Mulligan Mania, or, the Oddjob Effect


By Harvey Silverman, Contributor, Golf Business | Silverback Golf Marketing 

The story about the Q-School qualifier who tried to cheat his way to the next level reminded me of this iconic golf scene in Goldfinger. Both are particularly poignant given the timing of two golf events I run yearly and how I've limited the ability of participants to cheat.

My wife used to coordinate the annual Special Olympics golf outing at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Both the Lake and Ocean courses sold out with fees as high as
$7,500 per foursome. It was a glorious event and a massive fundraiser as national sponsors sent teams to compete on one of the country's most famous courses. The format was a scramble, and mulligans, or what I call "fantasy strokes," were sold to raise more funds. I get that.

But it doesn't mean a foursome should walk off the Lake course and post a 56, 16 under par. No effing way!

I run my events differently with formats I haven't read about elsewhere. They've been met with nearly unanimous acceptance by the players because they all have experienced the "mulligan" effect at other events. For those interested, please read on.

First, I don't sell mulligans as a unique item. Instead, I include two in a "Super" or "Golden Ticket" that consists of a couple of drink tickets, a putting contest entry (with an insured cash prize), and several raffle tickets for prizes drawn at dinner. Choose a price, maybe $50 or $100, or more. 

Selling these tickets as an "all-in-one" saves time and makes more money. Inevitably, some people decline to purchase, but will then feel entitled to use a couple of fantasy mulligans on the course – the first element of cheating that no one can track, other than the charity that knows it's "out" a few bucks from cheap cheaters. 

So I changed that dynamic, and it works. If everyone in the foursome buys the "Super" or "Golden" ticket, the group gets one mulligan each hole. Think about it – rather than four players full of beer trying to figure out who has remaining mulligans on their 13th hole and holding up play, they use the mulligan per hole on the green, another chance at a missed birdie or to salvage a par. As a result, play moves on more briskly, and the incentive helps fill the charity's coffers. 

But that's not all. We play a "shamble," where everyone hits a drive, one is chosen, and everyone plays their own ball to the hole (if they make it that far). Everyone picks up at bogey, and that's the highest score to post on the scorecard. So instead of people batting the ball all over the course or taking "three" to exit a bunker and the group posts an "8," the play keeps moving with a "bogey golf" dictum. 

And now for the coup de gras. The winner is the third lowest score, with the runner-up the second lowest score. When you announce this before carts head onto the course, you'll see most people nodding their heads in agreement. The cheaters are eliminated, and players have more fun figuring out how to be the third-place team. Thanks to my good friend Eric Jacobsen, the GM at Moraga Country Club, we found third-place elusive. Eric eagled twice on his own ball leading our team to a lowest score 60, two shots out of the “lead.” So, no name on a trophy. Rather, a fun, honest game of golf. 

The bottom line: More money, less cheating, more fun, less time on the golf course. And if you see Oddjob out there, you know someone didn't get the message. 

As always, comments are welcome and encouraged.



Harvey Silverman is a contributor to Golf Business and the proprietor of his marketing consultancy, Silverback Golf Marketing, and the co-founder of, golf’s only pay-by-hole app. Harvey authored NGCOA’s “Beware of Barter” guide and has spoken at their Golf Business Conferences and Golf Business TechCon.


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