What is a Shamble in Golf?
A “Shamble” is a golf game where each team member hits their tee shots and four players hit a second shot from the best drive.
Each golfer will then play their own ball for the rest of the hole and records their individual score.
This process is repeated on each hole.
Scramble vs. Shamble
As you might have guessed by their names, a shamble and scramble are very similar. In a scramble, everyone hits tee shots and picks the best drive.
Next, every player hits again from the best location—just like a shamble…so far. But this is where things get different.
After the second shot, the team decides what shot is best. Everyone else picks their ball up and goes over to that person’s shot. Everyone drops their ball down and hits it again.
The process is repeated until someone on the team hits their ball into the hole.
With a scramble, there is only one score. Regardless of the number of players, every player in the group plays together as part of a single team.
In a shamble, even if there’s a team element to the round, every player records a score of their own. Since each person plays the hole individually, there are as many scores as there are players.
Where Do You Play a Shamble/Scramble?
A scramble is considered one of the most fun tournament formats, especially for the average golfer. Scores are low, you get to see how putts break before hitting them, and there’s an overall relaxed feel.
While a scramble isn’t usually too competitive, they’re almost always part of a tournament. Again, nothing cutthroat, but tournaments benefitting a charity or something similar are traditionally scrambles.
You might also play a scramble at the beginning or end of summer within your club as an opening or closing day tournament.
What Does it Mean to Play "Your Own Ball"?
Even though there is a team score, every team member will have their individual score also. Players will play the hole out (after the best tee shot is chosen) by themselves.
All four golfers will hit their ball into the hole. There is no one score for the entire team, like in a scramble. There may be just one score that counts for everyone, but the card will have four scores, and often only the best score per hole is kept at the end (depending on the format you’re playing).
If you were to play just your ball the entire round, there would be no picking the best tee shot. It would be like any standard round where you go out and play 18 holes by yourselves. That’s the definition of playing your own ball.
In shamble format, you begin doing so with your second shot.
How Do You Calculate Your Team Score?
There are plenty of options for calculating team scores at a shamble tournament. Sometimes it will be the best gross score. Other times it will be the best net scores.
You’ll see all kinds of combinations of one, two, and three scores, gross and/or net, counting toward the team score.
In rare cases, you’ll see all four scores count. This is largely because this type of golf tournament is casual, and who really wants to watch the fourth player make a 10 when everyone else is in for 3?
Compared to the scoring format of most golf outings, shambles are an opportunity for creativity to shine through. Will the team’s score be the low ball, the best net score, or some nonsensical combination? You don’t know until you get to the golf course. Shamble golf is not regular golf. It’s fun.
The winning team of a golf shamble is the team with the lowest score. It is a stroke play event.
Why does a person score lower at a shamble golf tournament?
Four opportunities for a good drive, but you only need one.
We won’t go too in-depth with math on this, but believe us, the numbers add up. You have a better chance of playing your second shot from a good location with four opportunities to hit the fairway than you do one.
Scores go down with your approach shots coming in from the middle of the fairway, often from closer than you’re used to.
In a shamble, you play from “Position A” far more often than you do in a regular round, and losing a drive isn’t really a thing. Golf is complicated, but better situations leading to better scores is not.
Let’s not forget this is also a team event. This means there are three sounding boards for you to run ideas, breaks, and distances by. Not everyone on your team is going to shoot par that day, but opinions you can trust mean something.
You’ll see things you might have overlooked and have more confidence in your decisions. All of this helps with scoring.
Does handicap apply during a shamble?
Yes, handicaps apply during a shamble. The United States Golf Association might not sanction the outing, but the USGA handicap system serves a role. It balances the field and makes it so that everyone has a chance to win.
Whether you’re a scratch golfer or high handicap golfers teammate, this team event can be won by anyone because of handicaps. In reality, most shamble teams will have both types of players on it.
What is "A-B-C-D" Format?
Even with handicaps being applied to a shamble, teams can still be unbalanced. And by unbalanced, we mean incredibly unfair.
To balance inequity in distance, accuracy, and whatever else separates golfers from one another, courses use the A-B-C-D format.
Suppose the 100 golfers in the field will make up 25 teams. The top 25 golfers (by handicap) are the “A” golfers, 26-50 are “B’ golfers, 51-75 are “C” golfers, and the last 25 are “D” golfers. One golfer from each “level” is placed into each group.
And no, one team will not be filled with the best or worst players from each level. A-B-C-D is one of the fairest team creation systems you’ll find in golf and is not just left up to the tournament director’s imagination.
So, hypothetical team number one will have the top A player, worst B player, best C player, and worst D player. These are the players whose handicaps rank 1, 50, 51, and 100.
Much like a snake draft in fantasy football, this selection process is repeated until all the teams are full.
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