Mulligans, Scrambles, And Life: Golf As A Metaphor Or Not

Mulligans, Scrambles, And Life: Golf As A Metaphor Or Not


Leonard Zwelling

On April 25, the BW and I had the strangest experience that I have ever had on a golf course (and I have had some strange ones including elks, snakes and greens made of sand that required raking after putting in Tasmania).

Our synagogue had its annual charity golf outing at our club and we played. As is the case with most such outings, this was a scramble consisting of many four-person teams. In a scramble, each member of the team tees off and the team selects the best drive. Everyone then plays from that spot and this goes on until the ball is holed with the best shot being used each time. This tends to speed up play, means the best golfer’s shots are the ones usually used, and makes for a fun afternoon. But we hit a couple of hitches. First, we were a team of only two. I guess they had an odd number of people signed up and we got to play ourselves. That meant each of us had two shots each time. Well, I make lots of errors on a golf course, but give me two tries and one will usually be good. The same is true for the BW and she was putting very well. Then we got rained out after nine holes. Thunder, lightning the whole shebang. Through nine holes we were five under par which is ridiculous, but there’s a reason. We got to play every shot twice and we were even given two mulligans a piece. A mulligan in golf is a do over. So, on some greens we had five tries at making a putt. Between the two of us, give us five tries and we will make the putt. And we did, five separate times on five different holes.

The moral of the story is that if you are given enough chances in golf to make a good shot, you probably will. The same is probably true in life when it comes to important decisions, but we so rarely get more than one chance to make a good choice.

Life has few mulligans and it is not a scramble in which you can do well based on the abilities of someone else. Oh, there are times when you get a second chance and you can draft on the abilities of a colleague every so often. More than a few members of my study group in business school contributed less than the rest of us in our many joint projects and there’s always someone in chem lab who can carry you through, but in general, in life, you are on your own and a charity scramble is not an allegory, nor metaphor for life unfortunately.

The moral of the story is to do your best the first time and try not to need the mulligans. It’s a good life lesson, but a hard one to learn. The other lesson is that if you are in a four-man scramble and you are a good golfer, hope at least two members of your foursome don’t show up. That’s more shots for you.

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