What is a "Shotgun Start" in Golf? How Does it Work?

What is a “Shotgun Start” in Golf?

In golf, a “shotgun start” occurs when multiple groups of golfers start their rounds simultaneously on unique holes. It’s a faster and more efficient way for 18 or more groups to finish their rounds compared to staggering start times on a limited number of holes.

This term gets its name because tournament organizers used to fire a shotgun in the air to alert all groups around the course when they should start. Today, the call to start is likely to be made via a megaphone, siren, or communicated via walkie talkie.

How does a Shotgun Start Work?

A tournament organizer may choose to have a shotgun start, having 18 or more groups start simultaneously on various holes of the golf course. If a group is beginning their round on the 7th hole, they’ll play holes 8, 9, 10, etc. until they finish on the 6th hole.

Thanks to the shotgun start, all of the groups will both start and finish their golf rounds at roughly the same time. If you have 18 groups of 4 golfers, this lets 72 golfers start their round simultaneously.

How Can There Be a Shotgun Start with More than 18 Groups?

You might have been surprised when I said “18 or more” groups could start. How can you have more than 18 groups begin at once on an 18-hole golf course?

This is accomplished by sending 2 groups of golfers to par-5 and even par-4 holes.

Once the 1st group tees off and hits their 2nd shots, the 2nd group can tee off to a clear fairway.

Shotgun Starts vs “Normal” Starting Methods

If you’re watching a professional golf tournament, you’ll probably see groups start their rounds by teeing off on the 1st or 10th hole (or just the 1st). All groups will begin at one of these 2 holes, with their start times usually being staggered by 10 minutes.

Using this more well-known starting method, it will take up to 3 hours (if only one starting hole) before the 18th group can tee off. It will also make the entire round of the tournament take up to 3 hours longer.

Shotgun starts are a popular way to save time for tournament organizers, especially when they’re trying to get other groups of golfers out to play after the tournament.  Organizers may also choose to have a shotgun start for events being played late in the day or to avoid poor weather conditions.

Another excellent benefit to a shotgun start is that all golfers are exposed to the same weather conditions, albeit at different holes.

Keep Up With the Pace

If you’re participating in a golf event with a shotgun start, be sure to maintain a reasonable pace. With every hole always occupied, it takes a combined effort from all groups to keep things moving steadily.