What is a Golf Scramble? Here's How to Play in One

What is a Golf Scramble?

In golf, a "Scramble" format is when teams of 2-4 golfers continuously hit each of their shots from the group's previous best shot. All team members contribute to complete the hole in as few strokes as possible, combining for the lowest team score.

How to Play a Golf Scramble

To start a hole in a scramble format, each team member hits a tee shot. The team of golfers then decide which of the tee shots was best. They each play their second shot within one club-length of the chosen first shot.

After each golfer on the team takes their second shots, the team again chooses which of the second shots is best. From the second chosen shot, each team member hits their third shot.

The team continues to play all their shots, including putts, from the group's previous chosen shot until they complete the hole.

Each of the team's chosen strokes is combined for the team's score on a hole.

The team continues to play in this way on all holes for the round.

Example of a Golf Scramble

Golf Scramble Example Illustration

If this still isn't making sense to you, here's an example of a 2 golfer team playing a scramble.

  1. From the tee box, one golfer hits their drive in the rough, but the other is on the fairway.
  2. The team chooses the fairway drive, and both golfers hit their second shot from that location. One golfer goes into a greenside bunker, while the other ends up on the fairway short of the green.
  3. The team chooses to play the shot on the fairway short of the green. From there, one of the team members hits past the green into a sand trap and the other hits the green.
  4. Of course, of the team's third shots, the one on the green is chosen rather than the one in the bunker. On their fourth shot (a putt), one golfer misses his put, but the other holes it. The team has completed the hole in 4 strokes.

Golf Scramble Strategies

There are some basic scramble strategies you can use to increase your chances of posting a low score.

Forming Your Team

If you want to maximize your chances of winning an event, it starts with forming your team.

There are three essential abilities critical for scramble teams. You want at least one player on your team to have each of these:

Strong Putter – You don't have to play much golf before you realize the importance of putting. Make sure at least one member of your team excels on the dance floor.

Long Hitter - With four players hitting each shot, birdies and eagles are a lot more common. This makes them far more necessary to win than when playing as an individual. 

Bryson Dechambeau DrivingHaving a player on your team that gives you close approach shots on par-4 holes and a chance to get on par-5 greens in two strokes is very helpful for collecting birds.

Fairway Finder – You'll want to have at least one player on your team who consistently finds the fairway with their tee shots. They don't have to be the longest hitter, but they need to put a respectable ball into play to take the pressure off your team's long hitters.

Order of Play

Once you're actually on the course, choosing the order your team takes their shots is the most important strategy you can implement.

Off the Tee – The most accurate player off the tee should always go first. Getting a shot on the fairway takes the pressure off longer and/or less consistent hitters.

From there, it's usually best to go from the shortest remaining hitter to the longest. If there are already multiple playable shots, your team's furthest hitter can go all out for a bomb.

Putting – Putting order is also extremely important. Always have the worst putter go first and the best putter go last. Good putters can handle the pressure of waiting to go last, plus they'll see the break from the putts before them to give them a more accurate read of the putt.

Scramble Variations

Often event organizers will add additional rules to make their scramble more unique or competitive.

Texas Scramble

One such variation is a Texas Scramble.

A "Texas Scramble" plays the same as a regularly scramble but puts limitations on your tee shot selection. 

In most Texas Scrambles, your team will need to play a certain number of each member's tee shots at some point during the round. For example, in an 18-hole round, you may be required to choose 4 tee shots from every team member.

Sometimes, event organizers also won't allow you to play the same golfer's drives on two consecutive holes.

These additional rules can help even the playing field and limit the influence of a "ringer."

Final Thoughts

Scrambles are a fantastic golf format for casual competition. A scramble often lets you go for riskier shots than you'd usually take. The scramble format can also remove a lot of the pressure you feel when playing alone.

While playing in a scramble format is most common at golf events or competitions, there's no reason you and your buddies can't play a scramble on any day of the week to try to hit your lowest group scores.