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What Is A Gilligan In Golf? – Explained!

what is a gilligan in golf
what is a gilligan in golf

Golf is known to be a technical sport full of expressions and technical terms that you may not know the meaning of. One of those expressions sometimes thrown out in conversation and golf courses is the word “Gilligan”.

If you are reading this article, you may wonder: What exactly does a “Gilligan” mean in golf?

In this article, we will explain to you exactly what a Gilligan is in golf, along with some examples to solidify your comprehension.

What Is A Gilligan In Golf?

In golf, making your opponent play a Gilligan means you are forcing them to replay their shot. Gilligans are only used in casual golf when a group agrees to use them. Gilligans are used to either cancel out lucky shots, or to add strategy and extra tools to make golf more fun.

In the great game of golf, the term “Gilligan” is a word that is somewhat uncommon to hear. However, many golfers have heard of the term “Gilligan” before.

If you do ever hear the word “Gilligan”, it will almost always be during a round of casual golf with good friends.

In golf, a Gilligan is essentially forcing a golfer in a group to replay a good shot, hoping their second attempt will be worse. A Gilligan is a tactical tool used in casual golf that can also be used as a means of cancelling out lucky shots & randomness in golf.

To use Gilligans, a group has to agree before a round of golf to use them. The group also has to determine how many Gilligans to use per round of golf (e.g. 3 Gilligans per round of golf).

A Gilligan is essentially the opposite of a Mulligan.

Gilligans are illegal in competitive and professional tournaments. This means that Gilligans are only used in casual rounds of golf, when the members of a group agree to use them. Gilligans are not part of the Official Rules Of Golf. Gilligans are a house rule.

You will never see a Gilligan taken on a PGA Tour tournament golf course.

When you force someone to take a Gilligan, they do not count the cancelled stroke with towards their score. This means that if they are forced to take one Gilligan to replace a good shot, they only count one stroke, even though they physically took two shots.

A Gilligan is something you can force an opponent to take by default, given your group agreed to play with Gilligans, and there are still Gilligans left to give the opponent. The opponent generally cannot refuse to take a Gilligan.

You will rarely see more than one Gilligan forced per golf hole. How many Gilligans will be taken per round of golf depends on the casual rules you agree on with your golfing group.

Some groups only allow a Gilligan on the first tee shot, whiles others allow a Gilligan only on seemingly-lucky shots. Every group has different rules.

An important note to mention is that, even in casual circles, Gilligans are not always welcome. Some people prefer to play by the official Rules of Golf, even if there is no money or legacy on the line for them.

A special situation in which Gilligans are sometimes used is charity tournaments. In fact, to raise money, some charity golf tournaments let you buy Gilligans.

In such a scenario, golf can technically be somewhat pay-to-win, as you can keep buying Gilligans to increase the score of your opponents. You can force opponents to take as many Gilligans as your wallet can afford, unless the rules of the tournament state otherwise.

However, charity golf tournaments usually let you buy Mulligans rather than Gilligans, as Mulligans provide a less frustrating experience for people, especially within the spirit of charity.

You can read a real-world example of a Gilligan in play in golf, down below.


Joe and Bob are playing in a charity golf tournament. Bob bought 1 Gilligan to use whenever he wants.

A pond is separating Joe from the putting green, meaning he has a tricky shot on his hands.

Larry takes a shot, and his golf ball lands comfortably in the putting green.

Bob intervenes: “Not so fast! Take a Gulligan!”

“Aw man! Not now! Alright then…those are the rules…” Joe replies, cornered.

Joe places a new golf ball down, and takes a new shot.

Unfortunately, Joe’s ball lands in the water hazard this time.

“You got me good, Bob.” Joe murmurs, shaking his head.

In the example above, you can see just how useful a Gilligan can be to corner your opponent, and also how frustrating it can be for the recipient of the Gilligan.

Gilligans strategically enter in play after an opponent makes a good long putt, or drives the golf ball of the tee really far and straight. Gilligans are great strategic tools to cancel out a great stroke and wobble an opponent’s golfing confidence.

The term Gilligan’s origin is unknown, but we know it is the opposite of the term Mulligan, and the two terms have the same ending.

If you would like to lower your score and nullify the disadvantage of taking Gilligans, you can read our guide: How To Improve Your Golf Score? – 9 Pro Tips.


There you go! After reading this article, you have learned exactly what the term “Gilligan” means in golf. You also got to read some real-world examples to further improve your understanding of the meaning of a Gilligan in golf.

Do you have any other words you wish to know more about? Do you play with the “Gilligans” in golf? Let us know in the comments down below!

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