As an avid golfer, I’ve participated in my fair share of golf tournaments over the years. From charity events to club championships, tournaments are a great way to bring golfers together for some friendly competition. Two of the most popular formats for amateur golf tournaments are scrambles and best ball.

At first glance, these tournament styles may seem quite similar. However, there are some key differences between scramble and best ball that impact strategy and scoring. In this article, I’ll break down the scramble versus best ball debate and provide tips to excel at both formats.

What is a Golf Scramble?

A scramble is a popular team format for amateur golf tournaments. In a scramble, each team consists of two to four players. All team members hit drives off the tee. The team then decides which drive they like best and mark that spot. Every player hits their next shots from that chosen spot. Again, the team picks the best second shot and moves forward from there. This pattern continues until the ball is holed out on each hole.

Scrambles are sometimes called “captain’s choice” because the team captain or entire team chooses the preferred shot each time. The big advantage of a scramble is it takes pressure off the individual golfer. If you hit a bad shot, no worries! Your team can simply choose a teammate’s better positioned ball instead.

Basic Scramble Rules

  • Teams of 2-4 players
  • Each player hits a drive, best drive chosen
  • All players shoot from the chosen drive location
  • Repeat choosing best shot until ball is holed
  • Record one team score per hole

Scramble Strategy Tips

  • Put your longest, most accurate driver first to hit great tee shots
  • Weaker putters should hit first on approach shots for more options
  • Place great putters last to finish strong once on the green
  • Use different shot order on different holes to play to strengths

What is Best Ball?

Best ball is another popular tournament format for amateur golfers. In best ball, each team of two to four players plays their own ball throughout the entirety of each hole. At the end of the hole, the single best score amongst the team is recorded as the team score. So if Player A shoots a 5, Player B shoots a 6, and Player C shoots a 4, the team would record a 4 for that hole.

Best ball puts more pressure on individual performance than a scramble format. You can’t rely on teammates to hit better shots. However, it also provides more opportunity to contribute. Even if you aren’t playing your best, shooting just one good hole can hugely help your team.

Basic Best Ball Rules

  • Teams of 2-4 players
  • Each player plays their own ball the entire hole
  • Lowest individual score is recorded as the team score

Best Ball Strategy Tips

  • Put your most consistent scorer first to set a good target score
  • Have your longest driver go later to try and best the first score
  • If you’re struggling, just focus on making par to help the team

Key Differences Between Scramble and Best Ball

Now that you understand the basics of a scramble and best ball, let’s recap the major differences between the two formats:


In a scramble, one collective team score is recorded per hole. In best ball, the single best individual score amongst the team is used.


Scrambles require teamwork to choose the best positioned shot each time. Best ball relies more on individual play, with less collaboration except for reading greens.


Scrambles take pressure off individual players. In best ball, you must perform well as an individual to contribute.

Comeback Ability

In best ball, one player shooting well can make up for teammates’ mistakes. Scrambles rely on consistently good team performance.

Pace of Play

Scrambles are typically faster since golfers play each shot from the same chosen spot. Best ball takes longer since players must all play out each hole.

Skill Level

Scrambles are ideal for varying skill levels. Best ball favors teams with at least some lower handicap players.

As you can see, scrambles provide more room for error while best ball demands greater individual accountability. Understanding these key differences will help you strategize and select the right teammates for each format.

Best Practices for Playing Scrambles

Scrambles are perhaps the most popular format for amateur golf tournaments, especially for newer players. Here are my top tips for maximizing your scramble success:

  • Choose accurate drivers: The tee shot is critical in a scramble, so have at least one teammate who is long and straight off the tee. Avoid players that tend to slice or hook drives.
  • Know when to layup: Don’t feel compelled to go for every par 5 in two shots. Laying up in good position is often the smarter play in a scramble.
  • Take advantage of improved lies: Since you get to place your ball in the best spot, you can be more aggressive with long irons into greens.
  • Putt everything out: Every member should attempt putts since additional strokes provide more data to learn the green.
  • Consider team order: Your order may change each hole. Use a strong driver first and skilled putter last.
  • Play faster: Scrambles should have a quicker pace. Limit practice swings and be ready to hit when it’s your turn.
  • Embrace your role: Not everyone needs to be a star. Making solid contact and avoiding big mistakes is key.

Preparing for Golf Tournament Success

Whether you have an upcoming scramble or best ball tournament, preparation is the key to performing at your highest level. Here are my top tips for being ready to play your best:

  • Know the format: Understand the rules and strategies required before your event. Ask questions if you need clarification.
  • Practice your game: Spend time at the range dialing in accurate tee shots and honing your short game skills.
  • Play some practice rounds: Walk the course to learn hole layouts, green speeds, trouble spots, etc.
  • Get fitted: Have your clubs adjusted to fit your swing if needed. New grips can also increase feel and control.
  • Develop a game plan: Identify when you should play aggressive vs conservative based on your strengths.
  • Pack properly: Bring extra balls, tees, gloves, a water bottle, healthy snacks, and other essentials.
  • Get adequate rest: Don’t stay up late right before an early tee time. You need to be fresh.
  • Stay loose: Begin your warm-up early to give your body time to get loose and flexible.

Golf tournaments should ultimately be fun, social events. Yet with money or pride on the line, they also bring out our competitive spirit. By understanding the differences between scramble and best ball and preparing accordingly, you’ll be ready to enjoy success at your next tournament.

Now grab your clubs and get practicing!


Whether you’re a seasoned tournament golfer or new to competitive play, understanding scoring formats is key to strategizing and succeeding. A scramble provides fun team collaboration, while best ball demands sharp individual performance.

I hope this overview of scramble vs best ball tips helps you shine at your next amateur golf event. Get out on the course with some buddies and see if you have what it takes to come out on top!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is the main difference between a scramble and best ball tournament?

Ans: The main difference is that in a scramble, teammates choose the best shot each time and play from that spot. In best ball, players each play their own ball the entire hole and the single best score is recorded.

Q2: How do you pick teams for a scramble or best ball event?

Ans: For both formats, you want a balanced team with a mix of long/accurate drivers, good iron play, and skilled putters. In a scramble, avoiding players who tend to hit wild shots is key. For best ball, at least 1-2 low handicap players is recommended.

Q3: What is the appeal of scrambles for amateur golfers?

Ans: Scrambles are popular among amateur golfers because they take pressure off individual players. You can count on teammates to hit good shots and cover for any mistakes you make. It’s a fun, relaxing format.

Q4: How do you maximize your chances of winning a best ball tournament?

Ans: Focus on consistency and avoiding big numbers. Making par is often enough to put your team in contention. Have a solid game plan, especially on par 5s where you can make eagle. Stay patient and keep emotions in check.

Q5: What are some key tips for preparing for a golf tournament?

  • Know the formats and rules
  • Get fitted for clubs and install fresh grips
  • Practice your swing and hone short game skills
  • Walk the course to learn layout, green speeds, etc.
  • Develop an effective course strategy
  • Pack properly with extra gear you may need
  • Get adequate rest leading up to the event
  • Arrive early to warm up and stay loose

Being prepared with the right mindset and game plan will help any golfer play their best during tournament play. Stay relaxed, follow your routine, and enjoy the experience!