Golf games: How to play a shamble
Golf Culture

Golf games: How to play a shamble

A photo of the Korda sisters

There are so many good golf games to play, most of which have rules that make betting easy, too.

One of the greatest and most common golf games takes a lot of skill and strategy, and it's called a shamble.

The rules of a golf shamble

A shamble is a format you can play with two, three or four players. (Conceptually, it could be even more than four players, but there needs to be at least two.)

The rules of a shamble are pretty simple. At the start of each hole, all the players on a team -- of two, three or four players -- tee off. After each member of the team hits a shot, the team decides which of the shots hit was the best and leaves the team in the best position for the next shot.

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Once that decision is made, the team is then out on their own.

From the spot of the best shot, all of the team members will once again each hit a shot. From there, each player will play their own ball into the hole.

The team's score for a given hole depends on the format of the tournament or game in question. In many tournaments, the team score is that of the player on the team with the best individual score. In others, the score for each individual player counts. In others still, the score consists of the best one, two or three scores for a team. A shamble is a flexible format.

Golf games: Wolf | Scramble | Shamble | Snake | Nines or 5-3-1 | Nassau | Skins game | Quota | Snake | Chapman | Bingo Bango Bongo | Mulligan-Recall

Credit: Getty Images

Par is your partner

In some shambles, there is a stipulated rule that "par is your partner." What does this mean? It means a team can make no worse than par on a hole. If a team does not make birdie or better on their own accord, then they automatically score a par. This is designed to create a floor for scoring and to speed up play.

How to win a shamble

The winning team in a shamble is the team with the lowest combined score. Winning a shamble, though, does take some strategy in forming a team. Typically, great shamble teams have a good combination of long drivers, straight drivers, good iron players and good putters. The longest hitters give teams an edge in coming into greens, giving shorter hitters an easier time in hitting approach shots. Good putters are needed to make tricky putts that keep momentum going.

In many shambles, there are dishonest teams. They'll post a score that's just plain fake. So it's good to come into a shamble with low expectations of winning. If you suspect that a team is likely to fudge some scores, then just go and have a great time knowing that shop credit is probably not in your future.

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he has covered dozens of major championships and professional golf tournaments. He likes writing about golf and making it more accessible by answering the complex questions fans have about the pro game or who want to understand how to play golf better.

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