The Golf Scramble: The Rules & Strategy to Dominate

The Golf Scramble: The Rules & Strategy to Dominate
The Golf Scramble: The Rules & Strategy to Dominate

Golf is hard but scrambles make the sport a lot easier.

If you need to feel better about your game and/or want to enjoy a round with your buddies, you need to compete in a scramble format tournament. As you likely know, golfers are inherently competitive – always wanting to win every time we tee it up. But sometimes you need to combine forces and try to beat other players in a tournament.

While there are a lot of different golf games to choose from, scrambles are arguably the most fun. The scores are low, the pressure isn’t as intense, and it’s a great day with your friends.

Before you sign up for a scramble tournament, read this entire post to learn the rules, and strategies for success. This will set you up for success so your team plays well.

Golf Scramble 101

A scramble format (not to be confused with a shamble) is one of the most fun and entertaining ways to play a team event. Here’s how it works on a par 4… each team member (which typically is a foursome, but can on exception be played with 5 golfers) hits their tee shot on the hole.

Players then pick the best tee shot and all place their golf ball within one club length of that drive (some events only allow a scorecard length). Each person on the team hits their approach shot and the same process is repeated until the hole is complete.

If your team misses the green, all players will chip. If one of you finds the green, you all putt from the same spot.

Basically, you get four attempts on each shot.

Hit a good shot and you’re a hero for the team (especially if you’re the longest hitter). If someone holes the putt before everyone hits, that is the score that is counted.

This type of format is great for charity events, ones that include beginner golfers, and speeds up the pace of play. Each group starts on a hole in a shotgun start and there are usually other competitions in the round like closest to the pin and longest drive.

Depending on the event, they might also have hole in one competition, longest putt awards, and more. Additionally, some events require the team to have different handicaps such as low, two mid-handicap, and one high handicap golfer.

A scramble is not the same as best ball format. Read our full article on best ball vs scramble formats in golf.

Golf Scramble Rules

If you’re like most golfers I’m sure you’ve asked what are the rules of a scramble in golf? Or, what are the rules of a 4-man scramble?

The rules of a scramble are pretty similar to traditional stroke play. Each player tees off on the hole (behind the tee markers) and the best drive is selected.

After your team decides on the best drive, you mark the ball and each player will place a ball within one club length, no closer to the hole. This process repeats itself until you’re on the green.

Golf Scramble Rules

Once you’re on the putting green, the ball is marked to the side of the ball and each player putts until the hole is complete. Only one golfer needs to make the putt and practice putts after the hole is completed are typically allowed (but can slow down the pace of play so be careful). There are no “gimme” putts either.

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Players can play in any order but it’s a good idea to let the worst putter putt their golf ball first. This gives the team the best chance to read the putt based on the roll of the first putt.

Then second best putter and then the other players on the team (if needed). If you have momentum from several holes of birdies, keep the same order!

Minimum Number of Drives

One way to make a scramble golf event more challenging is by requiring a minimum number of drives for each player. The number of drives varies based on the event; three is a common requirement while some tournaments require four drives per player.

Having a minimum drive number ensures a group can’t rely on one player in the group for the majority of your shots. Plus, it adds pressure later in the round when your group needs to use one player’s tee shots, regardless of if they hit a good shot.

They do not require a minimum number of approach shots or putts from each player.


Mulligans is one of the golf terms that everyone loves since they give you a “redo” on the previous shot. While they aren’t allowed in most tournaments, mulligans are a regular occurrence in scrambles. But you can’t just drop a ball if none of you hit a good drive or miss an easy tap in putt.

You need to buy mulligans before the round. These are typically sold in packs, paid in cash, and further contribute to the cause of the tournament.

Cheating in Scrambles

One of the few downsides to the game of golf is that people cheat too often. Since there are four people in your group, there are no strangers or others watching your score. It’s an unfortunate reality that people regularly cheat in these events and write down a lower score than they earned.

Also, some scrambles have a bogey max rule which means you can’t score more than a bogey on the hole. After the group has reached the limit they can pick up and move to the next hole.

Other Versions of Scrambles

Like most golf games (Wolf, best-ball, etc.) there are variations. Here are some of the most common:

  • Texas Scramble: Each player needs to contribute four drives.
  • Las Vegas Scramble: The group carries a 6-sided die and rolls it on the tee box to determine which drive is used.
  • Florida Scramble: This format requires the player whose drive is used to sit out and not hit the next shot.
  • Bramble: This is part scramble, part best-ball (also known as a shamble).
  • Ambrose: This scramble includes creating a handicap for the team which factors into the best score for the net division.
Golf Scramble Rules

Golf Scramble Success: How to Win Scrambles

Now that you have a better understanding of the format and rules, let’s get into strategy. While the rules don’t change much, the strategy is what matters in shooting lower scores.

Tee Box Strategy

First, let’s start with the tee box strategy.

Distance is key in this golf format as you want as many wedges and short irons into the greens as possible. Plus, more distance leads to getting on par 5s in two shots and hopefully some good looks at eagle putts.

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For playing order, it’s a good idea to let the most accurate player hit first to get a ball in the fairway before other shots. This will give the rest of the players in the group freedom to swing harder or take more aggressive lines.

A scramble is not the time to play it safe off the tee with 3W or hybrids.

Scores are low in scrambles so it’s essential to hit bombs for extra distance and make driver your best friend. Try to have a long hitter or good golfer to help out in this team format.

If you’re between a drive that is 5-10 yards longer but in the rough vs. a drive in the fairway, I would opt for the fairway shot. Hitting shots from the fairway is easier for most players and the spin is much more consistent too. But if a ball is 30-40 yards in the rough and it’s not too thick, opt for the longer drive instead.

Approach Shot Strategy

After picking the best shot off the tee, it’s time to dial in your approach shot strategy.

With approach shots, you want to attack the pin with any shot inside 150 yards. The closer, the better, unless there is a ton of trouble near the pin.

If you’re outside 150 yards, you still want to play more aggressively than normal but getting on the green is important. There’s nothing worse than missing a green in a four-person scramble!

Like driving, it’s a good idea to have the first or second golfer play it safer. This gives more freedom for other players to hit more aggressively on their shots. Also, similar to driving, better players tend to go last to judge the wind and other conditions.

Around the Greens

Finally, don’t forget about your course strategy around the greens too.

For the most part, you shouldn’t have a ton of missed greens in regulation (if it’s a 4-man event). To play well in scrambles, you need to hit greens and give yourself plenty of birdie putts.

But if you do miss the green, try to hole out chip shots (at least give them a look). If you’re in a bunker or thick rough just make sure you give yourself an easy par putt.

With putting strategy, the main thing to remember is to be aggressive!

You want to get the ball to the hole, as putts that are shot have 0% chance of going in. Plus, you want to give the rest of your group a good look at the break and speed of the putt.

It’s common for the rest of the golfers to stand behind the first putter to get a better look at the putt. The order of play doesn’t matter but it’s common for the most clutch, best putter to go last to see how everyone’s putts react.

If mulligans are allowed and your team purchased them, putting is the best time to use them. Don’t waste them on drives or approach shots unless it’s your final hole. Using them on the greens tends to have the best return on investment.

FAQs About Golf Tournaments

Do you have more questions about playing in scramble events? If so, keep reading to learn more so you can walk away as the winning team.

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What is the difference between best ball vs. a scramble in golf?

Personally I think the names should be switched to define these kinds of events. A best ball format is normal stroke play golf where each golfer plays their own ball for the hole. The lowest score (“best ball”) is the one that counts.

But I always wonder why scrambles aren’t called best ball tournaments? Since you pick the best ball on each shot, it would make the most sense? Anyway, make sure to confirm details before signing your group up on the tournament website.

How is a scramble different from a shamble?

A scramble allows each player to play from the same spot on the hole. In a shamble, each player tees off and the best ball is selected (like a scramble). Each player then plays their ball for the rest of the hole like normal which makes it harder to score low.

Click here to learn more about playing shambles.

What is a 2-man scramble in golf?

A 2-man scramble is nearly the same as a 4-man scramble in golf; the only difference is the number of players. Since only two players are in each group, it’s harder to go as low (unless both players are great golfers) as you don’t have as many options on each shot.

All the rules stay the same in this type of event and you’re paired with another

Does a hole in one in a scramble count?

Of course it counts! A hole in one is one of the most amazing feats not only in golf but the world. But hopefully they have insurance or else you might have to buy everyone in the tournament a drink.

However, some tournaments have lucrative hole in one prizes (cars, cash, etc.). If there is a reward, they will always have a spotter on the green to verify the hole in one.

How do handicaps work in a scramble?

Most scrambles don’t allow handicaps as the tournament already yields low scores. Adding handicaps into the mix is a lot more work for event organizers.

Final Thoughts

Many golfers love this type of event as it’s more fun than a regular round, especially if you’re a long hitter. But even if you have some beginner golfers on your team, everyone can enjoy the day in a scramble. It’s much more fun than something like alternate shot.

If you happen to have four good golfers in your group, get ready to make some magic. There’s nothing better than going low with your friends and chasing down the leaders.

Remember in scrambles winning teams go low!

To win, you need to chase birdie and eagles – this isn’t the time to play it safe, lay up, or hit the middle of the green. Play aggressively with your drives and approach shots. On the putting green get each putt to the hole and study the putt so you never have worse than a two putt.

Swing hard, give putts a good run at the hole, and enjoy the day with your golf buddies.

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