why are they lining up that putt from a foot? Why doesn’t he just pick it up? How many guys are still in this hole?
It seems like they’ve been on that green for 10 minutes now. Putting the ball and marking, putting and marking — they look like they’re passing a hockey puck around up there. FINALLY, the green clears and it’s go time. Except you rush it a bit don’t you? Your adrenaline was flowing, and the pressure of hitting a good shot built up when your group was forced to wait. There were trees on the right but no big deal, only a snap hook could…Oh boy, that swing felt a little quick.
4) The stubbed chip
I like to think of the stubbed chip as a subtle killer, because you never really expect it to happen, at least not once you’ve gotten to be a better player. Let’s say you miss the green on an approach, so you walk up to the ball still expecting to have at least a semi-makeable putt for par. Worst case scenario, you’re walking off with bogey and that’s no big deal, because people make bogeys all the time, even on easier holes — they’re certainly not round killers. That changes with the stubbed chip.
It’s an instantaneous feeling too — you feel the blade dig a bit too much and you know you’re in trouble. Even worse is if you’re chipping over a bunker and you stub it enough to leave it in the sand. Suddenly, your positive thinking about making par is suddenly a desperate grind to avoid making double bogey. And you tend to usually make that double bogey, don’t you? The second chip after the stubbed one is always good but not great. How can it be great? In your head you’re just hoping not to stub it again. So you knock it to 4.5 feet and then miss the putt. Golf is a stupid game.
5) The bladed bunker shot
The bladed bunker shot is worse then its cousin, the leave-it-in-the-bunker shot. If you leave it in the bunker you are usually no worse off except for the fact that you are in fact, one shot worse off. And usually your next lie is on an upslope, plus your frustration with your first bunker shot actually helps you with your next one. I can’t even count how many times I’ve left it in the bunker and then put my next shot to tap in range. When you are mad you tend to follow through better and finish your swing, which is exactly what you need to do to escape the sand. The bladed bunker shot is far worse though, because you usually end up in a terrible spot. Usually you’re waaaaay over the green in some serious cabbage — you generally aren’t going to get up and down.
The bladed bunker shot is almost an instant double bogey. That’s probably why guys leave shots in bunker more then they blade them out, because they are scared of this shot. Heck just knowing it can happen is scary. If you are in a bunker with OB on the other side of the green, you half consider swallowing that cyanide pill you keep in your pocket from your day job of being a spy. Oops, sorry that is my fantasy day job. But you get the idea.
6) The botched escape shot
This shot is always preceded by the following thought process:
“Hmmm, that opening in the trees looks mighty narrow. Probably should just punch out. But wait, it’s a Saturday round with my buddies, why would I punch out? Imagine if I hit that shot? We can talk about it after the round over beers, the great escape shot I hit on No. 8. Plus my lie isn’t too bad, so I bet i can do it. I’m sure I can do it. And who cares this round means nothing. I’m totally going for this.”
Let me put this pretty simply for you — yes that opening is narrow, and yes your ball is going to hit that tree and ricochet to an even worse spot where you will then make the smart decision you should have made to just punch out. Way to go man, you just turned probable bogey with a chance at par to an almost certain double with a chance for worse. The phrase “take your medicine” exists for a reason, and it’s not just so you literally take your medicine (which by the way you should also probably do). Next time just hit it back onto the fairway, OK Phil?
7) The uncommitted tee shot
You know the feeling, it’s a 360-yard par 4 and you could easily hit either 3 wood or driver. Which one do you go with?
You haven’t been hitting your driver straight today, eh big guy? Maybe it’s time to pull out the 3 wood and just pipe one down the fairway? You’ll still have a pitching wedge or 9 iron into the green. But you like hitting driver, of course, and if you hit driver you leave yourself a wedge in. Birdie time baby. No one plays this game to make pars. Pars are boring, plus you’re 2-over, so a birdie here gets you back close to par. Maybe you’ll shoot a great round. Reach for that driver, yup, we’re going with driver. Pull it out and take a couple of practice swings, just knock one down the fairway and stick it close. There isn’t even a lot of trouble on this hole so it’s all good. OK nice and easy backswing, wait a minute you don’t want to swing too hard here it’s still a short hole, just want to cozy it down there. Wait, should I be using 3 wood? Crap, I’m starting my downswing now, just steer it and …..arggggghhhh. You don’t finish your swing and your tee shot just hit someone doing garden work across the street. Aren’t 360-yard par 4’s supposed to be easy? Nice six my friend.
8) The hosel “fade”
Yes we know the shot I’m talking about. There are many words for it that cannot be repeated here, lest they be caught like a virus. It’s the most dreaded shot in golf. The one that imparts not just score damage, but psychological damage as well. I’m reminded of the match play tournament where Hunter Mahan hit a real beauty onto a peripheral fairway, looked somewhat sheepish, and then went over to that fairway and stuck a wedge close and walked off with par.
You know what though, you are not Hunter Mahan (unless you are literally Hunter Mahan and are reading this. If you are, hey, what’s up Hunter? Nice win at that tournament by the way, big fan and you know, thanks for taking the time to read this far). But where was I? Ah yes, you are probably not Hunter Mahan. So what are you going to do after the hosel fade? You are going to address the next shot so far out and close to the toe that you are either going to miss the ball completely, or hit a flat out terrible shot. You probably aren’t going to follow through either because you are so anxious to see if you hosel-rocketed it again. Basically, this shot is a disaster that torpedoes your round and stays in your head longer then the image of Henrik Stenson stripping down to his boxers to play a shot out of the water (wait, why exactly is that still in my head?). This shot requires not just an actual mulligan, but a mental one aswell. This shot requires the full out Ben-Affleck-in-Paycheck memory erasing treatment, which is also required for anyone who’s seen the movie “Paycheck”.
So, I’m not saying it’s OK to use mulligans. That’s for another story. But if you’ve hit any of the eight shots above, i just want to tell you, I understand. We all understand.