Playing a Shamble Golf Format as a Fun Alternative

By Todd Mrowice

Four golfers at tee box

If you’re a frequent participant in corporate, charity, or friendly golf outings, chances are you’ve experienced the “Scramble” format on almost all of those occasions. A fun alternative to suggest or implement in your next outing, however, is the “Shamble” playing format. This lesser used format can be fun, challenging, and a welcome alternative to the “same old, same old.” Here’s an overview of how to play a Shamble and what makes it fun.

How to Play a Shamble

A Shamble actually has similarities to the Scramble format, so it won’t be too hard to adjust if you’ve played in your fair share of Scrambles.

  1. Each player hits their own tee shot.
  2. The group decides which tee shot is in the best position. Typically whoever's ball is in the fairway or safest from trouble.
  3. All golfers play their second shots from that tee shot. (Here’s where things change)
  4. All players continue to play their own ball into the hole.
  5. After all members of the group have holed out, the best individual score is marked as the group’s score for that hole.

Example: John got a 7, Jenny got a 6, Carol got a par (5), and Frank got a birdie (4). The group’s score for that hole: 4

Shamble Strategy

The strategy for a Shamble varies based on the level of players in the group. Typically, in any type of golf outing event, your best players or longest hitters should be last in the rotation. The idea is to have the higher handicap players go first with hopes of getting in a good position. This allows the players on the backend of the rotation to take more aggressive lines and try to further advance the team.

If the outing rules state that each team must use a player's tee shot four times, consider making the decision to take a player’s tee shot from the front end of the rotation if it’s a close call between theirs and a better player from the group. This ensures that the group isn’t forced into taking a less than ideal tee shot in the closing holes out of necessity.

Variations in a Shamble

Now that you understand the concept of a shamble, consider some of these common variations.

If you’re organizing a golf outing you can limit the advantage of a big hitter by implementing a rule that requires groups to use each player's tee shot at least four times. That covers 16 holes, leaving two additional holes for the best player in the group to grip it and rip it.

A somewhat complicated variation, which can be fun if managed well, is requiring a rotating order on the tee. This can ensure the longest driver in the group doesn’t always get the advantage of playing last, after the group is likely safely in the fairway.

Other variations include the option to purchase cheats, such as mulligans. Some tournament organizers may also allow participants to buy a length of string, allowing players to move their ball in any direction the equivalent of the length of the string throughout the round. Move your ball a foot, cut a foot off the string, and keep playing.

Do Standard Golf Rules Apply?

The USGA’s Rules of Golf apply in all playing formats, with certain variations based on the type of format and event, of course.

Shamble Format Away From Outings

While the Shamble format is a great option for golf outings, consider using this format when playing a casual round with friends. The Shamble allows less experienced players to advance their ball from the tee on virtually every hole. From there, all players can mark their own scores. It keeps the group moving and can be an enjoyable, well-paced round of golf. Obviously, recording a score to apply to a handicap would be against the rules. But for a casual round, no harm done.

About the Author

Todd Mrowice is a Staff Writer for GolfLink. He has been writing about golf for over 10 years including a long tenure at GOLFChicago Magazine. Todd has covered all aspects of the game including travel, products, business, and professional tours.