There’s no shortage of formats employed in golfing tournaments. The two most popular ones are the best ball and scramble. No wonder the comparison of best ball vs scramble is so common. Actually, both terms are often interchangeable as well. And that’s where all the confusion stems from.
The best ball and scramble are not similar formats for golf. Even though the two allow beginners and experienced golfers or professionals to compete for side by side in any given tournament. Based on the official USGA rules, the formats of the best ball are applicable only if these aren’t in fluctuation with the specific rules.
Whatever the case, not many players even know what exactly the best ball and scramble are. Let alone understanding the difference between them! That said, it’s time for me to offer a simplified explanation. So you can decide which golf format you wish to make a part of your game.
And for the mere purpose of better understanding, what I have done right below is describe the two formats the two-person way.
Best Ball vs Scramble – Two-Person Best Ball
The best ball format in golf involves two-person teams. Each golfer plays his/her own ball throughout the whole round of golf. And at the end of every hole, the golfer who has scored the lowest on that particular hole serves the team’s golf score. Lowest in comparison to his/her partner in the two-person team of course. Meaning the best ball.
As for the highest score, that’s eliminated for the particular hole. Let me explain with an example. Let’s say that player X achieved the score of 5 on the hole. And player Y gets a 6. Both are on the same team. So it’s the player X’s 5 score that gets recorded as the best ball for that particular hole.
Best ball golf rules allow you to play your own game. After all, you as a player have to keep track of your own score, right? But, at the same time, 2 man best ball rules also pave the way for taking advantage of your partner in case he or she is playing better than you.
In comparison to scramble in golf, best ball scores are more likely to be slightly higher. And that’s because every golfer gets to play his/her own shots. That means if you strike a poor drive, then you’re compelled to play the whole thing out. And also hope that your partner’s playing better than you.
This implies there are no extremely low golf scores when playing the best ball format.
Best Ball vs Scramble – Two-Person Scramble
What is scrambling in golf? Let’s find out all about the two-person scramble format now.
This particular format involves, just like the best ball, two-person teams. But, in this case, each player of the team strikes a tee shot. And then the two golfers of the team decide which one is superior. Whichever they like better, the ball is then played from that particular spot.
So the player whose shot doesn’t get selected picks up the golf ball. To place it within a club-length of the decided spot. After the selection of the spot, both the golfers play their shots from that specific spot. And then, once again, decide which shot is more preferable. This, needless to say, continues till the golf ball holes out i.e. until the round ends.
Scramble golf rules involve allowing you, as a player, to position your golf ball within just one club-length from the chosen spot. Also, you cannot change the cut of grass your golf balls lie in. Meaning you don’t get to position the ball on the fairway in case the marker stands in the rough.
Golf scramble format variations are more suitable for beginner golfers. Simply because a weak driver can just choose to play his/her partner’s drive.
When skill sets differ, then also it’s the golf scramble format that seems like the best choice. As it encourages more daring action on the course.
For instance, your partner ends up striking a not-so-long drive. So you can unhesitatingly afford to risk it and hit long. What’s the worst that could happen? Your partner’s golf ball lands in that fairway. But what’s the upside? That you manage to generate an impressive longer drive. Therefore, having the upper hand in the game.
Best Ball vs Scramble – Major Misconception
When talking about the scramble format, the two golfers decide after both shots which of the two is the best one. Based on that, each player plays his/her next shot from the decided spot. And you play the shot within a club-length distance of that particular spot.
What factors matter the most in the case of the golf scramble format? Easiest putt, longest drive, best approach shot position, and the like.
In simple words, if player X strikes a straighter, longer drive. Then player Y picks up before going to the drive of player X and hitting from there. And, if then, Y strikes an iron shot closer to that pin. Then X plays from Y’s on-the-green position till the end of the round.
Needless to say, each golfer on the team gets the chance to hit the ball from every position. Let me also point out that the scramble format in golf is more popular for corporate events. You know where golf handicaps don’t seem to matter. Your priority is to win the game. While also having fun along the way.
As for the best ball golf format, each golfer plays his/her own ball all throughout the game. The score of the team for every hole is the lowest one achieved by either of the players of the same team. For example, if player X hits a 4 while player Y gets a 5. Then the team score for that specific hole is the one achieved by player X.
It goes without saying that handicaps are a major part of such a format. Merely to make the game more impartial for everyone.
If you ask me, the best ball format is comparatively more serious. And that’s because every player gets the chance to play his/her golf ball throughout the 18-hole round of golf. Meaning it’s a more suitable choice for experienced and professional golfers. Unlike golf scramble, which is a more fitting idea for beginners.
Best Ball vs Scramble – The Common Ground
One of the similarities includes both golf formats being played on the same turf. Meaning you can play the best ball and scramble on just about every course on planet Earth.
Another common denominator is that both formats require a team to play. And each team consists of 2 or 4 players. But if you decide to include over 4 golfers per team, then only expect your golf round to be a really long one.
Other Types of Playing Formats in Golf
1. Alternate Shot
This particular golf format requires a team of two players, just like the best ball and scramble. Both members play a single golf ball. Meaning they take turns for playing the strokes. Even tee shots are alternated. For instance, player X tees off on the first hole. So player Y tees off on the second hole.
Alternate Shot demands strategic play. Especially when it comes to deciding which players tee off first. And if you play out of order, then heavy penalties are charged by golfing rules.
2. Match Play
More often than not, junior golfing tournaments employ the Stroke Play format. Each golfer scores every hole with a similar number of strokes he/she took on that particular hole.
As for Match Play, you score holes based on the player who won that hole. The amount of strokes you take to finish a hole seems irrelevant here. For the most part at least! Therefore, the total number isn’t recorded. The lowest-scoring golfer wins that hole and gets awarded one point.
If your score is 8 while your partners’ score is 9. Then you still get to win one hole. But what about if teams and players tie the hole? Then the hole is considered as halved. And each golfer is awarded half a point.
And, needless to say, the team/player with the highest points wins at the end of the round.
You should also know that golfers tied at whatever point in the round are all equal or all square. And if your team is leading by 2 holes, then you’re 2 up. When the team is up by the number matching the number of holes that are remaining. In that case, the term used for the leading team is dormie. For example, the team that has 5 holes left and are 5 up.
Final scores are stated as functions of the victory margin. So let’s say that your team is leading by 4 holes with just 2 holes left. Then you can stop the game. And your final score is going to be 4 and 2.
No doubt, the best ball vs scramble comparison doesn’t underestimate the fun of either format. Both are very exciting to play on the same golf course. But you have to choose between the two.
Those who wish to hone their golfing skills and, at the same time, be a contributing part of the team. These kinds of golfers are more likely to find the best ball format very useful and enjoyable.
As for players who work as a team while also enjoying the freedom for playing a broad variety of shots. These types of golfers find the Scramble format more suitable.