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How to Choose a Charitable Golf Outing Scoring Format

Keith Moehring
May 21, 2024
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Alright folks, let's talk about a dilemma that every golf event organizer faces at some point: choosing between a Scramble and Best Ball format for your charity outing. 

Picking the right format can make all the difference in maximizing your event’s fun, engagement, and fundraising potential. You want your participants to have a blast out on the course, but you also need to keep things running smoothly and ensure that everyone feels included, regardless of their skill level. 

That's where understanding the pros and cons of Scramble and Best Ball comes in handy.

Understanding the Main Formats

Scramble: The Fan Favorite

In a scramble, a team of golfers plays as one. Everyone tees off, the group selects the best shot, and then everyone plays their next shot from there. Rinse and repeat until you've reached the green and sunk that putt. 

It's no wonder why this format is the go-to choice for most charity outings:

  • It's great for golfers of all skill levels. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a newbie still figuring out which end of the club to hold, a Scramble levels the playing field.
  • It's more fun because there's less pressure to play well. No one wants to spend their day stressing over every shot, right?
  • The game moves faster since the group always plays from the best shot because there is less time waiting around for that one player who's searching for their ball in the woods.
  • It's easier to keep score. You have one score for the group, so an event with 120 players may only have 30 scorecards.
  • There are more opportunities to play strategically. You can really put your heads together as a team and come up with a game plan. Have your most consistent player hit first, and then let your inconsistent power players hit after someone has put a good shot out there. 
  • There is a wide pool of players to participate. You can attract the novice players who may be too intimidated to play otherwise.

But, like any format, Scrambles have their drawbacks:

  • One group of really skilled golfers can dominate the event. If you've got a team of ringers, they might just run away with the prize.
  • It's not as exciting for a competitive field. If your participants are looking for a serious challenge, a Scramble might not cut it.
  • It's tough to use handicaps to level the playing field. Since everyone is playing from the best shot, individual handicaps don't come into play as much.

Best Ball: The Competitor's Choice

In a Best Ball format, each player in the group plays their own ball from start to finish. At the end of each hole, the lowest score (aka the "best ball") is recorded as the team score. Simple enough, right?

There are a few variations of Best Ball, depending on the group size. 

  • In a four-person best ball, one score is used for a team of four. 
  • In a two-person best ball, the lower score between the two players counts. 
  • In two best of four, the two lowest scores from the foursome are used.

Here's why Best Ball might be the way to go for your charity event:

  • It's more interesting for a competitive field. If your field includes mostly strong players, they may prefer a format that lets them play as individuals.
  • These formats also allow for a multi-format event with both a team leaderboard and an individual leaderboard. 
  • It's harder for one group to dominate the entire event. Even if you have a couple of stars on a team, it is harder to post really low scores compared to a scramble.
  • Individuals can still shine within a group. If someone's having a particularly great day on the course, it'll show in the team score.

But Best Ball isn't without its challenges:

  • Keeping score can be more complex, especially when handicaps are involved. You might need to bust out the calculator at the end of the round.
  • End of round delays. It will take much longer at the end of the round to calculate and rank scores, especially in a multi-format event (unless you're using live golf event scoring of course). 
  • It's not as inclusive for less skilled players. If you've got some weekend hacks in the mix, they might feel like their scores aren't contributing and they are holding back the team.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Format

So, how do you decide between Scramble and Best Ball? Here are a few key factors to keep in mind:

  1. Skill levels of participants: If you've got a wide range of abilities in your field, a Scramble might be the way to go to keep things fun and inclusive.
  2. Objective of the event: Is your main goal to create a fun, social atmosphere or to provide a competitive challenge? Let that guide your decision.
  3. Logistics and speed of play: Consider how each format will affect the pace of the event and the overall flow of the day. If you are trying to fit two outings in one day, with an AM and PM group, the faster format is preferable.
  4. Engagement and interaction: Which format will encourage more interaction and camaraderie among your participants? Both formats allow for excellent networking, but competition may not always bring out the best in people.

Incorporating Live Scoring Systems

No matter which format you choose, incorporating a live scoring system can take your event to the next level. Here's why:

  • It's a game-changer for Best Ball events. When scoring gets complicated with handicaps and multiple scores per hole, a live scoring system can streamline the process and calculate leaders in real-time.
  • It adds a dynamic element to the event. Participants and spectators can follow along with the leaderboard in real-time, which keeps everyone engaged and excited.
  • It helps with organization and smooth execution. No more chasing down scorecards or deciphering handwriting - a live scoring system keeps everything in one place.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the Scramble vs. Best Ball debate. It all comes down to understanding your audience, your event goals, and what will create the best experience for your participants.

Whether you go with the fan-favorite Scramble or the competitive Best Ball, remember that technology is your friend. Incorporating a live scoring system can elevate your event and keep everyone engaged from the first tee to the final putt.

So, choose wisely, and may the best format win! And if all else fails, just remember - as long as there's good company, great weather, and plenty of post-round refreshments, your charity outing is bound to be entertaining.


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