Shotgun Start Golf: Definition, Variations, And Benefits

Golfers are playing golf on a golf course

Shotgun start is a popular way to begin a golf game. But what is shotgun start in golf? Here is everything you need to know about shotgun start golf.

What is a shotgun start golf?

A shotgun in golf refers to a concept related to starting a golf tournament. Here, the golfers begin their rounds from different holes on the golf course instead of all starting from the first hole. 

The shotgun start format helps speed up the pace of play on golf course/ driving range and enables a large number of players to start the game simultaneously.

Generally, in a shotgun golf tournament, golfers are divided into groups. Then, every foursome is allocated a different hole, starting between the 1st and 18th holes. This gives a chance to all groups to tee off at the same time from a different hole. The groups then proceed to play their rounds, with each group following a specific sequence of holes.

History of the shotgun start

The origin of shotgun-style golf tournaments is a matter of debate due to the rich and extensive history of the sport. However, the term “shotgun start” can be traced back to Jim Russell, the head pro of Walla Walla Country Club in Washington. Russell was determined to efficiently get tournament players on and off his prized country club’s fairways.

Russell was aware that his course was in high demand, but the cold mornings in Washington made early tee times difficult, and there was no way to make up for lost revenue from a day-long tournament. It was also unfair to the club members to have the course booked solid for an entire weekend.

According to Golf Digest’s December 2004 issue, Russell solved the problem by firing a shotgun to signal each group of golfers positioned at holes 1-18 to start playing. This event took place in May 1956, and since then, the concept has been widely adopted. Although sirens or airhorns are more commonly used today.

Variations of the shotgun start

Several variations of the shotgun start can be used in golf tournaments. Here is the list of the shotgun start variations.

Reverse shotgun start

A reverse shotgun start is typically used in smaller golf tournaments with fewer participants. In this variation of shotgun start, the tee times begin at the 18th hole and work backward.

For instance, assume there are 40 players in a tournament. The tournament organizers would divide the players into 10 groups of four players each. Then, they will assign the first group to the 18th hole, the second group to the 17th hole, and so on. All groups in a reverse shotgun start will tee off simultaneously, each from their assigned hole.

This approach allows for quicker play and prevents delays by freeing up the first tee as soon as possible so that other paying customers can enjoy their round.

Modified shotgun start

In a modified shotgun start, the organizers arrange tee times to ensure that other paying players can begin their rounds unbothered. The participants in the tournament are then assigned to tee off from holes two to nine, leaving the first and tenth tees free for all others.

This approach is ideal for smaller tournaments with fewer entrants, allowing for swift and organized gameplay.

Double shotgun start

When a tournament has more than 72 players on the tee sheet, the organizers must adjust their tee time schedule to accommodate everyone. A double shotgun start is the most viable solution in this case and can involve a morning and afternoon start. The tournament organizers divide the golfers into two groups, each playing at different time slots.

For instance, Group A will commence at 8 am from the fourth hole, while Group B begins at 12:15 am. However, there is a risk that those who play in the morning will not stay for prize-giving or auction proceedings.

An alternative method is to add two groups of four on each par 5 hole; one group starts at 12 pm while the other follows once they are out of sight.

Benefits of shotgun start in golf

A shotgun start is beneficial for golf tournaments with a large number of players. They allow all players to begin and end rounds at the same time, creating a more efficient and organized tournament. 

Shotgun start also helps to keep the tournament running swiftly and smoothly by minimizing any delays or slowdowns caused by other players’ slower play.

Here is a quick glance at the benefits of a shotgun start on the golf course:

  • A faster pace of play
  • Accommodates a larger number of players
  • Provides unique experience for golfers

When should you choose a shotgun start?

Here are a few situations in which a shotgun start is the best solution:

1. Tournaments with a high number of participants

When organizing a large tournament, the best way to ensure that all players start and finish their rounds at around the same time is by opting for a shotgun start. This method will provide a smooth flow throughout the day without having a clog up a driving range or a single tee.

2. When you have limited daylight

When there is a limited amount of daylight available, a shotgun start can be a great way to ensure that all players get to finish their rounds before the sun sets. This method allows for an efficient flow to make the most out of your round of golf.

Rules of shotgun

Golf courses have their own rules and conditions for booking shotgun tournaments. This sometimes leads to closing golf courses to other golfers due to the high number of participants. Some of the rules and reasons can be:

  • A minimum number of players are required. If that minimum count is not met, then the tournament is started with the first tee or split tee start.
  • This type of tournament  includes higher deposits and advanced cancellation notices when compared to usual tee starts.
  • Golfers are restricted to weekdays or specific days, and are not allowed on weekends.
  • Most of the golf courses have restricted starting times that are 8 a.m. or 1 p.m.
  • Post-event meal at the clubhouse is required
  • The club can even require minimum prize purchase from the club pro shop
  • Weather insurance is required
  • Mandatory carts for participants
  • Membership approval may be required.

Tee times vs. shotgun start

Tee times and shotgun starts are two different methods for starting a golf round. In a traditional tee time system, each player will begin their round from the same hole at different times. In contrast, the shotgun start enables all players to begin at the same time from different holes, resulting in a quicker pace of play and less waiting time.

Here is the list of differences between tee times vs. shotgun start: 

Tee times Shotgun start 
Allows golfers to choose a tee timeGolfers cannot choose their start time 
More wait time Quick and no wait to tee off
Used in casual golf roundsUsed in golf tournaments 


The shotgun start is an effective way to speed up and simplify the process of playing golf tournaments with a large number of participants. All players can begin their rounds simultaneously, resulting in faster completion and a more enjoyable experience for all involved.


Here are some of the frequently asked questions about shotgun start golf:

What is the duration of the shotgun golf tournament format?

Generally, shotgun golf tournaments approximately last two and a half hours for 9 holes and five hours for 18 holes.

What happens if there are more than 18 groups?

If you have ever played golf, you would know that an 18-hole golf course cannot accommodate more than 18 groups of four players each. In this case, the organizers will choose a double shotgun variation, which divides the groups into two sets of 18 each and assigns them to different holes.

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