Before we go on to explain the four-man golf scramble rules, let’s look at what golf scramble is. The golf scramble is one of the best-known and most popular forms of team play in golf. It is usually played for fun, rather than in serious tournaments.
The reason it is so popular at charity events and on golf club fund-raising days is that it allows golfers of different skill levels to join in. Even better, if you have a low handicap or no handicap at all, you can still find yourself on the winning team.
You may even see yourself playing with the top players around. It is most usually performed with groups of four, although there is a two-man version which is also popular.
Here is a short video which runs through the basic concept behind scramble golf.
Four-man scramble golf rules
Let’s start by a look at the four-man scramble golf rules. The delight of scramble golf is that it is informal. There are no rules laid down by the bodies which make the rules of golf which cover golf scramble games. The USGA says: “The Committee in charge of the competition must determine the necessary rules for the format.”
This lack of any formal guidance means the rules can vary from place to place to suit the needs of the teams playing. If you turn up to a Saturday tournament at a neighboring club, do not be surprised if their rules are slightly different to the ones you play. It all adds to the fun. But do make sure you are clear about which rules apply before you start. There is nothing worse than ending up with a quarrel between teams because there was a lack of clarity about the rules before play began.
Here are the rules which I usually play by, to give you an idea.
How to play each hole
- Team selection: All players select/join a team of four players
- The tee:
- Each golfer in the squad tees off on every hole.
- The team then chooses one of the tee shots (the best obviously, although that may not always be easy to determine)
- The players mark this spot with a tee marker
- Everyone plays the next shot from this marker
- Next shot
- The other players in the team pick up their balls and put them on down a club length (away from the hole) from the tee marker for the best shot.
- Each team member hits the ball from this spot. (one club length from the best shot).
- Putting green shots
- When your team has finally got the ball onto the putting green, the rules change slightly.
- The best shot from all the team players wins.
- The ball is then placed four inches from the best shot (away from the hole).
- Holing the ball
- The first ball to go into the hall is the one which counts toward the score.
- This score counts for as the whole team score sometimes called the net score.
In scramble golf, you are playing as part of a team. Therefore, some of the rules of golf need to be slightly adapted.
Here are some which are frequently applied to make the game go smoothly and ensure fair play.
You are not allowed to move your golf ball out of a hazard; including bunkers or the rough.
If you have a mixed team of men and women, women may tee off from ladies’ tees.
The team will fill in a scorecard as a team, with one team member designated for the task. All members of the team will then sign the scorecard.
Choosing your team
Now we have established some rules; we can get onto the complexities and creativities of this form of golf. A lot of prestige can be at stake in every game. So, let’s see what is needed to make your team perfect — the ideal team to have the most fun playing golf, to perform at the height of their skills and hope to win.
Of course, you want the best players, but the mix is just as important. You may find that some competitions insist you have a skill mix, with say one high handicapper, one scratch player and a couple in the mid-range.
Even if there’s a limit in your choice by having a skill mix forced on you, you still have some room for maneuver.
Personality and playing style
Make sure that if you have one aggressive, competitive player. You know the type. He is always taking that completely impossible shot and sometimes he pulls it off. He is a great golfer to have on your team if your blood pressure can stand it.
But players like this can be trouble. On a bad day, they can be making crazy shots which end up in the rough and do nothing for your scores. They are often the type of players who get very upset when things are not going well. They can even get into a circle where they fail on a shot, get cross, then miss on the next ball and get even more cross. These players are great, and they can win you the game, but not on their own.
Temper your aggressive genius with a quieter player. The one who usually plays a safe shot, but somehow always gets the ball on the green. It might not be so flashy but can win matches. This sort of player is usually a calmer type of person. They are the sort who enjoys their game and never worries too much. Even when things are not going perfectly, they will keep on getting that ball onto the green. They are the ballast of the team. Seek them out and value them.
On a four-man or four-person team, you will probably have at least one less skilled player or a rookie. The great thing about scramble games is everyone gets a chance. It is a great way to develop newer or less experienced players. Make sure they are involved. Explain your tactics and strategy as you go around the course. Tell them the secrets and the tricks of the trade. Point out the foibles and funny points about the course. They will have a great day; they will learn a lot and love you. Being a hero is good.
Order of play
Now you have selected your team and know you have the best balance of personalities and skills which you can get. If you want to win at golf scramble, you must decide how you play them. Who takes the first shot?
I have my ideas on this golfing challenge, but I have to admit I don’t always get it right. I’ll let the great Chi Chi Rodriguez expand on this. He co-authored an excellent book on variations on the golf game. The book is called ‘Golf Games You Gotta Play.’ You can buy Chi’s book here Chi Chi's Golf Games You Gotta Play
So, with all deference to Chi Chi, here are my tips for getting the order right.
Playing order: The first shot
It can often be best to use your rookies, your less skilled players first.
Here is my thinking: it takes the pressure off of them — these first shots matter. Often your weaker players will be a bit nervous. They are on the course with better players, perhaps players that they have admired from afar. Many scramble tournaments or competitions are played for charity and can be big social events. So, don’t pile on too much pressure.
Let your weaker players go first. They can assume that if they do not make a brilliant shot, then the star can come in later and put it all right. And, as often happens, when players are not under pressure they do brilliantly. Playing your weaker players first is kinder. And playing rookies first can also be a winning strategy. Play in this order, and you may well end up with your rookie hitting an absolute winner. They will be talking about it in the clubhouse for the rest of the year.
Playing order: the second shot
Let us consider what to do when it comes to your second shot. The second shot is in many ways the most important you will play in scramble golf competitions. Give some thought before the day to what you are going to do here. When you are on the fairway and ready to head to the green you will need all your strategic skills. Know who the best player is when it comes to approach shots. Usually, you will want to put that player first. However, if your less experienced players are on fire and have just made a brilliant shot, it could be best to let them go first. Often when a streak happens, it can pay off. It is a risky strategy, but it can work.
Order of play: The short game
The pressure will be on now. You will be on the green or very near. Victory is in sight. The first question you will need to answer is which ball to play. My main bit of advice to you here is not to panic and keep your eyes open.
Remember, the ball nearest the hole, or to the green if you are not there yet may not be your best. It is not automatically the ball you will choose to play. There are other considerations. If you are not on the green, then look around you. What is the lie? What is the angle to the green? Are there any hazards in the way? What is the angle to the pin? Any of these can be what determines which ball you play.
Once you have decided which ball to play, then you must select the player to play it. Here I always go for caution. I would still advise that you play your best short-game player. You need cool nerves and those precise skills at this point.
Are there handicaps in scramble tournaments?
People often ask if handicaps apply in four-man golf scramble games. The answer is usually not. Sometimes they do refer to two-man golf scramble. There are no fixed rules for golf scramble, so some competitions do work with handicaps. The rules for these can be complicated. I am going to detail one form of handicapping which some contests use and are easy to apply.
Each golfer in the four-man scramble team declares his handicap before play begins.
List the handicaps of each player in descending order. Take twenty percent of the highest handicapper. Then fifteen percent of the next handicapper, followed by ten percent of the second from lowest handicapper. Finally take five percent of the lowest handicapper. Add them together to give you a handicap for the whole team.
Variations on golf scramble
As there is no golf ruling body watching over us when we play scramble tournaments we can be as creative as we want. There are a whole number of different formats out there — most of which I have never heard.
I travel around quite a bit and often come across a scramble enthusiast who asks me if I have ever played a particular form of scramble. They then usually begin to describe a system of fiendish complexity with hidden twists and turns. It is all great fun, and please let us know your particular favorites. Here are some of the better-known variations.
In this blood-curdling format, the worst not the best ball is the rule after each stroke. As you might expect the game can take a very long time indeed. You will find yourself deep in the rough or stuck in a bunker more times than you care to remember.
However, some people love playing it and say it improves their game. The thinking goes like this. If you play Bloodsome scramble, then you will get a considerable amount of practice in playing unplayable, or at least tough balls. And we all end up in the rough sometimes. If you have played a lot of Bloodsome, then you are likely to be the first person out of the bunker. So, it can be a fun way to practice the shots we all hate to play.
It’s a form where a team plays scramble rules for the first shot off the tee. After that, it is back to the ordinary rules of golf. It is a form often liked by new players whose drive is not quite up there yet. They can use the experts great drive hundreds of yards down the fairway as if it were their own. It’s why Bramble can be fun.
This form of scramble uses the forward tees to make the game more comfortable for the weaker players. Often it is a variation of the regular scramble game but produces a variety of the most challenging holes. On these holes, the team selects one its players to play from a forward tee. It can also be done to encourage and involve the weaker players.
Drop out scramble
There are various forms of this, and may names. Quite a few of the names seem to reflect pokers games; I do not know why. They allow a player to sit out after certain shots or for individual holes. Again, the purpose is to enable the whole team to get a good chance to influence the game.
Four-man scramble golf rules conclusion
The four-man golf scramble is one of the forms of golf which introduce the best elements of team games into the individual golf competition. It’s one of the most popular team play in golf.
It’s not surprising as it is a form which is flexible enough to allow all the players in a team to play a part. And of course, the great thing about these forms of golf is that they enable weaker or newer players to play with the very best. There are very few sports where this is possible.
If you want to get started on a four-man scramble, I would suggest you start by getting a team together with the golf buddies in your club. Start with the rules I set out above, but don’t feel you need to stick to them rigidly. It is all about fun, having a good time, making friends and improving your game. If you find a specific rule does not work for you, then you are free to change it.
Golf scramble is developing all the time, and you can add your version to the great variety in this form of golf.