Golf Scramble: Rules, Set Up & How To Play

scramble golf

What is a golf scramble? How is it different from stroke play? 

It’s a good question… 

One of the great things about golf is the variety of formats that you can play within the game. If you watch the Ryder Cup, you know it is fun to watch the best players in the world use different formats like alternate shot or 4-ball. 

Paired with match play and rivaling countries, it’s easy to see why it’s so entertaining to watch even for non-golfers. But even if you aren’t playing in a Ryder Cup, you can have some fun too by playing a tournament in a scramble golf format. 

This style is much different from your normal foursome stroke play and so much fun. Keep reading to learn everything about playing scramble golf events.

What is a Scramble in Golf?

A scramble is a very fun type of tournament that is preferred by amateur golfers for a few reasons.

First, it yields very low scores, which is great as you and your group are making birdies all day – which is a lot more fun than bogeys (or worse). And hopefully make some eagles too as the winning scores are typically in the low 60s or high 50s. 

Second, a scramble doesn’t put too much pressure on one specific golfer in your group. Not everyone has to have their best stuff to score well, which is great if you have a friend who isn’t the best golfer. 

Plus, scrambles usually have separate competitions within the event like: 

  • Longest drives.
  • Longest putt made.
  • Hole in one challenge. 
  • Closest to the pin on one or several par 3 holes. 

Each of these competitions have their own rewards such as gift certificates, a dozen golf balls, or free rounds of golf. Plus, there is usually food served afterward to present awards, announce winners, and possibly do a raffle as well. 

Finally, scrambles are usually put on for a good cause like a charity or specific project. It’s always good to know that your green fees are going toward something or someone in need.

Now that you know why these tournaments are so fun, let’s get into the format and how to play well in these events. 

Scramble Golf Rules 

So how does a scramble work in golf?

A scramble can be a two, three or 4-man event. For this example, let’s assume it’s a 4-man event, as it’s the most common format in scramble tournaments.

Like normal stroke play, each player tees off on every hole on the same tee box. Once all drives are hit, you find the best one for your approach shot. Usually, it’s the one that is closest to the hole, but the lie and angle to the pin also play a factor as well.

Once you decide on the best tee shot, the other three players pick up their balls and all four players will play from the best drive. The original ball is marked with a tee and each player usually gets to place their ball between one grip length to one club from that location. 

Depending on the scramble rules, there might be a certain number of drives that each player must use as well (more on that coming up). This ensures that one person who hits it long isn’t the only golf ball they use all day off the tee. 

A minimum drive requirement also makes things much more interesting late in the round to ensure every player hits their quota. Because when you’re coming down the final stretch of holes and someone hasn’t met their required amount of drive, it’s pressure time for them. 

Related: Best Mental Game Tips 

After the drive, each player hits their second shots and the same process is repeated until you’re on the putting surface. Once you get on the green, this is where the fun happens. 

After you find the putt that is closest or easiest to the hole, you mark the ball and each player will putt. If someone makes it, then the hole is over. 

But if the first few players miss the putt, the pressure gets added to the next person to drain the putt. A big advantage is that you get to watch the players in front of you putt and can see how the putt breaks, plus see the speed. 

Finally, some tournaments allow each player or each group a certain number of mulligans that you can buy in advance. These are a “redo” of the shot before and second chance to make the putt or hit a certain shot. Make sure to always clarify the rules on mulligans in advance. 

Types of Scrambles

The majority of golf scrambles are 4-man team events without handicaps. However, sometimes there are 2 or 3-man teams and even different variations of a traditional scramble. 

Texas Scramble

A Texas scramble is a four-person team scramble with a catch. Each player is required to hit a certain number of drives throughout the round (typically three drives, sometimes four). As mentioned earlier, this makes things interesting later on in the round.

Another form of a Texas scramble requires each player to play their own ball on par 3. The best score is taken and used by the group. 

Florida Scramble 

A Florida scramble is another format and makes things much more challenging for the group. In this type of format, the player whose shot is used doesn’t get to hit the next shot. 

For example, if player A hits the drive on the first hole, they don’t get to hit the approach shot. Only the other three players get to hit the approach, chip, or putt which makes things much more challenging and requires a lot more strategy. 

Las Vegas Scramble

Another spin on a traditional scramble format is the Las Vegas edition. With this version a six-sided die is rolled on the tee box to determine which drive is used. Obviously there’s a lot more chance involved but it’s a fun way to mix up an already fun format. 

Golf Scramble Strategy: How to Win Golf Scrambles 

Scores are low in scrambles so it’s essential to play aggressive and give yourself as many birdie putts as possible. Here are some of the best tips to go low in scramble tournaments.

Tee Off Strategically 

It’s always a good idea to let the shorter hitters tee off first and hopefully get a ball in play. This allows the longer hitter(s) to swing more freely as they know a ball is already safely in play. Plus, make sure to hit the driver on par 4s/par 5s to give yourself the closest approach shot. 

Also, if you’re playing a Texas Scramble with a minimum number of tee shots for each player try to hit each person’s quota sooner rather than later. The worst thing you can do is have the least skilled player need to hit clutch drives on the last few holes. 

Aggressive Approach Shots 

Once you have a good drive, next up is the approach shot. This is not the time to play it safe and aim for the middle part of the green. Try to aim more toward the flag – especially with wedges – so you can have shorter birdie putts.

Don’t forget, the closer your birdie putt, the more likely it is to go in and every foot matters. For example, the PGA Tour average from four feet is about 90% while the make rate from eight feet is only about 50%. 

Aim for the flag to give yourself easier birdie putts that are more likely to drop! 

On par 5s, always try to get near the green in two shots so you can hopefully have an eagle putt or easy chip. The same goes for trying to drive short par 4s too. While it’s okay if one person wants to play it safe, try to play more aggressively. 

Try to Make Everything 

Once you’re on the green, fringe, or have an easy chip try to make everything! Pars aren’t going to win you any trophies so make sure to be aggressive with pitches and putts. 

Once you’re on the green, always have the least skilled putter attempt the putt first. Read the green as a team and give them a clear start line to hopefully make the putt. Then watch how the putt breaks and the speed they use in case it doesn’t go in. 

Typically, the final person to putt is the most clutch putter and/or lowest handicap golfer. 

Related: How to Read Greens

Other Types of Formats

While the scramble is a great way to mix it up, there are some other types of tournaments that are a lot of fun too. 

Here is a quick overview of them in case you want even more of a challenge.

  • Four Ball (best ball): In this 2-man format, you each play your own golf ball and take the lowest score of the two. I’ve seen some specialty events where if you both make a score under par, each count. For example, if you both make birdies, instead of counting the hole at -1, it counts as -2. 
  • Shamble: In this format, each player tees off and the best drive is selected, just like a scramble. Then, each player plays from that spot and continues to play their ball into the hole as normal stroke play. The best score is counted toward the team score. 
  • Stableford: In this format each score (par, birdie, bogey, etc.) is assigned a score. The person or team with the most points wins. Click here to learn more about Stableford scoring. 
  • Chapman: This is another 2-man event that is a very entertaining format. Here’s how it works, both players tee off on every hole then, each player hits the other player’s ball for the second shot. After both second shots are hit, the group decides on one ball, then alternate shots until the hole is finished. Par 3s are much easier but par 5s are much more difficult due to the alternate shot format. 
  • Alternate Shot (Foursomes): This is arguably the hardest format of any type of event and a step-up from a Chapman style. In an alternate shot format, you and one other player team up to hit every other shot. Player A tees off on odd number holes and player B tees off on even number holes. Then they alternate shots until the hole is complete – this is not meant for four players, despite the confusing name. 

If you can find a tournament that does 6-6-6 (6 holes of three separate formats), those are the most fun! 

Top Questions About Golf Formats 

Want to learn more about different types of golf tournaments? Make sure to scroll through our top question and answers below. 

What is a scramble in golf?

A golf scramble is a unique format that is very different from stroke or match play. In a scramble (either 2 or 4-man teams), each player tees off and the best shot is selected. All players play from this spot and continue in this manner until the hole is finished. 

Are scramble shotgun starts?

Yes, there are usually 18+ groups during a scramble and everyone starts on a different hole (aka, a shotgun start). Some events use apps like Golf Genius for live scoring to see the leaderboard since groups start on different holes. 

How do you play a golf scramble?

Playing a golf scramble is easier than a normal round as you basically eliminate bad shots. Each person plays from the same spot and the best shot is taken until the hole is complete. 

What is the difference between a scramble and a best ball tournament?

A scramble is a much easier format than a best ball format. In a best ball event, each player must play their own ball on every hole throughout the round (not to mention no mulligans). The “best ball” score is taken but there are no minimum holes required from each player like a Texas Scramble. 

What is a one-man scramble?

A rare tournament but if you ever have the chance, a great format! Here’s how the USGA described it, “A One-Person Scramble is where each player hits two shots, one ball is selected, two shots are played from that location, one ball is again selected, two shots are played from that location, and so on until the ball is holed.”

Do scrambles use net or gross scores?

Scrambles typically use gross scores and do not involve handicaps due to the easy format. But sometimes there are events with an “ambrose” format. This format requires each group to have a team handicap which is then included in a net division. 

Can you use mulligans in scrambles?

Yes, sometimes scrambles allow mulligans but there is a catch. 

You have to buy mulligans for each player or a certain amount that your team can use. This is typically a cash purchase and always happens before the event. It’s best to use mulligans on the greens for birdie or eagle putts. 

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what is scramble in golf and how to get started. Find an event near you, grab some friends, and make a ton of birdies as the scores tend to go super low.

Whether you play a 2-man or a 4-man event, I know you will have a great time. Once you see someone in the fairway, swing hard and try to get an even better look for your team into the green.

Finally, don’t leave a putt short – pars won’t do the job in this format. Try to hole out everything on or around the green for the best chance to win. 

Do you like to play in scramble golf events? If so, do you prefer 2-man or 4-man formats?

Let us know in the comments below. 

Picture of Phil Grounds

Phil Grounds

Phil is an avid golfer, and the creator of The Golfers Gear. He’s been playing golf for 30 years, and is obsessed with improving his game and sharing his experience helping fellow golfers score better.

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