A Texas Scramble is arguably the most social and best team bonding format in golf.
Corporate and charity golf days often follow the Texas Scramble format, with the two being the perfect fit and always welcomed by attending golfers.
Many golf clubs opt for a Texas Scramble for their social competitions, particularly on festive occasions such as Christmas, Easter, and other public holidays.
The format is also great for larger holiday groups when playing a second round. First time out on a new course and most golfers want to play individually to record a score – but once this has been ticked off, the door is open for a fun Texas Scramble later in the day.
A Texas Scramble can be played in Pairs and a Three-Ball, although the most popular group size is with four players.
Many modifications can be applied to a Texas Scramble, but before we get to that, we’ll start by covering the basic framework, rules, and strategy.
Texas Scramble Handicapping
Before beginning play, it’s important to first establish the handicap allowance to a Texas Scramble team.
With the advent of the updated World Handicap System (WHS), the new formula requires more calculation but has been reassessed to create a fairer system.
Let’s run through this new process:
#1: handicapping: Team of Four Texas Scramble
Based on players with the following handicaps: 4, 8, 16, 24
The allowance is the total sum of this calculation:
- 25% of the lowest handicap in the group, 4 x 25% = 1.0
- 20% of the next lowest handicap in the group, 8 x 20% = 1.6
- 15% of the next lowest handicap in the group, 16 x 15% = 2.4
- 10% of the highest handicap in the group, 24 x 10% = 2.4
- Total sum = 1.0+1.6+2.4+2.4 = team allowance of 7.4 shots
#2: handicapping: Three-ball Texas Scramble
The percentage figures now change. Let’s go with a team with 4, 16, and 24 handicaps.
- 30% of the lowest handicap in the group, 4 x 30% = 1.2
- 20% of the next lowest handicap in the group, 16 x 20% = 3.2
- 10% of the highest handicap in the group, 24 x 10% = 2.4
- Total sum = 1.2+3.2+2.4 = team allowance of 6.8 shots
#3: handicapping: Pairs (Two-Ball) Texas Scramble
Once again, percentages change. Our Pair have handicaps 8 and 16.
- 35% of the lowest handicapped player, 8 x 35% = 2.8
- 15% of the highest handicap in the group, 16 x 15% = 2.4
- Total sum = 2.8+2.4 = team allowance of 5.2 shots
The decimal points count in a Texas Scramble. If the Pairs team above shot a gross 72 for their round, their nett score is 66.8.
If you are putting together a Texas Scramble event for a group of friends, it is a great idea to try and mix and match the teams through the group handicap range to minimize the number of shots in each team.
If you are bolting on a nine-hole Texas Scramble, then simply divide the total shot allowance by 2.
Handicaps sorted. Time to get into the nitty-gritty of how to play a Texas Scramble.
The Rules: Texas Scramble Golf Guide
Each player hits off the tee, the best shot is selected. This is where the second shot will be played for all the golfers in the team.
Generally, balls can be placed if on the fairway and must be dropped if in the rough.
The organizer will set a parameter on the position everybody plays from; it may be six inches from the original ball’s location, perhaps one club-length.
The second shot is played by all players and the best result is selected to now play the third shot/putt.
This continues until the ball is in the hole. You record the actual score on the card, the handicap is subtracted at the end of the round.
On the putting green the best ball is marked and the other balls are played from this exact position. This is good as teammates are allowed to and will want to watch putts to help those putting afterward.
Putts must be holed out – there are no gimmes in a Texas Scramble.
It’s that simple. A nice stress-free game of golf in threes or fours because if you stuff up, you have a partner(s) to bail you out. You only need one good shot from the group to start to put down some good numbers on your scorecard.
In a Texas Scramble format, scores will be pretty low. To win an event your team is going to need to hole some putts for sure – master the greens and you will be in contention!
Golfers will disappear hither and thither throughout the round in pursuit of their ball and may only catch up with the rest of the group on the green.
Of course, one or two may be getting hot under the collar about their performance, or rather lack of it, and don’t feel like talking or joking with their buddies. This is sad but does happen on a golf course!
That is what this great, yet frustrating game does – it can break even the coolest of golfers!
A Texas Scramble takes all of this pain and anguish out of the equation.
You may have a little trudge into the rough to locate your errant shot but soon return to join your buddies to play the next shot – and hopefully, this will be from a good position.
The group is pretty well together for the whole round – making it a super social game of golf. Loads of cheering, high-fives, and fist-pumps as you celebrate every successful team shot and holed putt.
There we have the basic structure for a Texas Scramble. But what about the add-on rules that the competition organizer may decide to apply? The next section has the answers.
Related article: Learn How To Break 90 In Golf With These Six Tips.
Texas Scramble Golf Guide: additional rules
#1: Number of Drives per player
This is the most common additional rule. Every golfer in the team has to take a certain number of drives. Generally, this figure is three to not heap too much pressure on any player, particularly a less experienced golfer.
For a three-ball Texas Scramble, this figure may rise to four drives and in a Pairs event six is a fair number – but each to their own.
This restriction does require a degree of tactical awareness from the designated Team Captain.
You may not necessarily take the best (longest) drive to help get all the player’s drives out of the way as early as possible.
This is particularly relevant if you have a high handicap golfer in the group. You don’t want them getting stressed and feeling the pressure standing on every tee later in the round. This tends to only go one way . . . the wrong way.
A team certainly doesn’t want to arrive on the 18th tee with only one player’s drive allowed because they haven’t completed their quota. A potential nightmare scenario!
And the beauty of getting all the drives out of the way early allows the team to free-wheel home over the last few holes.
#2: order of play
(a) You have picked the best drive. Whoever hit that drive must now place first with this rule continuing until the hole is completed.
(b) A team must maintain the same order of play within their team throughout the round.
#3: players standing aside
Some organizers decide that one less player stands aside for every shot after the drive. This rule normally only happens in a team of four Texas Scramble.
But what does this mean?
It means that if you select player 3’s drive, they cannot now hit the second shot. Generally speaking, all four players can still putt when on the green.
Personally, this is not something I’d recommend; golfers want to be involved with every shot. Why shouldn’t they?
#4: playing from a bunker
In theory, a team will not have a bunker shot all round – but who knows?
If you do, then everybody must play from the bunker but a rule may be imposed that balls may be placed rather than dropped. This avoids any ball potentially plugging when dropped.
Modified Texas Scramble
This is a hybrid format between a Texas Scramble and Stableford.
I have been lucky to play in a couple of European Tour Pro-Ams in the Middle East that adopted this hybrid format.
This works well when playing on challenging courses and believe me, the two at the Abu Dhabi Championships and the Dubai Desert Classic fit that bill.
Higher handicap golfers love this format. They have a chance to complete a hole from a good starting position and will also generally be putting for birdie on the par 3 holes.
How does it work?
Start with all four players teeing off and like a normal Texas Scramble, select the best drive. Then they all play their second shot from this point. That’s the end of the Scramble format on the hole.
Now all four golfers play their ball until completing the hole scoring points under the Stableford system with the best two scores counting on each hole. Players get a full handicap allowance.
A great format for corporate and charity golf days, but still worth trying for a change of scenery from a regular Texas Scramble.
Related article: How To Play The Chapman Golf Format And Win
The Pros and Cons of a texas scramble
- All forms of Texas Scramble are a great, fun day out or a superb relaxed way to play the second round on the same day.
- It allows golfers of all standards to participate in the day without feeling intimidated by other players in their group who are better than them.
- Every player in a team has a chance of contributing to the team score on every hole.
- Teamwork making a few tactical decisions and reading putts all add to the bonding process.
Difficult to find a con except perhaps that this format can be a little slow but when out on a day that you have set aside for golf, who is in a hurry to finish?
Apart from a Pairs Texas Scramble, there is no independent scorekeeper. Accordingly, this form of scoring relies on the honesty of the team members (which should go without saying).
If you have never played this format, give it a go – a fun day out is guaranteed.