If you've ever played golf and hit a bad tee shot on the first hole, you've probably been told by someone in your group that it's OK if you "take a breakfast ball" -- even if you're playing in the middle of the afternoon!
But what is a breakfast ball in golf, and what does it mean to take a breakfast ball off the first tee (or another tee)?
What is a breakfast ball in golf?
In golf, the term "breakfast ball" is an euphemism for a mulligan. Basically, a "breakfast ball" is a mulligan for a tee time that is in the morning. So, what's a mulligan in golf?
A mulligan is a stroke in golf that is played from the same spot that a player hit their previous stroke, looking to re-do the prior shot without penalty. In other words, golfers use mulligans to wipe out the previous shot and consider it to have never counted. It's a do-over.
Typically, the breakfast ball is the first shot of the day on the first hole. Another phrase for taking a breakfast ball is taking two off the first.
Is it legal to take a breakfast ball and hit two off the first?
Under no circumstances is a player allowed to take a breakfast ball or use a mulligan in an official competition. There's no such accommodation in the Rules of Golf.
However, mulligans can be used in unofficial rounds that don't count toward a player's handicap index. Mulligans can help speed up play instead of forcing golfers to chase for lost golf balls, and it can help golfers fix problems in real time on the golf course. So long as mulligans don't hold up the pace of play and flow of a golf round, they're find to use sparingly in a casual round of golf.
So, if your partners are OK with it, and you're not playing in a tournament or for a handicap score, then it's totally OK to take a breakfast ball.