Best Ball vs Scramble: Differences Explained

“Best Ball” (Better Ball) and “Scramble” formats are two of the most popular golf scoring formats for pro/am tournaments and local events. They can also just be a fun way to mix up your weekly golf day with your buddies.

While these formats are quite different, many golfers tend to confuse them.

Below, we’ve explained how to play both formats and covered all the differences between Best Ball vs Scrambles in golf.

What is a “Scramble” in Golf?

A “Golf Scramble” is played by teams of 2-4 golfers. Each team member tees off. The team then selects the best tee shot.

Golfers Hitting Tee Shots

After the entire team has hit their tee shots, all team members, except the golfer who hit the chosen tee shot, pick up their balls. The team members who picked up their balls then place their balls within one club-length (but no closer to the hole) of their team's chosen shot. Every team member hits their second shot from the location of the selected tee shot.

After all of the golfers on the team hit their second shot, the best shot from that location is chosen. Again, all team members hit their third shots from the selected location of the best second shot.

The team continues choosing the best shot to hit from until they’ve completed the hole. Every hole of the round is played like this.

Golf Scramble Example

Golf Scramble Example Illustration The best way to understand how a golf Scramble works is to look through an example. Below, we’ve broken down an example hole for a 2-player Scramble:

  1. One golfer hits their shot into the left rough from the tee box, while the other hits their tee shot onto the fairway. The team chooses the fairway ball to hit their second shots from.
  2. Both golfers hit from the location of the fairway ball for their second shots. One golfer ends up in a bunker from the fairway, and the other keeps it on the fairway just short of the green. The team chooses the ball on the fairway for the location of their third shots.
  3. For the team’s third shots, they both hit from the fairway ball short of the green. One ball lands on the green, while the other golfer hits past the green into a bunker. Of course, the team chooses the ball on the green as the location to take their fourth strokes.
  4. Now on the green for their fourth strokes, one golfer misses their putt, but the other makes it. The team has completed the hole in 4 strokes.

What is “Best Ball” in Golf?

“Best Ball” or “Better Ball” has teams of 2-4 golfers play each hole the way they would under normal stroke play conditions. Each golfer on the team plays their own ball until it’s in the cup.

After all team members have completed the hole, the team chooses the best score that an individual golfer on their team made to enter on the team's scorecard.

Golf Best Ball Example IllustrationIf Golfer A takes 5 strokes to complete a hole and Golfer B takes only 3 strokes, the team will choose the better score of 3 to enter on their scorecard.

This format is usually called “Better Ball” when played by teams of 2 golfers and “Best Ball” when played by teams of 3-4 golfers.

Scramble vs Best Ball: The Benefits of Each Format

When comparing a golf Scramble vs Best Ball, each format has its strengths and weaknesses.

  • Best Ball and Scramble formats both allow less skilled golfers to contribute to a team score. However, Scrambles do a better job of this  because one good shot in a Scramble contributes to the team’s goal, whereas a golfer needs to do well on the entire hole to contribute in Best Ball.
  • Best Ball is less complicated and a lot faster than a Scramble. In Best Ball, there’s no choosing shots and collecting balls. Simply play the hole as you usually would, then determine which member of your team got the lowest score.
  • While both formats allow you to take more risks, Scrambles, in particular, let golfers try shots they’d usually deem too risky. If one member of a Scramble team has already made a good shot, the golfers still left to hit from that spot can be more aggressive.
  • Scrambles are a unique format compared to standard stroke play. They allow Scramble teams to implement more  interesting team strategies.