Golf Shamble Format: How to play, Variations, And Strategies

A golfer is hitting a golf shot on the golf course while others are spectating the shot.

A golf shamble is a popular golf tournament format that combines stroke play and scramble elements. Learn about the rules, strategies and more with this guide.

Golf Shamble is a game that involves four players hitting a second shot from the best drive after each team member hits their tee shots. 

The team then selects the best drive, and each player plays their own ball for the rest of the hole, recording their individual score. This procedure is repeated for all the holes in the game.

Shamble example

If you’re still unsure about the mechanics of a shamble golf tournament format, here’s an example of how it works in practice. Let’s say two golfers are playing together. 

Golfer A hits their tee shot into the rough on the left, while Golfer B lands theirs safely on the fairway. The team decides to use Golfer B’s ball as the starting point for their next shots.

Golfer A takes their second shot from the fairway and lands it in a greenside bunker. After successfully getting out of the sand, they take two putts to finish the hole, resulting in a total of 5 strokes. On the other hand, Golfer B hits their second shot onto the green and only needs one putt to complete the hole, finishing with a total of 3 strokes.

In a shamble game, each team member plays their own ball from the chosen starting location for each hole. However, only one score is recorded for each hole – in this case, Golfer B’s score of 3 would be used as the team score for that particular hole.

I. Variations and strategies in shamble

While playing a golf shamble, there can be a variety of different rules and regulations. Some of the basic variations in the rules have been mentioned below:

1) Number of drives per player

In many shambles, each player is required to choose at least two drives during the round. This may not seem significant, but it helps balance the playing field and ensure fairness for all players. Without this rule, one group may consistently use a player who is particularly skilled at driving, giving them an unfair advantage.

Strategies to play around this limitation: 

  1. Pay attention to the number of drives each player has been allotted throughout the round to avoid disqualification.
  2. If a player has a slice, consider allowing them to drive earlier in the round rather than waiting until the last hole.
  3. When two players’ drives are close to each other on the fairway and you need to choose one, consider the number of drives you have included from each player before making your decision.

2) Par Requirements

Some tournament administrators may add complexity by requiring all players to play their own ball on a par 3. They can even add up the complexity by having golfers play their first two balls on their own before switching to playing from the spot of the best shot.

It’s important to consider the par requirements of each hole when organizing a shamble event.

3) Scores per hole

In some shamble tournaments, teams are only required to count one score per hole as the team score. The low gross and low net scores are also typically considered.

However, other tournament administrators may have different scoring requirements based on the par of the hole and the skill level of the golfers in the field.

For example, one score may be required on a par 3, two on a par 4, and three on a par 5. The specific scoring requirements may also depend on the difficulty of the golf course.

II. Shamble scoring

The scores in a shamble tournament are taken into consideration in keeping with the decision of the organizers and the following rules :

  • The lowest individual score in the team can be used as the team score.
  • The two lowest scores can be combined to form the team score.
  • The lowest and highest scores in a team can be combined and used as the team score.
  • In teams with more than two players, the lowest and highest individual scores can be ignored, and the two middle scores are added to create a team score.

(Note: When it comes to calculating team scores at a shamble tournament, you have plenty of options. The best gross score, the net scores, or a combination of one, two, or three scores,  the gross and/or net all can be used to calculate the final team score.)

III. Golf Shamble Advantages and Disadvantages

A golf shamble tournament is a format that allows players of different handicaps to compete individually while playing as a team. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of playing in a shamble tournament:

Advantages of Golf ShambleDisadvantages of Golf Shamble
Allows all players on a team to individually play the round.May not be attractive to high handicap players or those who only play once or twice annually.
Gives a sense of individuality while still allowing players to choose the best tee shot.Some golfers may not feel like they are contributing to the overall performance and results of the team.
A team with a deeper bench or one low handicapper gets rewarded.May not be as competitive as other formats for high handicap players.

To sum up, a shamble golf tournament can be a fun and challenging format for players of all levels, but it may not be suitable for all players. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages, golfers can determine if a shamble is the right format for their skill level and competition goals.

IV. Does handicap apply in shamble?

Yes, handicap applies in golf shamble.  It does not matter if you are a scratch golfer or have a high handicap. Everyone on the team is able to contribute and be competitive. As such, most shamble teams will typically have both types of players participating.

The handicap system in a shamble helps to even the playing field, allowing every player a chance at success.

Note: The United States Golf Association might not sanction the golf outings, but the USGA handicap system plays an important role in this format.

V. Golf “Shamble” vs “Scramble”

In a “Shamble” golf-scoring format, each team member plays the first shot from the tee, with all team members hitting from the best drive. In this, a golf “shamble” is similar to a “golf scramble.

After this point, each golfer takes individual strokes to complete the hole. This part of the game resembles the stroke play. 

However, unlike stroke play, where each player’s score tally is recorded separately, the final score for the team on that hole is determined by taking the lowest score of any single team member.

This scoring system is similar to that of  “best ball scoring.” To sum it up: “Shamble” combines aspects of both scramble and best ball formats to formulate rules, apply handicaps, and keep up the team score in the golf game.

VI. 2 Golfers vs. 4 Golfers Shamble tournament

In a shamble, the number of players on each team will determine what rules and scoring variations can be used.

2-person teams: When teams are composed of only two members, the available scoring options for event organizers are limited. Generally, stroke play is preferred when all teams in the field compete against one another. Opposing teams with four players can face off in match play instead.

4-person teams: A 4-person shamble provides a much larger array of formats and scoring options. These formats and options are especially useful for charity tournaments with golfers of different capabilities over the golf course.


Golf shamble allows players to work as a team and utilize the strengths of each member to achieve the best possible score. While it may not be as competitive as other formats, the shamble is a great way to socialize and relax on the course while still getting a good workout. Overall, the shamble is a great addition to any golf outing and provides an enjoyable experience for all involved.


What is an ABCD format in golf shamble?

Despite the implication of handicaps in a shamble format, teams may still exhibit imbalances, resulting in significant unfairness which may arise from differences in distance, accuracy, and other factors distinguishing golfers. In order to level the playing field, courses often use the A-B-C-D format, which helps balance any unfairness and ensure that all teams have an equal chance of success.

What is a 2 man shamble?

A 2-man shamble follows the same rules as a regular shamble but with only two players. This makes it more difficult to score well because the team has fewer chances to hit a good tee shot. If both players hit a bad drive, it can be tough to recover and score well. 

Additionally, having only two players means fewer total scores for the holes, which adds to the challenge. However, compared to other formats like alternate shot or best ball, it’s still easier to score well in this 2-man format. In both 2-man and 4-man scrambles, the team with the lowest score wins.

Can you handicap a shamble?

Yes, handicaps can be used in shambles tournaments. Since these tournaments involve both stroke play and scramble, adjustments are made to make handicaps work. 

In a four-person shamble, you generally use 80% of your total handicap. On the other hand, in a 2 or 3-person shamble, it’s more common to use 85% of one’s handicap.  As you can use other player’s drives off the tee, it wouldn’t be reasonable to use 100% of your normal handicap. 

The tournament coordinator typically takes care of these details before the event which makes it easier to understand the scorecard and rules.

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