Best Ball vs Scramble Golf Tournament

Best Ball vs Scramble Golf Format: Not At All The Same

What type of tournament is more fun for most golfers – a best ball vs. scramble? 

It depends on what type of golfer you are, if you want one team member, or several team members in a scramble format. Either way both types of events are great as you have a team score and a partner (or several partners) to go low on the golf course.

It’s easy to get the two types of formats confused but we’ll help clarify both types of events today. If you need to mix up a typical stroke play round, you’ll love one of these tournaments. 

Scramble vs. Best Ball

Before you say yes to a competitive event, it’s important to understand the difference between a scramble vs. best ball. Otherwise, you might be in for a long day on the links as both tournament formats are very different from one and another.

Key Takeaways

  • Best ball and scramble tournaments are two of the most common formats in golf but oftentimes confused with one another.
  • A best ball tournament is when each player on a team plays their own ball throughout the hole. The lowest score is used for the hole.
  • A scramble is when all players hit the same shots throughout the round and the best shots are selected until the hole is complete. This format tends to yield much lower scores.
  • Each type of format has its own pros and cons and are better for certain types of golfers.

Keep reading to learn more about each one and see which will work the best for you. 

Best Ball Format Overview

A best ball format – commonly known as 4-ball – is pretty simple compared to a scramble but the name often confuses a lot of golfers.

In a best ball event, all you have to do is play your own ball – that’s it! You don’t need to pick who tees off on certain holes or alternate shots.

Instead, all you have to do is play your own ball throughout the entire hole. The lowest score is then recorded for the hole.

For example, if it’s a two-man best ball (which most events are) let’s say player A makes a 4 and player B makes a 5 on the first hole. In this example player A’s score would count as the score for the hole as they had the lowest score. 

But if player B makes par on the next hole and player A makes bogey, the team would take player B’s score. 

Best Ball vs Scramble Golf Event

There are multiple variations to this format including handicaps and sometimes not even playing with other members of your team. This makes it harder to strategize and you’ll never know if your score is needed on a hole until the end of the round. 

I’ve also played in a “beast ball format” where both scores count if both players are par or better. For example, if player A makes a birdie and player B makes an eagle on the same hole, it’s a -3 for the team’s score. While it’s not as common it’s a ton of fun and rewards good play on the same hole.

Pros

  • 2-man format.
  • Less complicated than a scramble.
  • Handicaps can be used for net scoring or gross scoring. 
  • Great for players who want to keep their own scores and play their own game.

Cons 

  • Doesn’t allow for as aggressive of play as a scramble format.
  • Not as fast of a tournament and slower pace of play as each player typically completes the hole. 

Want to learn even more about a best-ball event? Click here for our full guide now. 

Scramble Format Overview 

A golf scramble is very different from best-ball and tends to lead to lower scores. These events are typically 4-man teams but sometimes 2-man teams as well. 

Here’s how it works… 

Each team member hits on the starting hole – which is typically a shotgun start. The player who hits the best shot (here’s where it gets confused with best ball) is then the shot that all the other players will hit from.

Golf Scramble Strategy

For example, let’s say player A bombed his drive on the first hole and has a clear advantage on his approach shot. Now, players B, C, & D pick up their balls and hit from the spot where player A drove the ball.

This means all players on the team will hit the same shot from the same distance (typically within one club length). Once all team members hit their next shot, they’ll repeat this process until the hole is complete. This is why this format typically leads to very low scores as each player can learn from their teammates on every shot. 

It’s especially helpful on the greens as you can see the break of each putt. It’s common for the less skilled players to putt first so other teammates can learn the break and speed of the putt.

Plus, mulligans are usually allowed to be bought before the round which can make the format even easier. A scramble golf format is primarily used in charity events and beginner golf tournaments. 

Pros

  • Confidence boosting format.
  • Mulligans are typically allowed to buy before the round.
  • One of the most fun formats – great for team building.
  • Encourages aggressive tee shots and approach shot strategies.
  • Great for casual golfers as it’s only overly dependent on one player. (Unless you are playing a Texas scramble format.)
  • Multiple variations and ways to make it more challenging. For example each player might be required to use three or four of their tee shots during the round. Or, different age players might be required to play certain tees to even the playing field. 

Cons 

  • No handicaps involved – typically gross scores only.
  • Leads to very low scores and sometimes cheating in 4-man events. It’s hard for more casual golfers to be competitive as handicaps aren’t typically allowed. 

Want to learn even more about a scramble golf event? Click here for our full guide now

FAQs About Golf Tournament Formats

Do you have more questions about different golf formats? If so, keep reading through the most frequently asked questions and answers below. 

What is the difference between scramble and best ball?

In a golf scramble format each player tees off and the best shot is taken. Then all players will hit from the best spot and repeat until the hole is complete. The team’s score is only one score for the hole.

In a best ball format each golfer plays their own golf ball for the entire hole. The team score is the lowest score on the hole.

Some formats of a best ball might be a “worst ball” scoring which means the worst score, not the best score is taken. This is more common with high-level golfers but definitely makes the round a lot more interesting.

Shamble Golf

What is a shamble style golf tournament?

A shamble golf format is part scramble, part best ball. On the tee shot all players hit and the best shot is selected like a scramble format.

From the second shot each player then plays their own ball through the hole. The lowest score of the group is used for the team’s score.

Click here to read our full guide on shambles now.

Is it faster to play a scramble or best ball?

A scramble is typically the fastest type of format as bad shots are discarded and players hit from the best positions. Not to mention every golfer doesn’t have to hole out their shots and play their own ball like a best ball format. 

Is a 4-man scramble best ball?

No – the names of these events are often confused but are very different formats.

In a best ball event each player plays the hole with their own ball and the lowest score is taken. In a scramble format each player hits from the best player’s shot until the hole is complete. 

What is a bramble in golf?

A bramble is a variation of a scramble format. Each player hits a tee shot, then each player hits a second shot using the standard scramble rules. But on the third shot (if there is one on the hole) is where things change.

This is where it turns into a best ball format and each player plays their ball for the rest of the particular hole. It’s a fun variation of the two formats but not that common as it can get confusing for players.

My Experience

I’ve played in tons of scrambles and best-ball tournaments over the years and never understood why they’re named this way. So if you get them confused at times, don’t worry it happens to the best of us. Both types of golf tournaments are fun and a great way to mix up a normal round and have a ton of fun on the golf course.

Scrambles are best for all types of golfers – from beginners to experienced players. There isn’t a ton of pressure on one specific player (unless there is a minimum number of drives) and a generally fun format. Plus, it leads to some crazy low scores too.

Best ball formats are also fun if you have someone you like playing golf with regularly. There is a little more pressure since there are generally only two people and have to play your own ball. 

Final Thoughts 

So, which is more fun – a golf scramble vs. best ball? It depends as some players prefer one format vs. another.

More skilled golfers tend to enjoy a best ball team game as both golfers play their own ball and pick the best score. While less skilled golfers tend to enjoy the scramble team format vs. playing their own balls.

Plus, there are tons of other formats in golf including a shamble, alternate shot (four ball) and Chapman too. Or, you could mix in some gambling games to make things even more interesting on the golf course.