One of the beauties of golf is that there are so many ways that we can play the game. Here at AMERICAN GOLF, we are going to endeavour to bring them all to life, so that anyone new to golf can get a grasp of what is involved. In this blog, our focus is on Texas Scramble golf.
History of Texas Scramble:
The game was originally called ‘Captain’s Choice’ because as we will discover later on, one player in the game is designated as the captain and has the final say on what to do. The format became particularly popular in the state of Texas in the 1930s and the name ‘Texas Scramble’ was created.
Golf is usually about competing against the people in our own game whether through strokeplay, matchplay or stableford. Texas Scramble is different. We join up with the people we are playing with to form a team to take on all the other different groups in the competition. The aim is to work together as a team to get the lowest score possible on each hole. It is about focusing on our very best shots and forgetting about duff ones. Each of us only needs to hit a handful of good drives and hole a few clutch putts to feel like a vital member of the team.
How to Scoring During Texas Scramble:
A Texas Scramble can be made up of three or four players depending upon the number of players in each particular game. The player with the lowest handicap in the game is usually nominated as the captain as they have to make the final choice upon which shot to select to take, as we will see.
Every player tees off on the hole. After a discussion with the rest of the team, the captain decides which is the best tee shot. From there, every player in the team takes their second shot from the position of the best tee shot, within one club length’s distance of the ball. The same thing then happens with the captain deciding which second shot to choose and so on and so on.
Once on the green, every player putts from the position of the ball that is nearest to the hole in most cases, or from the position where it is most likely to hole it. The aim is for one member of the group to hole it. If the first person does so, none of the others are required to putt. If the first player to putt misses, what they must not do is tap the ball into the hole. That counts as the score, regardless of whether other players still have a chance to hole their putt from the same position. If the second player misses, it falls to the third player and then the fourth player. If everyone misses, one player is then required to tap in to complete the hole.
For example, on a par four, the best tee shot (of the group) followed by the best approach shot onto the green (of the group) followed by the first player to knock the ball into the hole produces the score for that particular hole. One tee shot + one approach + one putt = birdie three. That is then repeated for each of the 18 holes during the round.
How the scoring is then worked out is by adding up the combined handicaps of the four players in the game. Let’s say, for example, the four handicaps are 6, 12, 18 and 24. That adds up to 60. That is then divided by 10 to provide the team handicap which is 6. Then 6 shots are taken off the total number of shots to produce the final score. Say the gross team score is 65 shots, so the sum is 65 – 6 = 59. Our Texas Scramble score for the 18 holes is a nett 59.
One way a Texas Scramble increases the team element is by requiring every member of the team to contribute a number of drives during the round, whether that is either three or four. Otherwise, the team would take the drives from the player with the lowest handicap on the majority of holes.
That means tactical thinking is usually in order as it is unwise to need a drive from the highest handicapper in the team on one of the last couple of holes, especially if one of those is a difficult hole. Think about using the higher handicappers on par-threes or shorter par-fours if they hit a (comparatively) good tee shot and try to use a couple of tee shots from every member of the team in the first nine holes.
Also, tactics can be used on the green. If putting from a reasonable distance from the hole, the first player can try to hit a lag putt to make sure the second putt is simple to hole for the team. That means the other players can be more aggressive with their putts and put all their focus on trying to hole it as they don’t need to worry about how far past they may end up.
When to play:
Texas Scrambles are designed to be light-hearted and enjoyable rounds of golf. If we hit a bad shot, it doesn’t matter as hopefully one of our playing partners will hit a good one. Therefore, Texas Scramble events can be very popular for corporate days and charity golf days. Often people playing in those are novice or rookie golfers, or ones who are out of practise and not had much chance to play golf because of work or family commitments. Hopefully every player will have a few moments that they can remember and quickly forget about any bad ones that they have hit or balls that they have lost.
However, one drawback of a Texas Scramble round of golf is that it can be hard to develop a rhythm during the round. The only constant is on the tee as we have to hit a tee shot on every hole. As we are picking up our ball from the position where we have hit it and placing it near to where one of our partners has played from, it can feel a bit artificial. Also, that lack of rhythm can be especially felt on the greens as we may only tap the ball into the hole once or twice during the course of 18 holes. That’s why it is so important for our enjoyment of a Texas Scramble to make a meaningful contribution in the early holes, with a good drive, an excellent approach or by holing a good putt. It makes us feel part of the team. If we don’t do that, the pressure can then increase as the round goes on knowing that the team needs us to produce some good golf.
Texas Scrambles, or modified versions of them, are often staged in the pro-ams before PGA Tour or DP World Tour events. The idea behind this is so that professionals do not spend hours looking for balls of amateur hackers on the day before a tournament. Instead the team has a light-hearted round with plenty of birdies and eagles as no player can score worse than a nett par on any given hole.
About the Author
Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.