What Is an Ambrose Competition or Ambrose Handicap?

Explanation of the Ambrose variation on a scramble

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An "Ambrose competition" is a golf tournament format that combines a scramble with a team handicap. Or, to put it another way, when you see "Ambrose" you know you'll be playing a scramble using net scores based on a handicap for your team.

Before we explain further:

Alternate Names of Ambrose Competition

Golfers might encounter any of these variations on the term "Ambrose competition":

  • Ambrose format or Ambrose tournament
  • Ambrose scoring
  • Ambrose scramble
  • Scramble with Ambrose scoring
  • Scramble with Ambrose handicaps
  • Or, simply, Ambrose

Determining the Team Handicaps in Ambrose

Ambrose handicaps are based on the handicaps of the individual golfers on a team. You can create team handicaps for 2-person, 3-person or 4-person scrambles.

There are two methods for arriving at Ambrose handicaps that are most common, and we'll describe them here. But specifics can vary so always check with the tournament organizers for instructions.

Method 1: Combine Course Handicaps and Divide

This is the simpler of the two methods: Team members calculate their individual course handicaps, those are added together and divided by a divisor that is a factor of the number of golfers on the team. Like this:

  • If it's a 2-person scramble, the handicaps of the two team members are added together and divided by 4.
  • For a 3-person scramble, add all three individual handicaps and divide by 6.
  • For a 4-person scramble, add together and divide the total by 8.

For a specific example, let's go with the middle option, theĀ  3-person scramble. Our example team members' handicaps:

  • Golfer A: 4-handicap
  • Golfer B: 15-handicap
  • Golfer C: 22-handicap

Add those three handicaps together and you get 41. Now, based on the instructions above for 3-person teams, divide by six: 41 / 6 = 6.83.

And this team's Ambrose handicap is 7.

If you have a 4-person team whose members' individual handicaps are 6, 12, 24 and 32, it works out to a team handicap of 9 (the four handicaps added together and divided by 8).

Method 2: Percentages of Golfers' Course Handicaps

The second method, and the one preferred by most handicapping experts, begins with each golfer on a team calculating his or her course handicap. Then percentages are applied, like this:

  • For a 2-person scramble: Take 35-percent of the A player's course handicap and add it to 15-percent of the B player's.
  • For a 3-person scramble: Add 20-percent of the A player's course handicap, 15-percent of the B player's and 10-percent of the C player's.
  • For a 4-person scramble: Take 20-percent of the A player's course handicap, 15-percent of the B player's, 10-percent of the C player's and 5-percent of the D player's, and add them together.

Let's do an example of Method 2, again using a 3-person team. Say Golfer A is a 7-handicapper, B a 17-handicapper and C a 22-handicapper. Twenty-percent of 7 is 1.4, which rounds to 1; 15-percent of 17 is 2.5, which rounds to 3; and 10-percent of 22 is 2.2, which rounds to 2. Add them together - 1+3+2 - and you get an Ambrose handicap of 6.

How an Ambrose Competition Works

The arithmetic above produces one team handicap to use during play.

As noted, an Ambrose competition is simply a scramble using team handicaps to produce a net score. So step one in playing an Ambrose: Play a scramble!

In a scramble, all members of your team tee off. Team members compare results and decide which of the drives is best. All team members then play their second shots from the location of the best drive. Repeat this process until the ball is in the hole.

In an Ambrose, you take the further step of factoring your team handicap into the scorekeeping. If the team handicap is 7, that means you get to deduct a stroke from the team's score on each of the seven toughest handicap holes on the golf course. (Those will be holes designated 1 through 7 on the "handicap" row of the scorecard.)

This produces a net score, as opposed to a gross score, and tournament winners and losers and placings are based on net score in an Ambrose.

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