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Best Ball Vs. Scramble Golf: Learn The Difference

Tournaments can be a great way to enjoy the game of golf. Team play provides added dimension and strategy to improve the fun, especially for groups of friends or coworkers. There are many popular formats, but best ball vs. scramble golf, what’s the difference?

Best ball tournaments are played with players in 2, 3, or 4-member teams. Only one ball per hole, the best score, counts for each team. Golf scrambles are comprised of 4-member teams. Each player hits their tee shot in a scramble format, but all subsequent shots are made from the most advantageous place chosen from each player’s landing spot or lie.

Scramble and best ball tournament formats allow players of varying handicaps to play together and move quickly along the course.

Best ball and scramble tournaments are team events, and there’s much more to the tournaments that should be considered. So read along, and we’ll explain the finer details, including essential strategies and how to win each tournament.

Best Ball Tournament Rules

best ball tournament

Best ball tournaments are more flexible than scrambles since 2, 3, or 4-player teams are allowed. Each teammate plays a standard round of golf, but only one ball (player) and one score (the best) counts on each hole.  

When the best ball tournament uses a NET scoring handicap format, each player gets a “free” stroke on each hole until they have used the total of their handicap. An 18 (or higher) handicapper who can make an occasional par can contribute a net birdie (one under par) as the best ball when they play a hole well.

Best Ball Tournament Strategies

The handicap score mentioned above is why each team has a high handicapper. They won’t hurt the team score and can contribute mightily when they have a sound hole. It’s also essential to have a ringer – a near-scratch player who helps ensure at least a par is available as the best ball for each hole.

A long driver is also an advantage as a teammate, even if they are high handicappers. This is because although they may have many bogeys, they also have the potential to hit the occasional monster shot that sticks the green and offers a birdie putt that translates into a 2-under par best ball.

Best Ball Playing Tips

  • Tee Shot – Have your lowest handicap player tee off first. If their drive is poor, other players can be more deliberate. If their drive is strong, the other players can boom away and try for great shots.
  • Approach Shot – Have your best player hit last, so they know just how aggressive to be trying to get close to the pin. If there are no balls on the green yet, they need to be more conservative and try to get on the green.
  • Putting – Don’t putt in “closest to hole order.” If your best putter is close to the hole, have them putt first. Get a par first; then others farther away can putt – which works well if they are looking at a birdie putt.

How To Win a Best Ball Tournament

Because only the best scores on each hole count toward the team’s final score, micromanaging each hole is alright. Your team needs to lock in a chance for par every hole. That means added pressure on weaker players when your best player hits a ball in the water or makes an otherwise poor shot.

When that strong player makes several great shots on a hole, other players can go all out to try and make birdie instead of holding back to make par. Changing strategy each shot can lead to winning a best ball tournament.

Scramble Golf Tournament Rules

foursome in a scramble tournament

In a scramble tournament, each player hits their ball from the tee box, but instead of hitting their ball from where it lands, the team or captain chooses the best spot from all teammates, and each player’s next shot is from that one spot.

After each player hits their second shot, the team again chooses the best landing spot and takes their third shot from that spot. Once a player holes out, whether an off-green shot or a putt, the team is finished for the hole since no lower score can be attained.

It doesn’t matter which player gets the first or lowest score. The team uses one ball – score per hole. The total score of the best ball on each hole produces the final round score for the team.

Scramble Golf Tournament Strategies

Scramble golf tournaments speed up play, so players of all ability levels can participate. However, handicaps aren’t used in most tournaments. Thus, high handicappers won’t hurt a team and won’t contribute the best shot as often as low handicappers.

However, for those reasons, high handicappers should be encouraged to go all-out on each shot since excellent strikes can help, while errant strikes likely won’t hurt since their teammates will probably produce good landing spots for the next shot.

Scramble Playing Tips

  • Tee Shot – Have your best driver go first to get something in the fairway. If they miss, other players can take 90% swings to improve their odds of getting the team a solid spot.
  • Approach Shot – Especially around water, have a weaker player go first to lay up and establish a safe play. Subsequent players can try to get on the green or carry the water.
  • Putting – Have weaker putters go first to try and hole out, not just lag up close.

How to Win a Scramble Tournament

Scramble tournaments end with below-par scores. You’ve got to take chances to win, so weaker players should always be aggressive.