What is a breakfast ball in golf, and what does it mean to use one?
Golf Culture

What is a breakfast ball in golf, and what does it mean to use one?

HONOLULU, HAWAII - JANUARY 13: Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia plays his shot from the 17th tee during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 13, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

If you've ever played golf, particularly in the morning, you've no doubt seen someone hit a bad shot off the first tee. And then, almost instinctively, someone in the group said, "Go ahead and take a breakfast ball."

Then the player who hit the bad shot gets another ball, tees it up and hits again.

What in the world just happened? Let us explain what a breakfast ball is.

What is a breakfast ball in golf?

A breakfast ball in golf is a term to describe a mulligan on the first tee (or, if your playing partners are generous, the first hole). 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. It's the golf version of a do-over.

Mulligans aren't recognized as legal under the Rules of Golf, so it's really an agreement between players to skirt the rules. They can't be used in competitive golf, although in some charity events and scrambles, teams can buy mulligans.

The idea of a breakfast ball is that a player may be coming to the golf course later than they would like for an earlier tee time, or perhaps they're not ready to play after eating breakfast because they couldn't properly warm up on the range or otherwise. Therefore, as a courtesy to a fellow player, they're effectively allowed a warm-up ball by playing a breakfast ball.

Now, playing a breakfast ball often comes with a caveat. Many groups and games that allow a breakfast ball -- or two off the first, as it's also called -- require a player to play the second ball the player hits if they choose to employ it. That way, a golfer can't use a breakfast ball to essentially hit two shots for the price of one and still pick the first one. That's not universally enforced, of course, but there are groups that make this part of the deal. So, before you take that breakfast ball, make sure you know your options or lack thereof.

While breakfast balls and mulligans aren't legal under the Rules of Golf, they're usually good for keeping the game moving instead of wounding players' pride and forcing them to waste time hitting extra shots of looking for golf balls they're not going to find.

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