What is Texas Scramble and How to Play it

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Before we look into the finer details of Texas Scramble, let us take a closer look at how it is played.

What is Texas Scramble in Golf?

Texas Scramble is one of the most popular team golf formats, usually consisting of three or four players. Each member of the team hits a tee shot on every hole and one of the drives (usually the best drive) is chosen by the team members as the ball in play. 

From that spot, all members of the team play their second shot. Again the best second shot is chosen and all team members play their third shot from that spot. The process repeats itself until the ball is holed.

Each competing team will put their team score for each hole and the winner is the team with the lowest score come the end of the round.

Group of golfers teeing off on the 1st tee at St Andrews Jubilee course

Texas Scramble is also known as Captains Choice but the former came about due to the rising popularity of the game in Texas throughout the 1950s.

One of the many reasons why the format has had success is because it takes the pressure off the individual golfer. For example, if you were to hit a wayward tee shot into the trees but one of your team members found the middle of the fairway with their drives, you can simply drop your ball next to their ball and continue playing from the fairway. This allows players to relax more, yet still encourages the teams to play aggressive and shoot low scores.

Due to the nature of the Texas Scramble format, it’s possible for a team to carry a weaker player and that makes it a good format for charity or corporate events, where some players may not be regular golfers. It allows them to participate without the fear of losing their team the game.

Handicap Allowance for Texas Scrambles

There have never really been any specific rules regarding the handicap allowance when playing Texas Scramble. However, the most common handicap allowance used when playing the game has been 10% of the total of the three or four players handicaps.

However, due to the new World Handicap System, this has changed and the handicap system used is based on the number of players in each team. You can see the exact recommended numbers below:

  • Scramble (4 players) 25% / 20% / 15% / 10% from the lowest to highest handicap
  • Scramble (3 players) 30% / 20% / 10% from the lowest to highest handicap
  • Scramble (2 players) 35% Low / 15% High

For example if you’re a team of 4 with handicaps 5, 10, 15 and 20, your team Texas Scramble handicap would be 7.5.

Player A: 1.25 (5 x 25%) + Player B: 2 (10 x 20%) + Player C: 2.25 (15 x 15%) + Player D: 2 (20 x 10%) = 7.5 

Generally in Texas Scramble, you also don’t round up or down the handicaps. So, if the team above scored 71 gross, then they would take away their handicap of 7.5 giving them a net score of 63.5 which is what they would mark on the card and return. 

This is however by no means a strict rule. Various clubs run Texas Scramble competitions in different ways and may use a different way of working out the handicap allowance but this is the data provided based on the World Handicap System.

How to Play a Texas Scramble Game

Step 1 – Handicap Allowance – Using the information above, you can work out the handicap allowance based on the number of players in each team. You will notice the highest handicap player always has the lower percentage.

Step 2 – Tee Off – Every player in each team will tee off, there are no exceptions. Remember, not every ball will be used from the position it lands.

Step 3 – Pick The Best Drive – Team members can get together to choose the best drive and, in most cases, this will be obvious but may require a little discussion if there are two or more drives in a similar position. The team captain will have the final choice. It’s worth remembering at this point, there are various versions of Texas Scramble with additional rules. A common rule is that each golfer must use a specific number of their drives during the round. In which case, the drive you choose to use must be considered carefully.

Step 4 – All Play Second Shot – Having chosen which drive to use, every player in the team will play a second shot from this position. The ball position of any other drives on this hole is ignored and players can pick up their balls to play from the chosen driver position.

Step 5 – All Play Third Shot – The same procedure applies as above for all remaining shots, until the hole is complete. Only one golfer needs to hole out on each hole.

Step 6 – Mark Down Gross Scores – The gross score must be marked down on the scorecard for each hole. That means the total number of strokes played on the hole.

Step 7 – Total Score – At the end of the round, calculate the total score and take away your team handicap to give the total net score.

How to Win at Texas Scramble

Perhaps the most obvious way to have the greatest chance of success when playing Texas Scramble is to put together a strong team

Other than the rule which specifies a minimum number of drives per player, you’re not required to record the name of the golfer who played every shot during the round. As a result, a team made up of lower handicaps have a better chance of scoring lower. And given the handicap allowance is quite low, a lot of the shots from higher handicaps will be wiped out! 

Therefore, when choosing a team, make sure you have at least one low handicap player to give you a chance of winning.

In terms of higher handicappers, there’s little reward for consistency when playing Texas Scramble. In which case, it makes sense to choose high handicap players who may play some poor holes but are also capable of producing great shots. There will be times when the ball of this player is completely out of contention but at other times, it will be in a fantastic position and that is all you need when playing Texas Scramble.

As highlighted above, consistency isn’t going to help you win a game of Texas Scramble. Therefore, you may as well play attacking shots throughout the round as you always have the back-up of the other players in your team. 

For example, if you are teeing off first and believe you can carry the ball over a water hazard but it’s a bit of a risk, just give it a go! If you don’t quite carry it, the other players in your team can play a more conservative shot to get a ball in play. However, if you do make it over the water, you’re gong to be in a great position for the second shot and the remaining players can also have a go and could even end up in a better position for the second shot.

Perhaps the only time where you may play conservatively is when you are teeing off last in your group and the other shots have all gone astray. This would be a good time to just get the ball on the fairway, without trying anything too risky.

Selecting which drive to use and when is also one of the more strategic elements of playing Texas Scramble. 

If you have a player who regularly struggles off the tee, you should try and use their drives as early as possible or on par-3 holes. Also try not to leave one player with the majority of the drives in the final few holes. 

The advantage of playing Texas Scramble is that it removes the pressure from each individual golfer in the team. By forcing a player to use their drives in 3 of the final 4 holes, however good they are off the tee, piles the pressure on them and leaves the team without any options should they miss the fairway.