Mastering the Golf Shamble: Rules, Tips, and Strategy

golfer hitting tee shot while partners watch

One of the great things about golf is the variety of ways to play the game. From traditional stroke play to more relaxed alternatives like a shamble, there is a format for everyone. But what is a golf shamble?

A golf shamble is one of the most popular and exciting formats you can play. It’s a team game where players of different abilities can play together and try to get the best score for the group.

The Golf Shamble Format

In a golf shamble, each player in the team hits a tee shot. Then, the team picks the best tee shot out of the group.

The best tee shot could be the longest drive down the fairway on a par 5 or the closest to the pin on a par 3.

The other three players lift their balls and drop them beside the best tee shot.

Note: The players who lift their balls must drop them within one club length of the best tee shot.

Each player in the team then hits their second shot from this position. But the team doesn’t choose the best second shot as they did with the tee shot. From the second shot onwards, each player in the team must finish the hole with their own ball.

Unlike the scramble format, players cannot choose the subsequent best shot. They must play their balls from where they lie once each player hits their second shot.

How Do You Score a Golf Shamble?

Some of you may be asking, how do you score a golf shamble? That decision is ultimately down to the organizers.

Here are some options for scoring a golf shamble.

  • Use the best individual score in the team – if a player gets a birdie and the others score worse, record the birdie on the card.
  • Combine the two lowest scores in the team and record them – two birdies on a par 3 make a score of six.
  • Combine the lowest score and the highest score.
  • In a foursome, discard the lowest and highest scores and combine the middle ones – say the team scores a birdie, par, bogey, and double bogey. You combine the par and bogey to get the team score.

These are just a few common ways to score a scramble. But tournament organizers can decide how to score the format and get as creative as they want.

Golf Professional Demonstrating Shot On Fairway To Group Of Golfers During Lesson

Golf Shamble vs. Golf Scramble

The golf shamble and scramble are very similar formats. A shamble is a variation of the scramble game. These games differ in the way they’re played only after the first tee shot.

In both games, all the players on the team hit a tee shot before choosing the best one. So, you can pick the best of four tee shots when playing in a foursome.

The team always chooses the best shot in a scramble format, not only with the tee shot. After you pick the best drive, the other three players drop their balls within one club length and play their second shots.

Then, the team again chooses the best position from everyone’s second shot. So, if three players missed the green but one hit it, the team would choose that person’s shot in a golf scramble.

Each player then takes a putt from that position. Say someone holes their putt. The team will choose that shot and finishes the hole.

The team only picks the best tee shot in a shamble format. After they drop their balls beside the best tee shot, they play their own shots from that point onwards.

So, let’s say after they hit their second shots, two players hit the green, one misses to the right, and one lands in the bunker. Every person on the team plays their own balls and finishes the hole.

Once everyone holes out, they move on to the next tee box.

Tips for Winning a Golf Shamble

A golf shamble can be challenging, but here are some tips for winning a golf shamble.

  • Communicate effectively – A shamble is a team format, so it’s important to communicate effectively with your teammates. Share your thoughts on which shot to use, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Make strategic decisions – When choosing which shot to use, consider factors such as the lie of the ball, the distance to the hole, and the strengths of each player. Sometimes the longest drive isn’t always the best option, especially if it’s in the rough. A well-thought-out decision can make a big difference in your team’s score. 
  • Play to each player’s strengths – Each player on your team has their own strengths and weaknesses. Try to play to each player’s strengths as much as possible, and use their best shots to your advantage.
  • Play aggressively – A shamble allows for more aggressive play, so don’t be afraid to take risks. Sometimes a bold play can pay off and give your team a big advantage.
  • Have fun – Remember that a shamble is a fun and relaxed format. Don’t take it too seriously, and enjoy the camaraderie and teamwork that comes with playing as a team.

Advantages of a Golf Shamble

The golf shamble is a popular and exciting format that offers several advantages over traditional stroke play and other formats. Here are three key benefits of playing a shamble.

1. A fun and relaxed way to play golf

A shamble allows players to work together as a team, creating a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere on the course. Instead of feeling pressure to perform individually, players can focus on having fun and working together to achieve the best score possible.

2. Allows players of different skill levels to play together

In a shamble, players of different skill levels can play together and contribute to the team’s success. This makes it an excellent format for groups of friends or family members with varying abilities.

3. A good option for large groups or charity events

A shamble is a fantastic option for large groups or charity events. It allows players to work together and contribute to the team’s score, regardless of their individual skill level. This makes it a more inclusive and enjoyable format for all participants.

Does Handicap Apply During a Golf Shamble?

Yes, handicaps apply during a golf shamble. But organizers generally use the shamble for social and charity events, so the United States Golf Association may not sanction the tournaments.

The USGA handicap system does apply during a shamble, though. That’s if the players have one. The organizers typically assign a handicap to players who don’t have an official one.

Applying handicaps to a shamble event balances the field. Teams can have a scratch player and one with a 30 handicap, so handicaps are needed to make events fair.

How to Handicap a Golf Shamble

Typically, a team with two players will combine their handicaps before calculating 80% of the number. So, a two-person team with a combined handicap of 40 would have a 32-handicap for a golf shamble.

Three-person teams generally get handicapped at 85% of the two best players. If the best two players have a combined handicap of 20, their shamble one becomes 17.

Usually, four-person teams are handicapped at 80% of the best two players. A combined handicap of 10 gets a shamble handicap of 8.


A golf shamble is a unique and exciting format that offers a fun and relaxed way to play golf. It combines elements of stroke play and the scramble, allowing players of different skill levels to play together and contribute to the team’s success.

The rules and scoring are simple, and the format encourages team strategy and communication to achieve the best score possible. The golf shamble format can be a good option for large groups or charity events, as it is an inclusive and enjoyable game for all participants.

If you’re looking to try something new and exciting on the golf course, give the shamble a try. Remember to communicate effectively, make strategic decisions, play to each player’s strengths, play aggressively, and have fun. With these tips, you and your team can increase your chances of winning and have a great time on the course.

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with decades of experience playing this amazing sport. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn, improve and enjoy the game of golf.