What Is a Scramble in Golf?

As a new, curious golfer years ago, one of the many questions I asked was, “what is a scramble in golf?”. So, before you start annoying your partners with all the questions, let me explain what a scramble is in golf.

A scramble in golf is a competition format where you and your partners all tee off with your own balls. Then you choose the best drive from each of your shots and you all play your next shot from there. This continues throughout the entire match.

You’re getting hooked on the feeling of a perfect shot, aren’t you? Welcome to the club. Don’t worry; you’ll figure it out, but for now, let’s focus on what is scrambling in golf.

In the next few paragraphs, I’ll explain some basics of scramble golf, how to play a scramble in golf, how you should approach a round of scramble, and some rules associated with a scramble. So, let’s scramble!

What Is a Scramble in Golf? The Basics

abdul m golfing photo on green

Golf will give you the highest and lowest of highs (sometimes both on the same day). To make golf a little more fun, you can play scramble golf. Scramble golf is the least stressful golf format.

You don’t have to make all the shots in a scramble golf format. Somebody can carry you the entire round.

Obviously, you’ll have to deal with some heat from your partner for that, but it will be less stressful for you.

You’ll realize if you and your partner are both playing the same shot, it gives you much-needed support against a mammoth enemy – The course.

Why Should You Play a Scramble?

Scramble is a way to play golf without feeling pressure. You can knock down a couple of beers, be with your friends, hit some shots, and have a fun, relaxing vibe to your outing on the course.

You will enjoy a bad round of scramble way more than an average round of individual golf or any other format.

Number of Players in a Scramble

The number of players in a scramble team can vary. You can play 2-3 or as many as 5-6 players in a scramble team.

If you’re fond of golf on YouTube, you’ll find YouTubers playing 6 vs. 6 scramble (I have no idea why the marshals let them play, but it is what it is).

A scramble team is referred to depending on the number of players in the team. Suppose there are three players in a scramble team. You are playing a “three-man” or a “three-person” scramble.

If you’re still wondering if you can play golf with five people, read this article.

Handicap Requirement In a Scramble

Scramble golf emphasizes fun, so handicaps are not really considered when playing a scramble. Usually, handicap terms are decided among the teams or if you’re playing a tournament. The tournament organizers decide for them.

Scramble Tournaments

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There’s a wide variety of formats in golf tournaments. One of the most often played tournaments is a scramble tournament.

In such tournaments, the organizers define several players per each scramble team and put them on the field to compete against each other.

From all the tournaments I’ve played, I find scramble tournaments to be the least pressurizing and the most entertaining. Win or lose, you can always count on having a good time with your friends.

Scramble tournaments are not a popular format on any professional tours. Although over the recent years, Tiger Woods and his son Charlie have been competing in the PNC Championship, endorsed by the PGA tour, which is bringing in a lot more audience mainly because of the Woods family and their unparalleled golfing genes.

The PNC championship is a two-person scramble tournament played by tour pros and their families.

You can look for scramble tournaments near you by searching ‘scrambles near me’ or just looking out for tournaments in your local course.

Golf Scramble Rules & Regulations

The whole point of a scramble is to take out the seriousness that accompanies competitive golf. So, the golf scramble rules aren’t very strict.

Playing in a scramble, you get the luxury of one club length of relief in everything that isn’t a hazard. You must play the ball as it lies in a hazard or bunker. Usually, players would mark a tee in the ground where they choose to hit their shots.

In a scramble tournament, a tie at the end is settled by the organizers picking a random hole, and the lowest score on the random hole wins. The process is repeated until the tie is broken.

Strategizing in a Scramble

Even though scramble is a less intimidating golf format when compared with others. There are definitely some strategies for playing a scramble.

Here are a few successful scramble strategies:

  • Whether it’s the tee shot or a putt, choose an order in which players hit shots for every shot and continue that order throughout the round.
  • Scramble format brings in low scores, so the aim should always be to go low. So keep your teammates in an attacking mindset.
  • On all shots, you should consider the person with the highest handicap or the least skill to play first, and then the better players take turns in that order.

Tips To Be Successful in a Scramble in Golf

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Sometimes I want to take things easy on days I prefer playing a scramble. And even though you don’t have to invest a lot of energy in a scramble, I still try to make sure of a few things to allow my team to perform its best.

Here are a few tips I use, and you can use as well, to be successful in scramble golf:

  • The first thing I always make sure of is that when teeing off, I let the shortest, straightest player go first because if he leaves it in the fairway for us, the player who hits it longer can rip one down without having the pressure to hit one in the fairway.
  • I always have the poorest putter take the first turn on the greens. Because if they do make it, bonus. If they don’t, which is expected, at least the better putters can get a read off that putt and which improves the team’s chances of making the putt.
  • Always keep your teammates highly motivated. Hype your teammates up. Play together like a team, and win like a team.

Mistakes To Avoid in a Scramble

I think this is pretty obvious, but if you’re new to the format, you might not realize it. Not everybody should play the hero shot. Some players should try to get into the fairway or just hit the green. You need to make sure your better players can free up and attack.

If nobody in a scramble team has played a good shot yet, the next player should take the safest route to keep options open on the next shot.

When you’re walking to the last few holes of your scramble game, there can be a lot of pressure on each player. Try your best to take the game lightly and not come under pressure. You’ll only get better at pressure handling by playing more matches.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing in a Scramble

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By now, you probably have a good idea about what scramble brings to the table. Even though scramble is for everybody, it has its ups and downs.

Advantages

Scramble golf offers its fair share of advantages mentioned below:

  • Golf requires attention and detail to succeed. This process can be demanding. One advantage scramble brings getting away from all the intricacies of golf and having a good time.
  • You don’t have to be a pro to contribute to a team’s success. You can play to your strengths and share the burden with fellow teammates.
  • Since all decisions in the scramble are made as a team, it’s a great way to promote teamwork among players, especially young golfers, as a critical life lesson.
  • You can learn a lot from how better players in your scramble team approach the same shot as you. How you approach a shot on the course plays a huge role in making or breaking your round.

Disadvantages

While scramble golf has its advantages, it can have disadvantages for some golfers.

  • Aspiring golfers trying to up their game do not like to participate in scramble formats. They like to work on their games and understand their tendencies on the course. With scramble golf, you can have a good time but it’s hard to focus on all aspects of your game.
  • Playing a lot of scramble golf can cause your skill to drop. Since you don’t get to hit many bad shots in scramble golf, it diminishes your skill to get out of tough situations, which is a crucial part of an individual golf round.

Best Ball vs. Foursomes vs. Scramble

Best ball and foursomes (also known as alternate shots) are other team formats in golf. Even though the best ball and foursomes come with a lot more strategy, scramble still beats them in the amount of fun per round.

In the alternate shot format, the team plays the whole with one ball, and everyone takes turns hitting shots.

In the best ball, everyone in the team plays their own ball off the tee, and the lowest score by a member of the team is recorded as the team’s score.

Read more on the best ball format in our full article.

Different Variations of Scramble Golf

You’ll often hear words like Calcutta or Las Vegas on the golf course. Golfers like to spice golf formats up and name them after something.

Scramble tournaments sometimes have their own twists defined by the organizing committee, and they make sense since scramble altogether is loose in terms of rules and regulations.

I’ll mention some of the more well-recognized variations of a scramble tournament.

Texas Scramble

We explain Texas Scramble as pretty much the same as regular scramble although with a little twist.

In a Texas Scramble, each team member has to contribute a certain number of drives in an 18-hole match. The organizing committee defines the number of drives contributed by each member. Fun twist, no?

Florida Scramble

Making things a little more interesting, everyone in the team tees off in this format, let’s say player A, B, C, and D.

If the team chooses player C’s drive. Player C will not play the next shot. In all other shots except the drives, one player always sits out.

Las Vegas Scramble

In a Las Vegas Scramble, a 6—sided die is rolled after the team tees off. Every player is designated a side on the dice. The player whose side comes up, his drive is used for the next shot. Doesn’t the name Las Vegas make a lot more sense now?

Bramble

Also known as the “shamble,” it is a scramble format that combines the best ball and a scramble.

Your team tees off as a scramble. You choose your best drive. You all hit the second shot from that position, and everyone plays their own ball from here on out.

Ambrose

In an Ambrose, your team is given a handicap based on a system defined by the tournament’s organizing committee and your relevant team members’ individual handicaps.

Scrambling in Golf

Even though Scramble golf is a name for a format in golf, in golfing lingo, scrambling is also used in another context where it better serves the word’s original meaning “A disordered mixture of things.”

The golf scramble definition isn’t always refer to a golf format. So, what does scrambling mean in golf?

Scrambling in golf means that a player is doing really well in turning a bad situation into a good outcome. Often you will see good golfers who are not having a good day at the course will still be making pars.

What separates good golfers from bad ones is how good they are at scrambling.

Final Thoughts on Scramble in Golf

Because you are probably on the course every weekend now, there will be days when you’re thinking about not making a lot of individual effort. You don’t want to keep scores in your round, but you still do want to play a little and have a good time with your golfing buddies.

Now that you know the answer to the question: what is a scramble in golf? You can go out and play a round of scramble.

You’ll get the chance to hit some shots around, and you’ll definitely have a lot of fun.

If it does get competitive, keep your team’s spirit high, and stick to your order of play. Compete as a team, and win as a team. Happy scrambling!

Abdul Moiz is a skilled golfer and professional writer. He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad and has played golf for over 5 years. He has a handicap index of 18.5, uses TaylorMade Sim driver, and loves his 60-degree wedge. He's tested and reviewed over 50 products and specializes in reviewing budget-friendly golf club sets. You can connect with Abdul at X, LinkedIn, or Work.AbdulMoiz@gmail.com.

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