Reverse Scramble Golf Format

The Worst Shots Count In a Reverse Scramble

Golfers Walking On The Golf Course
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The golf format called a "reverse scramble" is one for 2- or 4-person teams, and it involves using the worst shot among the teammates for each stroke played. That makes it a good practice game, but also means it takes longer to play than the standard scramble format.

The Typical Scramble

In a typical scramble, members of a team all tee off, then choose the best of those tee shots. The teammates all move their golf balls to the location of that best drive, and all play their second strokes from that spot. The best of those second shots is selected, and all team members play their third strokes from that location. This continues until the ball is holed for the team's score.

So in a normal scramble, the teammates are choosing the best result from among the shots played on each stroke.

Playing a Reverse Scramble

In a reverse scramble, golfers don't choose the best of the teammates' shots, they choose the worst.

We'll use a 2-person team, Golfer A and Golfer B, for an example. On the first hole, A and B hit their drives. A's drive is straight down the middle of the fairway, and long. But B's ball was shorter and wound up in the rough. In a normal scramble, the teammates would obviously choose to play from the location of A's ball (the best shot). But in a reverse scramble, they have to use the worst shot, so B's ball it is. Golfer A picks up her ball and moves it to the location of B's. Both golfers then play their second strokes.

This rotation—both A and B play their strokes, then choose the worst of the two shots as the locations of the following stroke—continues until the ball is holed.

That's true even on the green. Say on the first putt attempt, A's ball runs six feet past the hole, but B's ball stops just short of the lip. Sorry, it's a reverse scramble, so the team must play the following stroke using the location of A's ball beyond the cup.

Why the Reverse Scramble Is a Poor Choice for Tournaments

Using reverse scramble as the format for a full-field golf tournament is not recommended. The reason is easy to grasp: a reverse scramble takes a long time to play. After all, if team members are playing the worst shot on every stroke, there are going to be a lot more strokes taken overall.

Playing reverse scramble as a game within a quartet of golfers (as 2-vs.-2), or between a handful of 4-person teams going out on a golf course that is not crowded with other golfers, can be fun, so long as you have the patience for the added time. But as a full-fledged tournament, reverse scramble takes too long and is generally avoided.

Use This Format as a Practice Game

There is an excellent way for golfers to use the reverse scramble format, however: Treat it as a practice game. Play it when you're on the golf course alone, hitting two balls off each tee. Or play it against one friend in a twosome, with each of you hitting two balls on each hole.

Because of the added time a reverse scramble adds to a round, it's recommended that you play it only when your golf course is uncrowded and golfers behind won't have to wait on you.

Reverse scramble is a good practice game because choosing the worst of two balls will allow you to hit many more shots of different varieties, shots you probably don't otherwise practice very often.