How to Play a Shamble Golf Tournament

Explaining the golf format called a 'shamble'

Four golfers playing as a team
A shamble tournament is commonly played by 4-person teams, but 3-person or 2-person teams can play it, too. Chris Sattlberger/Blend Images/Getty Images

A "shamble" is a type of golf tournament format in which a team of golfers selects the one best drive among them after teeing off, then all four play their own golf balls from that position into the hole. You can think of a shamble as a scramble off the tee and then regular ol' stroke play into the hole.

  • Also known as: Shamble tournaments are sometimes called "brambles."

In his book, Chi Chi's Golf Games You Gotta Play (buy it on Amazon), Chi Chi Rodriguez and co-author John Anderson describe the attraction of the shamble format this way:

"Two nice benefits of a shamble: First, with occasional exceptions, golfers get to play approach shots from a decent position on the fairway. Second, it feels more like a regular game of golf; and if a player has plunked down a generous fee for a spot in the tournament, it's nice to be able to play your own ball and see the whole course."

When they say a shamble tournament "feels more like a regular game of golf," they mean that on every shot - except the second one - the golfers are, in fact, just playing regular golf. That is, they are hitting their own golf ball from its own position. That second shot exception is the scramble element that gives the twist to the shamble format.

Shamble, Part 1: A Scramble Off the Tee

Like in a scramble, all members of a team (usually four golfers per team, but it can be three or two) tee off and the best drive of the four tee shots is selected. All players move their balls to the location of that best drive.

That is the location from which each golfer plays his or her second stroke. So if Golfer B hits the best drive, Golfers A, C and D pick up their drives, walk over to the location of B's ball, and all play their next strokes from that location.

Shamble, Part 2: 'Real Golf' Into the Hole

Once each golfer in a shamble plays their second stroke, they continue playing their own golf ball into the hole, in each case from wherever it lies.

No more choosing the best of the second shots, best of the third shots, etc., as you'd do in a scramble tournament. That scramble element is only used after the tee balls. After that, each golfer on a team plays his or her own ball into the hole. They play "real golf," in other words.

Scoring In a Shamble Tournament

A shamble team consisting of four golfers is going to finish each hole with four scores - one for each golfer on the team. So what is the team score?

That's up to the tournament organizers, of course, but there are many options:

  • The one low ball of the golfers on the team can be the team score;
  • Or the two low balls combined ... or three low balls combined.
  • Or the lowest score combined with the highest score among the team members can be the team score.
  • Or throw out the low ball and high ball and combine the middle two scores for the team score.

A shamble tournament provides plenty of options for determining that team score. Shamble scoring is only limited by the tournament director's imagination.