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Sports Betting News

Best Ball vs Scramble: Understanding the Differences
Published Dec 23, 2023
by Gil Larson

Among the most popular golf games are Best Ball and Scramble, two team-based formats that are favorites in both casual rounds and competitive tournaments. While they share some similarities, their differences in rules, strategies, and scoring are quite different.

What is Best Ball?

Best Ball, often played in teams of two or four, is a format where each player plays their own ball throughout the round. The team’s score for each hole is the lowest score, or “best ball,” shot by one of the team members. For example, in a team of two, if Player A scores a 5 and Player B scores a 4 on a hole, the team’s score for that hole is 4. Variations of Best Ball include Fourball, a format famously used in the Ryder Cup, where two teams of two compete against each other, with each player playing their own ball and the best score from each team taken for each hole.

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Scoring in Best Ball

Scoring in Best Ball is straightforward – it’s simply the sum of the lowest scores achieved by the team members on each hole. For instance, if a team’s scores over 18 holes are 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, and 4, their total score for the round is 70. This format rewards individual performance while still emphasizing team strategy, as each player’s contribution can significantly impact the team’s overall score

Strategies for Playing Best Ball

Success in Best Ball requires a blend of individual skill and strategic team play. Here are key strategies to excel in this format:

  • Complementary Pairing: As far as team composition goes, you’ll want to pair players with complementary skills together. For instance, a player with a strong long game can be paired with a player who excels in putting or short game. This ensures that the team can perform well across different types of holes.
  • Play to Your Strengths: Each player should focus on their strengths. If one player is a risk-taker and confident in making long shots, they can play more aggressively, while the other can play more conservatively to ensure a steady score.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: On each hole, assess the situation after everyone has played their shot. Sometimes, it might be worth taking a risk if one team member has already secured a safe score.
  • Mental Fortitude: Maintain focus and don’t let a bad shot by one player affect the team’s morale. In Best Ball, a mistake by one player can be offset by a great shot from another.
  • Understanding the Course: As with any golf game, knowledge of the course is crucial. Plan your strategy around each player’s strengths relative to the specific challenges of the course.
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What is Scramble?

Scramble, also known as Texas Scramble, is a more relaxed and often faster-paced format, making it a favorite for charity events and company-wide outings. In this format, each player in a team tees off, and the best shot is selected. All team members then play their next shots from that spot, and this process is repeated until the ball is holed. The team decides the best shot, considering factors like distance to the hole, lie of the ball, and individual player strengths. This format is less about individual prowess and more about team collaboration and strategy.

Scoring in Scramble

Scoring in Scramble is based on the collective performance of the team. On each hole, the team’s score is the number of strokes taken from the best shot until the ball is holed. For example, if the best drive lands on the fairway, all team members play their second shot from that spot. The process continues until one team member holes the ball. The key to a low score in Scramble is effective teamwork and choosing the best shot that maximizes the team’s strengths. Unlike Best Ball, where individual scores can vary, Scramble unifies the team under a single score per hole, often leading to lower overall scores due to the collaborative approach.

Strategies for Playing Scramble

Scramble is as much about strategy as it is about golf skills. Here are some tips for excelling in this format:

  • Team Synergy: Choose shots that play to the team’s overall strengths. If one member is an excellent putter, aim to set up shots that capitalize on their putting skills.
  • Risk Management: Since all players take their next shot from the best previous shot, it allows for calculated risks. One player can take a more aggressive approach, while others aim for safer shots.
  • Effective Communication: Discuss each shot with your team. Collective decision-making ensures that everyone agrees on the best strategy for each shot.
  • Play Order: Be strategic about the order in which team members play their shots. Sometimes, having a consistent player go first can set a solid baseline for others to take more risks.

Comparing Best Ball and Scramble

While both Best Ball and Scramble are team formats, they differ significantly in gameplay and strategy. Best Ball emphasizes individual performance within a team context, where each player’s score can contribute to the team’s success. It rewards consistent play and individual skill.

Scramble, on the other hand, is more about team collaboration. It often leads to lower scores due to the advantage of selecting the best shot on each stroke. Scramble is generally more forgiving and can be more suitable for players of mixed skill levels, as it allows weaker shots to be offset by stronger ones from teammates.


Both Best Ball and Scramble offer unique experiences on the golf course, each with its own set of rules, strategies, and appeal. Best Ball allows individual skills to shine within a team framework, making every player’s performance crucial to the team’s success. Scramble, with its focus on team collaboration and strategic shot selection, offers a more relaxed and inclusive approach, ideal for players of varying abilities.

Whichever game you choose to play at your next tee time, you’re sure to have a great time.