The Powerball Format in Golf

How to Play the Variation on a Scramble

Golfer hits his drive
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"Powerball" is sometimes used as a synonym for scramble in golfing. However, it usually means a golf tournament is a scramble with a twist. And that twist is that on a set number of holes during the round, your scramble group gets to pick one of its members to tee off from the forward tees. Be careful when choosing that golfer, though, because the powerball drive must be used as your team's drive.

Playing the Powerball In a Scramble

When a scramble tournament includes the powerball option, it works like this:

  • Tournament organizers select multiple holes in advance -- typically four or five, rarely more than six -- and inform the golfers that those are powerball holes.
  • The golfers play a typical scramble on all other holes on the golf course. But when a group reaches one of the powerball holes, it moves up to the forward tees.
  • However, only one golfer in the scramble group, as opposed to all four as on the other holes, gets to tee off on the powerball hole.
  • And that one tee shot must be used as the group's drive on that hole.

Which golfer in your group gets to hit the powerball drive? Depending on the format organizers specify, each member of a four-person scramble might get to hit one powerball, or it might rotate among several (but not necessarily all) team members.

Four Powerball Holes vs. Five

If four holes are designated powerball holes, then it's typical for each member of a group of four to hit one of the powerball drives.

If five holes are designated powerball holes (which is pretty typical for powerball scrambles), the rule of thumb is that three of the four members of a group must hit powerball drives. This allows the best driver of the group to hit three of the drives while forcing two other members to come through for the team.

However, the specifics are up to the tournament organizers so be sure to clarify everything before starting your round.

Selecting the Golfers Who Hit the Powerball Drives

It's up to your group to decide which golfer hits the powerball on each of the designated holes. Choose carefully and tactically.

Moving up to the forward tees might cut a long par-5 hole's length by 75 yards or even 100 yards or more. It might turn a medium-length par-4 hole into a driveable hole for the long driver in your group. It could eliminate trouble -- or bring more trouble into play. Which golfers on your team are best able to take advantage of these changes?

You'll want the weakest driver of the group teeing off on the hole with the widest fairway and least amount of trouble. You'll want the straightest driver teeing off on the powerball hole with the tightest fairways or most lateral hazards, and so on. So you should really put some thought into which golfers get which powerball holes.