A Simple Guide to Playing The Shamble Format in Golf

Shamble, scramble, and best ball are constantly confused by amateur golfers.

Working in the golf industry for more than a dozen years taught me that most amateur golfers have no idea what the difference is between these events, and some just think the word shamble is a mispronunciation of scramble.

Rest assured, the shamble is a real thing.

In fact, it’s kind of a fun format and can be a great team event. Here’s what to expect when you play in a shamble tournament.


What is a Shamble Tournament?

A shamble tournament is where each golfer hits a drive, the best drive is chosen, and then all players play their ball into the hole from there. The shamble is different from a scramble or a best ball event.

When you play in a shamble, you will be using some of your own golf drives as you make your way around the golf course, but it can be beneficial if you run into a bad hole to have another drive that you can play off of.

The shamble tournament is great for those who struggle off the tee box but can play the hole on their own.

Many shambles have different variations, and sometimes one team score is all that is needed; sometimes, there are gross and net scores collected, and other times it is two net scores at the end of the hole. It will be up to your tournament committee to decide which is the case for your event.


Differences Between a Golf Shamble vs. Scramble

There are a few main differences between a scramble and a shamble, and it’s important to understand them. Not only do you want to ensure you are following the rules, but it’s also essential to think about strategy when playing in these events.

Shamble Requires More of Your Own Shots

In a scramble, you will continue to choose the best shot from the golfers in your group the entire time you play the hole. This results in some holes where none of your shots are selected as the best ones.

In a shamble format, you may not be playing from your own drive, but you will undoubtedly be playing your ball into the hole.

The nice thing about this for golfers that play in a shamble is that they can enjoy seeing more of the course and get more of a full round in. The downside, of course, is that it’s much harder for higher handicap golfers.

More Than One Score at The End of a Shamble

Most shambles will have you take at least one best gross and one best net at the end of a hole. However, sometimes it can be the two best net balls of the group.

With a scramble tournament, only one score is recorded as all players keep moving to the best shot throughout the hole. When you play a golf shamble format, you will have a more accurate idea as to what your score would have been if you played your own golf ball.

Number of Drives

Most of the time, with a scramble, each of the team members in the foursome needs to contribute at least two drives. Considering the drive is such a vital part of the shamble, this same rule is typically in place.

Make sure that you are paying close attention to this as you move through to ensure that you have the best chance of winning this golf tournament format.

Two Person Formats

The 2-person shamble is rarer, but it is a format that can work. In addition, you can play a 2 person scramble tournament. However, most of the time, this works best with a group of four.

The pace of play for the shamble on the scramble is comparable. However, I can tell you that the scramble will usually be a bit shorter. It really depends on the golfer’s handicaps in the group to be able to estimate the pace of play.


Can You Handicap a Shamble?

Handicapping for shambles will vary based on what your tournament committee decides is the best fit. For the majority of shambles, the handicap of every player will be reduced by about 20 to 25%.

If you are a 20 handicap, you will get 15 shots that day. Considering you will have the chance to play from the best drive out of four, this is pretty fair.

A golf shamble handicap can sometimes be based on player handicap where the lower player gets less of their handicap, and the higher player gets more of their handicap, but this makes things more complicated.

Some tournament committee that is unsure of anyone’s handicap will just play a gross shamble. This is when only a gross score tournament result is collected.


Brittany Olizarowicz

Britt O has been playing golf since the age of 7. Almost 30 years later, she still loves the game, has played competitively on every level, and spent a good portion of her life as a Class A PGA Professional. Britt currently resides in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children.