What is a Shotgun Start in Golf? How it Works!

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Golf tournaments are usually organized with staggered tee times, but there is another way to start a round of golf – the shotgun start. In a shotgun start, players begin the round at the same time and are allocated to different tees before starting simultaneously.

This format has several advantages, including allowing players to finish at the same time and enabling golf course managers to reopen the course quickly for other paying customers.

In this article, readers will find a detailed explanation of the shotgun start in golf and learn about its origins. Additionally, the article will cover popular variations of the format, such as the modified shotgun, reverse shotgun, and double shotgun.

Whether readers are participating in a shotgun start for the first time or are seasoned golfers looking to expand their knowledge, this article provides all the necessary information about the shotgun start in golf.

The Shotgun Start in Golf Explained

A shotgun start offers a distinctive approach to organizing a golf tournament, where all players simultaneously tee off from various locations on the course.

Rather than commencing each group from the first tee, players begin from different holes scattered throughout the course. This format adds a unique dimension to the event and enhances the overall experience for participants.

For instance, if a group starts on the 14th hole, it would essentially be their first hole, while the 13th would be their equivalent to the 18th. The primary purpose of shotgun starts is to help the flow of the course and ensure everyone finishes roughly at the same time.

This method allows golfers to play in groups or foursomes, which increases the social aspect of the sport.

Why is it Called a Shotgun Start?

The term “shotgun start” is used to describe the simultaneous start of a golf tournament, where all golfers commence playing from different holes on the course. The name originates from the tradition of using a fired shotgun as a signal to begin the round.

The earliest recorded instance of a shotgun start took place in 1956 at the Walla Walla Country Club in Washington. The head professional, Jim Russell, fired his weapon into the air to signify the start of play for a tournament.

Today, a claxon sound or a notification on a smartphone is more commonly used to signal the start of play. However, all players are still aware of the designated start time for the shotgun start and are prepared to begin their round at the appropriate moment.

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Shotgun Start VS Scramble

In golf, there are two main types of tournament formats: shotgun start and scramble. Both formats have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and golfers often have to choose which format to play in depending on their preferences and skill level.

Shotgun Start

In a shotgun start tournament, all participants start at the same time from different holes on the course. This format is often used in larger tournaments where there are too many players to start from the first hole.

The shotgun start ensures that all players finish at the same time, making it easier to manage the tournament.

Advantages of shotgun start include:

  • Players can start at any hole, which can reduce congestion on the course.
  • All players finish at the same time, which makes it easier to manage the tournament.
  • Players have the opportunity to play different holes, which can add variety to the game.

Disadvantages of shotgun start include:

  • Players may have to start on a hole they are not familiar with, which can affect their performance.
  • There may be delays due to the time it takes to get all players to their starting holes.
  • Players may have to wait for other groups to finish before they can start.


In a scramble tournament, players are divided into teams of two or more. Each team plays one ball, and the best shot is selected for the next shot. This format is often used in charity events or corporate outings where the focus is on having fun rather than competition.

Advantages of scramble include:

  • Players can work together as a team, which can be a great bonding experience.
  • The format is more forgiving, as the best shot is selected for the next shot.
  • Scramble tournaments are often used for fundraising events, which can be a great way to raise money for charity.

Disadvantages of scramble include:

  • The format is less competitive, which may not appeal to some players.
  • Players may not get to play all of the holes on the course.
  • The format may not be suitable for players of different skill levels.

In conclusion, both shotgun start and scramble formats have their unique advantages and disadvantages. Golfers should choose the format that best suits their preferences and skill level.

What is a Modified Shotgun in Golf?

The modified shotgun start is a tournament format that ensures all participants begin and conclude their rounds simultaneously, while also allowing the golf course to accommodate other customers.

This format is commonly employed for smaller tournament fields, with most courses stipulating a minimum of 48 players.

By implementing this approach, organizers can strike a balance between efficiency and inclusivity, providing an enjoyable experience for all involved.

Under this format, each group is sent to a tee box to start their round at a specific time, and the golf course manager works out what times need to be reserved for the players as they make their way back to the first tee.

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While it can be complex to manage the flow of a modified shotgun start, it is a good option for smaller competitions and events hosted in the clubhouse after the tournament, as all golfers will finish at roughly the same time.

However, it is important to note that mixing tournament players with recreational golfers can disrupt the pace of play somewhat. Despite this, a modified shotgun start remains a popular option for smaller tournaments.

What is a Reverse Shotgun in Golf?

A reverse shotgun is a modified version of a shotgun start that is used for golf competitions with fewer than 72 players. In a reverse shotgun start, the players begin from holes 1, 18, 17, through 7, instead of starting from 1 through 12.

This format allows the last group to start on hole 7, which clears the first tee more quickly and enables the course to open up to other players.

One of the key benefits of using a reverse shotgun start is its ability to expedite the completion of the first hole, thereby allowing other paying customers to access the course more promptly.

For instance, if there are 48 golfers, a reverse shotgun start would involve twelve foursomes starting simultaneously.

What is a Double Shotgun in Golf?

A double shotgun is a tournament format commonly employed in golf tournaments with a large number of participants.

In this format, players are provided with two tee-off times, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, allowing for greater flexibility and accommodating the scheduling needs of the players.

For example, if a tournament has a full field of 144 golfers split into 36 four balls, half of the field could start at 7.30 am and the second half of the field at 1.00 pm. This format allows organizers to manage start times effectively in particularly large tournaments.

However, if the field is slightly larger than 72 players but not enough to fill two tee times, organizers can add extra groups on two par fives. The first group tees off and plays their second shots, while the following groups can begin.

In this example, certain holes would be hosting a double shotgun start, while others would proceed as normal.

The double shotgun start is a popular format for corporate outings and large charity events, as it allows for greater flexibility in scheduling. However, the format also has its drawbacks, such as the lack of coordination between groups and the potential for slower play.

What is a Shotgun Scramble?

A shotgun scramble is a widely embraced and inclusive golf format that entails players teaming up and strategically choosing the optimal ball to play from the tee.

The term “shotgun scramble” derives from the practice of dividing players into four groups, each starting from different locations on the course in unison.

In a scramble, players form teams of two to four based upon the organizer’s instructions. Every player is then required to play a tee shot.

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The team captain then chooses the best shot, and all other team members pick up their balls and drop within one club-length of the chosen shot.

The process continues until a player from the team successfully hits the ball into the hole. The team’s overall score for the hole is determined by tallying the best shots taken.

The scramble format is a great option for players of all abilities, as there is no pressure on attaining individual scores.

Charity golf days often follow a shotgun scramble format, as they are enjoyable for all players and ensure the field finishes at the same time, which is ideal for the fundraising event and dinner that follows the game.

A shotgun start is a popular way of beginning golf tournaments around the world. By starting groups simultaneously, it ensures that all golfers in the competition end at a similar time, making it easier to arrange the post-game meal, drinks, and awards ceremony.

It also makes life easier for the competition organizer, as they can review the scorecards all at once.

Allowing a tournament to proceed with a shotgun start is also ideal for golf course managers, as they can block out the tee times for the tournament in the morning before opening the course to other paying customers in the afternoon.

Ultimately, a shotgun scramble in golf is a win-win starting format that is a great way of managing the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many golfers are required for a shotgun start?

A shotgun start is a format of play in golf where all groups of players start their rounds at the same time, but from different holes on the course.

The number of golfers required for a shotgun start depends on the number of holes on the course and the number of players participating.

Typically, a shotgun start requires a minimum of 72 golfers, as there are 18 holes on a standard golf course and four players per hole.

Why is it called a shotgun start?

The term “shotgun start” originated from the practice of firing a shotgun into the air to signal the start of a round. This method was used to ensure that all players started their rounds simultaneously, which helped to speed up play and reduce congestion on the course.

Does the PGA use shotgun starts?

Yes, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) uses shotgun starts for some of its tournaments. This format is often used for charity events and pro-am tournaments, where amateurs play alongside professional golfers.

Is the Masters a shotgun start?

No, the Masters Tournament does not use a shotgun start. Instead, players tee off in groups of three, with the first group starting on the first hole and subsequent groups starting on the 10th hole.

Is the Players Championship a shotgun start?

No, the Players Championship does not use a shotgun start. Players tee off in groups of three, with the first group starting on the first hole and subsequent groups starting on the 10th hole.