Golf Scramble Strategy: Winning Tactics
Are you tired of your team falling apart in golf scrambles while the top teams crush birdies like empty beer cans? I get it! After playing in countless scrambles, I’ve gathered the best golf scramble strategies to turn your chaotic mess of a team into a well-tuned machine.
You can improve your scramble odds by picking a playing order, choosing the right shot, and knowing when to play aggressively. Follow my battle-tested tips to stop the chaos, crush more birdies, and claim the trophy at your next event.
Table of Contents
A golf scramble blends players of all skill levels together in a competitive yet friendly battle to see who can card the lowest team score.
The chaos of a scramble begins with a shotgun start where the groups spread across the course, each starting at the same time on a different hole. All players hit from the tee box. Then, all players move their ball within one club length of the best shot of the group and hit their next shot from there. This pattern continues until someone sinks the ball in the cup.
How to Win a Scramble: Strategy and Tips
1. Pick Your Team
If you’re able to pick your team, there are a few things to consider. First off, pick the best golfers you can, as a low handicapper will usually be good at all areas of the game. If you’re deciding between players of equal skill, there are a few elements that can work nicely in a team:
- A long hitter – if you have a friend who can hit bombs and get to the fairway or playable rough, this will give you a chance to hit your approach shots tight.
- An excellent putter – with four shots, you should have a good amount of chances to drain a birdie, or better yet, an eagle. If your team isn’t able to drop some putts, it’s going to hurt your score, so having a solid putter can make a ton of difference.
- A forward tee player – if you have a good female golfer or older golfer who can play from the forward tees, this can be a sneaky advantage, especially if they can hit consistent, safe shots or are short-game wizards.
2. Set the Order
When battling in a scramble, player order is vital. I recommend that your team defaults to an order of the worst player shooting first to the best player shooting last on every shot.
This consistent rhythm lets players mentally prepare for their shots. Your ace players can watch the results and strategize if they need to play it safe or attack the pin.
The lone exception: if your team has a dead-eye putter that’s different than the best player, have them go last. This lets them try to get a good read from the other golfers.
3. Pick the Optimal Shot
When picking your shot to play from, weigh both the distance and the lie. Your long drive that’s in gnarly rough with a bad angle is probably not as good as a shot 10-15 yards back but in the fairway.
Remember, you can place your ball near the best shot, so a lie in the rough is less punitive than usual, and 20+ yards is probably going to benefit you more than having a fairway lie. Check the distance to the pin and fire away with a club, giving you a chance at hitting the green.
4. Should You Play Safe or Aggressive?
Scambles tempt players to aggressively attack the course and show off their skills, but resist this urge! Straying too far from your normal routine and lines rarely ends well.
Overthinking things is just going to lead to worse golf. The only time I’d be overly aggressive is if you’re a good player and your team already has a good shot that requires aggressive play to improve upon.
5. Take Your Time on Putts
In a scramble, you get four attempts at the same putt, so before starting, talk out the team’s read of the green. Have two of your best players read the putt and do a quick look from both sides to pick a spot for the weakest putter to take aim at. Your squad can take in the feedback and further refine their targeting.
It’s also not a bad idea to have all players attempt the putt even if the hole has been completed. This will help everyone dial in their accuracy and pace.
6. Play Your Game
Amid the chaos of a scramble, it’s hard to just play your regular golf game. These tips will help your strategy, but remember to breathe deep, keep calm, and focus on playing your shots just as if you were playing a normal round of golf. Don’t focus on your score, but instead, narrow your focus to the shot you’re currently hitting.
Rules Variations & Bonuses
Scrambles often come with some variations to the rules and bonuses that can be purchased, such as mulligans and gimmes. Here are some extra tips if your scramble includes any of these additions:
Drives Must be Used From All Golfers
This rule states that you must use a drive from each of your golfers. This forces your team to use a shot from your weakest link. Make sure you use their drive as soon as you have a good opportunity, even if it’s not your best shot. It’s a terrible feeling to have the team relying on them to hit a great drive in the last couple of holes.
A par 5 is often a good opportunity to use their shot, as you won’t be losing much ground if you can get your second shot in a spot that you can fire at the green.
In scrambles, having a mulligan can push your score to new lows. When there are bonuses like this available, it’s critical that everyone on your team buys them if you want to rank at the top.
If you have a team of mid-to-high handicappers, you’ll want to save your mulligans for when everybody has a bad shot, and you need to reload and get a safe one out there.
For better golfers, use these when everyone leaves an approach shot or chip shot too far from the hole to sink an easy putt.
The key rule for mulligans is don’t be afraid to use them early, as you may not need them later in the round.
Purchasing Putting Gimmes / Ruler / Rope
This bonus lets you count a shot as a gimme (in the hole) without needing to putt it if you’re within range of the rope or ruler they give you.
There are two variations of this bonus, one where each player gets a single use of the gimme (i.e. 4 uses in a full group), and another where your team cuts part of the rope as it’s used.
If you’re playing the single-use variation, all you need to do is use the gimmes as soon as possible. There’s no benefit to saving them.
If you’re using the rope version, you’ll still want to use them early, but you might avoid using your entire rope for a single putt. Start the round by not using the string unless your putt is closer than 1/2 to 1/3 of the string, and then as you get further into the round, be more liberal using it up.
Now, armed with these tips, go forth and conquer your scramble! Stay cool under fire, execute your shots well, and seize the advantages when they come to you. Most importantly, have a blast with your scramble team.