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Building the Best Scramble/Shamble Team

Posted by Mike Gottfried on

Love them or hate them, the Scramble and Shamble are staple formats for golf outings. While some players always want to play their own ball, the Scramble and Shamble formats can provide a ton of fun and reduce the pressure on any given player, as you can turn in a good shot here and there rather than having to string together a number of shots on a given hole. And who doesn't like a little less pressure and a little more fun on the golf course?

In this article, we'll quickly dive into the rules of the Scramble and Shamble, but really focus on how to construct a winning team. I'm making the (foolish) assumption that everyone is keeping legit handicaps and there's no sandbaggery. Read on for the recipe to taking home the title in your next team event!

First, let's get the rules out of the way:

What is a scramble?

A scramble is a two or four-person team golf event, in which each player gets to hit the same shot, select the best result, and then move on, repeating the process. We'll illustrate a four-player scramble with players 1-4 teeing off on a hole. Player 1 hits their drive, followed by player 2, player 3 and player 4. Once all four players have teed off, the team selects one drive from which to play their next shot. Now, the process repeats itself. The players may hit in any order, all from the location of the chosen drive, and once all players have hit they again chose the best shot from which to play their next. This process repeat until the ball is holed. Generally speaking, scrambles yield the lowest scores of any format, as your team gets four tries at each shot. Despite picking the "best ball" after each shot, a scramble is not to be confused with "best ball" format, in which the best single score is chosen per hole amongst a foursome.

What is a shamble?

A shamble is a bit of a modification on the scramble, wherein each player on a team hits their tee ball, and then the entire team plays their own ball until holed from the location of the best tee shot. Like a scramble, a shamble may be played on a team of two or four players. To illustrate, we'll take a team of four with players 1-4 again. Player 1 hits their drive, followed by players 2, 3 and then 4. The team chooses which drive is best and then each player plays the rest of the hole in from the spot of the chosen drive, playing only their own ball until holed. The best score (or scores, depending on the event's rules) are then taken as the team score for the hole.

Constructing the perfect team

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to constructing a winning team in a scramble or shamble, namely whether to have an A, B, C and D player (where A has a low handicap and D has the highest handicap), or to have four equally skilled players so as to not put too much pressure on any single player. While there is something to be said for having a dead ringer on your squad, the ABCD team construction is actually flawed as it not only puts undue pressure on your A player, but also gives players B, C and D the mental backstop that the A player is going to save them and doesn't make them think they need to turn in a good shot. This is particularly exacerbated when the A player goes last on every shot.

In reality, you need all four players to turn in timely shots to win an event, so putting too much pressure on your A player to perform is not a recipe for success.

On the flip-side, and as stated earlier, it's nice to have a ringer on your team. Someone who is just simply physically capable of hitting it longer, making more long putts and hitting great approach shots into greens. So unless all players are low handicappers, having four equally skilled players will leave you without a skilled leader. And in the case that all four are A-types, you're probably left without those valuable handicap adjusted strokes that are needed to turn in a winning score.

The Ideal Lineup

With all of this in mind, the perfect lineup is not really A-B-C-D, but is more A-B-B-D. From a handicap perspective, you would want the team's indexes to look something like 1, 6, 7, 15.

Having that A player on board is critical, but backing them up with two capable players should remove the pressure of the A player having to go last and save the team on every shot. And if strokes from handicaps are in play, that D player will add value to the team in the form of net score, which are critical, as most scramble and tournaments end with comically low winning scores.

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