Golf Scramble: Rules, Formats, and Tips for Winning

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A golf scramble is a common format for club competitions where the field is comprised of teams. The teams consist of at least two players, although teams of four are the most common in a golf scramble.

This format focuses on the team’s overall performance instead of individual players. So, a golf scramble puts less pressure on players and is seen as a fun team event.

You’ll see why now when we look at what a golf scramble is.

What is a Golf Scramble?

A golf scramble is a format where each player on the team hits a tee shot. Then, when everyone has hit, the players choose the best shot in the group; that could be a long drive down the fairway, for instance.

Once the best tee shot is chosen, the other players pick up their balls and go to the position of the best tee shot. Everyone then plays their next shot from that position.

Let’s say you’re in a team of four, and a long drive down the fairway on a par four is the best tee shot. Each player then plays the team’s second shot from that position, giving the team four chances to hit the green.

Say three of the approach shots miss the green but one lands on it. The team would then choose the position on the green and have four putts from that position to get the birdie.

If the four players miss the birdie opportunity, they have four chances to sink the putt for par. The format continues like this until someone knocks the ball into the hole. You then rinse and repeat for the remaining holes.

A golf scramble is fun because every player gets the chance to hit the best shot. Also, it can be good for players who might not drive the ball so far.

They can get closer to the green for approach shots if they’re playing with a big hitter. However, combining different strengths into a team is a good strategy. For instance, a long driver, a solid iron player, a good wedge player, and an accurate putter.

The Rules for Playing a Golf Scramble

The rules for playing a golf scramble are not covered under the Official Rules of Golf. Therefore, the competition organizers can modify the rules as they see fit.

For example, the organizers might make a rule where the team must choose at least two tee shots for every player over the 18 holes. Say the team has played 16 holes but hasn’t chosen one player’s tee shot yet. In that case, they’d have to select that player’s tee shots on the 17th and 18th holes to stay within the rules.

These types of rules in a golf scramble format are less informal. The organizers can set these depending on the event.

However, some rules do apply to every scramble. The players on the team must decide on the best shot – they can decide that however they want.

Once the best one is chosen, the other players must lift their balls and go to the area of the selected ball. This must be marked with a tee or ball marker, and the other players must hit their shots from within one club-length of the marker.

The team continues this format until the ball is in the hole. Only one score is recorded per hole, and the team with the lowest score at the end wins.

Golf Scramble Formats

The golf scramble has different formats that give the game some variation. We’ve already covered four-man scramble, so let’s look at these five other formats: Texas scramble, Florida scramble, Las Vegas scramble, bramble, and ambrose.

Texas Scramble

Texas scramble is similar to the four-man format we’ve already covered. Four team members play their shots and chose the best one each time.

However, there is a popular variation associated with this format. Sometimes teams must choose a certain number of drives for each team member.

For instance, three drives per player must be chosen in a team of four. Or if it’s a team of three, four drives per player must be selected.

This format makes the game a bit more challenging. The team can’t solely rely on one or two good players.

Florida Scramble

In Florida scramble, if the team chooses a player’s shot, that player must sit out the next shot. For example, say the team chooses your drive on a par four. That means you don’t get to hit the approach shot, so only the other three players get to go for the green.

Once the team chooses the next best shot, you can get a turn again. However, the player who hits the best approach shot must sit out the next one.

In this format, only all four players will get to hit a tee shot. Someone will always have to sit out for the remaining shots. It’s a good way to keep every player in the team involved.

Las Vegas Scramble

The Las Vegas scramble takes the typical format and adds a bit of Vegas flair. In this format, the roll of a die decides which shot the team must choose.

Each player on the four-man team is assigned a number between one and four before the game starts. When the group has teed off, they roll the die.

If a number between one and four comes up, the team must choose the shot hit by the corresponding player. However, the team can choose which shot to take if a five or six comes up on the die.

This format keeps the game fresh and can be a lot of fun.

Bramble

The bramble format is a mixture of a golf scramble and best ball. At the start of each hole, the players use the scramble format off the tee. After that, however, it’s every player for themselves from the second shot onwards.

Once the team chooses the best tee shot, players play their own ball until they hole out. Usually, the lowest score in the group is then recorded.

There are some variations when it comes to scoring in a bramble, however. All scores, the best three or the best two, might be added together and recorded.

Ambrose

In an ambrose, the scramble format is combined with a team handicap. So, the team records the net scores for each hole based on the overall handicap of the team.

Strategies to Help Win in a Golf Scramble

A golf scramble is all about the team, although some variations require more teamwork than others. Therefore, building a team around each player’s strengths is an excellent strategy.

One way to do that is to get a long driver who finds fairways, a solid iron player, an excellent wedge player, and an accurate putter. That covers all your bases in the four essential areas of golf.

However, the team must also have a smart strategy when it comes to course management. The longest driver might not always be the best choice, for instance.

The team should consider the angle into the green and the distance. Sometimes a shorter approach shot might have a dangerous angle into the green.

Also, players might find themselves in between clubs for an approach shot. In that case, it might be better to choose a ball further away and have a full swing.

In a golf scramble, it’s also a good idea to consider the order of play. The weakest drivers might tee off first, for instance. If they hit the fairway, it takes a bit of pressure off the better driver. If they miss, the better driver can get the team out of trouble.

Similarly, making the worst putters go first on the greens is a good strategy. They might surprise the team and knock one in. If they don’t, the best putters have a better chance of making a clutch putt. Everyone else should get a good read from the previous putt. The last thing the team wants is the worst putter under a lot of pressure to hole an important putt.

Golf Scramble vs. Best Ball

As we now know, the players in a scramble hit a tee shot, choose the best one, and then all play the following shots from that position. However, each golfer plays their ball throughout the hole in best ball.

Once all the players hole out as normal, the lowest score is recorded. So, if you’re playing in a team of four and you score the lowest with a birdie, your score is recorded for that hole.

How Long Does a Golf Scramble Take?

A golf scramble takes about four or five hours, although it’ll depend on a few factors. An experienced group of players can finish a scramble much closer to the four-hour mark.

However, golf clubs often use the scramble format when inexperienced players are on the course. The idea is to speed up the pace of play even with these inexperienced golfers playing.

It sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Inexperienced players tend to hit the ball erratically, so they often need to hunt for their ball and then go to the best ball position.

In a golf scramble, there’s more of this back-and-forth action. That can cause more delays to the game than normal play.

Conclusion

A golf scramble is a great format for a day out on the golf course. No wonder this format is a favorite for fundraisers and charity days.

In this format, inexperienced players don’t need to worry about their performance when playing with excellent players. It’s all about having fun with the team.

Also, some of the different formats like the Las Vegas scramble make the game super enjoyable. Roll the die, and you never know what part of the course you might end up on.

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Joe Morelli

Joe's been playing golf for 25 years, starting as a junior golfer in his early teens. He loves getting out on the links with his dad and friends -- whether an early weekend foursome or his weekday, afternoon league.