The Shamble Golf Format: A Guide

Curious or even embarrassed that you don’t know what shamble golf means? We don’t blame you. Nobody wants to look like an amateur, and while shamble is easy to understand, it can get confusing with various golf formats to remember. Case and point with a scramble. It sounds awfully similar! But don’t worry, we got you covered.

What is a shamble golf event? A shamble refers to a golf game with 2-4 players. The game begins with each player teeing it up, and the team selects the best drive of the lot. Each player positions their ball at this point and plays to the hole. Scoring criteria varies, but it usually involves adding two individual scores.

All serious golfers will not want to mistake this format to find the right tournaments to elevate their game. Read on to go more in-depth on this topic and learn the pros and cons of playing a shamble, the scoring and handicaps, and examples of famous shamble tournaments.

Pros and Cons of the Shamble Format

One of the advantages is that this format can liven up the game, and while you can play it as part of a team, you can still focus on your own performance. Another benefit of shamble golf is that every player gets the best drive, so you almost always get a favorable starting position.

The shamble format allows golfers from every skill level to contribute to a team score, which lets you play with players from all skill levels fairly. This enables you to play with a much wider selection of golfers than you usually would in a standard game.

Now, let’s take a look at the disadvantages of a shamble in golf. Firstly, high handicappers may feel that they are not contributing to the team’s score. While there are four common ways of scoring, most do not take into account the score of the highest player on a team.

What’s more, scoring is heavily weighted in favor of the lowest-scoring player. Therefore a team with a player that is far stronger than the competition can carry an average team to victory.

Finally, high handicappers especially may feel that there are better tournament formats out there for them. Other alternatives include scramble, bingo-bango-bongo, or best ball.

How to Play a Shamble

Shamble golf

The rules of a shamble are simple. Under the golf shamble rules, every player will tee off at the start of each hole, and the team will take the best drive of the bunch. From that point on, every golfer plays their own ball from that position until it reaches the hole. The best drive isn’t always the longest; in some cases, a shorter drive makes more sense because of an easier setup toward the green. You can drop your golf ball within a club length of wherever the best drive landed.

Event organizers will also set other rules, such as how many drives every participant in the game can contribute. This will determine your strategy. To succeed in a shamble with your team, you need to get as much accuracy on the course as possible.

Shamble Golf Scoring and Handicaps

Handicaps introduce fairness into shamble games. Without them, low-handicap players would be at an even larger advantage than they already are. The handicaps vary depending on how many players are on a team:

  • Team of two: 80% handicap
  • Team of three: 85% handicap of the two best players
  • Team of four: 80% handicap of the two best players

Similarly, scoring also depends on how many players are in a team. Two-player scramble has more limited scoring options than four-player scramble, given the presence of fewer players. The latter usually results in lower scores overall due to four opportunities at the start rather than two to achieve a good position for the team to start playing from.

The options for scoring are as follows:

  • The lowest score on the team is used as the team’s score
  • The two lowest scores on the team are totaled as the team’s score
  • The lowest and highest score on the team are totaled as the team’s score
  • The lowest and highest scores are cast aside, and the middle scores are totaled as the team’s score

Variations of the Shamble Format

Shamble golf

How a shamble plays will depend on the format. There are many different variations of the game. Here are a few:

  • Step-aside scramble
  • Texas shamble
  • Champagne scramble
  • The ramble shamble

Step-Aside Scramble

Step-aside scramble is usually played with teams of four. Every player tees off, and whoever’s position you take, that player has to sit out for the following shot. This is a good choice if you have weaker players on the team that you’d like to contribute.

Texas Shamble

In a Texas shamble, you only have two players per team. Each player will tee off and select the best drive from two players. What makes this popular is that you get more options off the tee.

Champagne Scramble

In a champagne scramble, you could have 2, 3, or 4 players on a team. Everyone will do the drive and mark out the best ball. Whoever’s ball they choose, that player goes first. On a par-3 hole, you will play your own ball from the tee to the hole. The lowest score on the team is your team’s score.

The Ramble Shamble

In a ramble shamble, there are four players and everyone will tee off. Next, you will play the best drive. In terms of scoring, you add the player’s score whose drive you took with the lowest score from the other three players. For the par-3s, you just take the lowest two scores. However, you must use at least three drives from everyone’s score.

Examples of Famous Shamble Tournaments

Shamble golf 2

We’ve looked at the pros and cons, how to play a shamble, the scoring and handicaps, and the variations of shambles. Hopefully, that answers the question of “What is a shamble in golf?”. However, we’re not done yet because we’ll dive even deeper into famous tournaments to give you an even better idea of the golf shamble definition.

In some cases, you will hear a shamble called bramble. While the names are different, albeit similar, they are synonymous. So try not to get confused between the two.

One example of this format in use is the Verizon Heritage Golf tournament. They first played this tournament 54 years ago. Another example of shamble in golf is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

You often see this type of scoring when you have a team play tournament. The reason you see tournaments do this is that it adds another element of strategy to the game and simultaneously speeds up the pace of the gameplay.

Some golf purists dislike this format of play because of how it takes away from you playing your own ball throughout the course. Still, others love this style because it gives them the best position on the fairway.

Shamble vs Scramble

The shamble combines elements of the scramble, but it’s not exactly the same. The scramble usually allows for more team play, whereas a shamble focuses more on each golfer’s performance. In a scramble, you only get one score, but with shambles, each player from the team will receive a score that may add up to the total team score depending on the scoring criteria used.

As such, scramble is a little more favorable to high-handicap players since their score won’t be completely ignored. On the flip side, it does mean they are harder to win.

Shamble Golf Frequently Asked Questions

What Percentage of Handicaps Is Shamble?

The percentage of handicaps in a shamble will depend on how many people are playing. For example, in a two-person shamble, 80% of each player’s handicap is usually taken. In a 3-person shamble, it’s 85% of the two best players, and for 4-person shamble, it’s 80%.

What Is a Texas Shamble?

A Texas shamble is one where you have a two-person team, and you take the best drive out of each of the players. What makes a Texas shamble popular is that you get more options with this golf shamble format than in other shamble games.

What Is Shamble Good For?

A golf shamble is a fun way to way to take the stress out of your own game and focus on the joys of performing as a team. If you have a bad performance, your score may not even count, so you’re certainly under less pressure than a standard game of golf.


Hopefully, this answers your question, “What is a shamble format in golf?”. To sum it up, it’s a popular tournament format for team play. Before you participate in one, you may want to think carefully about the advantages and disadvantages of each shamble format to decide which, if any, are right for you. While some golfers love the shamble, you have others who don’t like playing in the shamble golf format. That’s okay. It’s not for everyone. Try it for yourself to see if you like it.

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Matt travels the world as a professional writer and blogger trying out different golf courses in exotic spots like the Philippines. He loves the challenge and tranquility in the sport of golf. Golf, for him, is a way of relaxing and enjoying life. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
  • Favorite club: Cobra Fly XL Set
  • Favorite ball: Callaway Warbird Ball
  • Favorite food at the turn: Nachos

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