Anyone who plays golf, knows that it's a game of ups and downs. One day you're hitting great, the next day you feel like you're blowing every shot. One day the cup is like a magnet to your ball, the next it seems to squirm away as your ball approaches. Why do we keep playing? Guess it's because, in spite of all the frustrations, you're never bored! Do you feel the same? Share your favorite courses or golf moments with us.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


If anyone had asked me a week ago why we use the terms "birdie, "eagle", "bogey" or "mulligan", I would have simply stated "Because that's what they're called! Duh!!". I did get to thinking though that they are rather strange terms, so how did they originate? Thank God for the Internet! I now have a better understanding of how they came to be.

Let's start with "bogey", since that's a word that most often comes into play in my personal golf history. According to, a bogey was a widely used term for a goblin or a devil. A popular song in the late 19th century, stated "I'm the bogey man, catch me if you can." Golfers at that time started chasing the Bogey or trying to "catch" a great score! A bogey score was considered to be a ground score, or what we now call par. In the early 20th Century, the United States Golf Association came up with regulations determining distances for par. At that time they began to call one over par a bogey. The British evenually followed suit and a bogey is now considered one over par world wide.

"Birdie" is a little easier to understand. In the 19th century, a slang term for anything great was "the bird". Golfers, being ever modern, started using "bird" for a great shot that gave them an under par score on a hole. It eventually evolved to birdie, which is still in use. I'm sure glad that "Cat's Pajamas" wasn't the slang term for "cool" in those days!

Again, it was Americans who provided us with the the term "eagle". A score of two under par is a big bird. Since the Eagle is the national symbol of the United States, it wasn't long before the term carried it's prestige to the golf course.

Now comes the one I had never even heard of! An "albatross" is a double eagle! The albatross is an even bigger bird than an eagle and is very rare. Therefore, it became the word used for the very rare three under par score on a hole! I have a lot of problems with this one though. Since two of the definitions for albatross are "an obstacle to success" or "a worrisome burden", I don't understand why they would pick a word that has such connotations when getting three under par would seem to be a real cause for celebration! Seems like they should give that term to double bogey and come up with something new for the double eagle.

My final word is "mulligan", something I'm more familiar with. There are many stories about how the term mulligan came to be used in golf. Most of those stories center around a golfer named Mulligan, who hit a bad shot and decided to have a "do-over". Since, as the story goes, Mr. Mulligan was a prominent man, it became popular to take a mulligan when your shot went astray! Of course, this is against the official rules of golf, but in friendly games it is often allowed. The other version I found was from "The Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" and it states, that "the word derives from saloons that, back in the day, would place a free bottle of booze on the bar for customers to dip into. That free bottle was called, according to the book, a Mulligan. The term was adapted to the golf course to denote a "freebie" to be used by golfers". . H-m-m, not too many saloons would be so generous these days!

So now you know everything I know about these regularly used golf terms. Hope you get that eagle or albatross sooner, rather than later!

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