How To Play A Scramble In Golf

A group of golfers celebrating the completion of a scramble tournament
A group of golfers celebrate after completing their round in a scramble outing

A scramble in golf, usually a format for outings and special tournaments, is a format where each shot is played from the best option available after all shots have been played by a team. This process starts with the tee shot and continues until the hole is completed.

As a caddie, I’ve been a part of many tournaments and outings. Each of these tournaments or outings is usually played in a specific format, depending on the types of players involved. Some tournaments weigh heavily on caddies because they can take up a huge amount of extra time or they can cause extra work for caddies. The Scramble is one that is very caddie friendly, making it highly favored among caddies everywhere. In golf outings and tournaments, a scramble can save a significant amount of time, while also reducing the workload for caddies. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to play the scramble in a golf tournament or outing.

1. The tee shot: All members drive the golf ball

When teams are announced, each team heads out to their starting hole and awaits the signal for the start of the shotgun, the usual starting format for playing in a scramble tournament. Once the signal goes off, teams are ready to start playing. Since this event is a team event, order does not matter much. All members of the same team are required to make a tee shot. After all tee shots are made, the team has to come to an agreement on where to play the next shot from. Usually, teams opt to play the shortest shot available with the least obstructions.

Caveat: In some cases a certain number of tee shots (or drives) is required from each team member. In this case, there can be times when the team will have to go with a less desirable shot in order to meet the quota.

2. Make an approach shot: All members hit an approach shot from the most optimal location

After each team member has played a tee shot, the team then discusses which location is the best for an approach. With the caveat in mind, it may not always be the case that the approach is taken from the most desirable spot when there are specific driver quotas to be met. After the team has come to a consensus, all team members will play an approach shot from that location. 

One important thing to note is that each shot must be played within one club-length of the location chosen. The ball cannot be played from an improved lie. If the ball location chosen is in the rough but is one club-length from the fairway, the next shot may not be played from the fairway. Likewise, if the optimal drive came to rest in a bunker, all subsequent shots must be played from the sand. The aim is to get at least one shot on the green in regulation. If none of the approach shots manage to hold on the green, this step is repeated until at least one team member’s ball is on the green

Caveat: On par 5s, it will likely take an extra shot before a ball can be on the green in regulation, so this step is repeated.

3. Make a Putt: All Team Members Take a Putt to Finish the Hole

After a successful try at the approach shot, the team is left to make another decision. This time, it’s about which location is best to putt from. After the team has weighed all the options and has agreed on a location to putt from, we are ready to finish up the hole. Once again, all members of the team make a putt in hopes to close out the hole. In the event that no one makes the putt, the process is repeated until the golf ball vanishes and the team completes the hole. When the hole is completed, mark the team’s score card with the appropriate score. It’s okay to write the raw score and have the pro shop adjust for handicaps.

4. Repeat Steps: Process is Repeated Until All 18 Holes Are Completed

Steps one through three, mentioned above, are repeated until 18 holes of golf are fully accounted for on the scorecard. Be sure to mark your scorecard appropriately and make the right notation for driver quotas, if needed. There is usually an award ceremony for the low gross and low net teams so be sure to make wise decisions and strategize around which holes should go toward the driver quota.

How to play a modified scramble: The sit-out scramble

The modified version of the scramble adds a slight twist to keep things interesting and to encourage equal participation. In the modified scramble, all things remain the same with the exception that the player whose shot location was selected, may not play a shot from that location and has to sit out that turn, like the name suggests.

Here’s a quick guide for how to play a modified scramble in golf:

  1. All Players play a drive from the tee box
  2. Team members decide on the best location and all players, excluding the player whose shot location was chosen, plays from there
  3. Repeat step 2 until  at least one ball reaches the green
  4. Team decides on which location is best to putt from. All team members, except the player whose shot was selected, make a putt. Repeat until the hole is completed

Tying it all together

The scramble is one golf's easiest tournament/outing formats to understand and it takes a lot of the workload off our caddies’ plates. This quick step guide will help you get prepared for your upcoming tournament or golf outing and simplify the process of how it all works. If you are an organizer and you want your participants to have as much fun as possible, let them play the scramble format and let both your attendees and the caddies have a great time on the course.


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