There is a common misconception among golfers that scrambles and best ball tournaments are the same. Some even say “best ball scramble,” but there really is no such thing. The guy (or gal) who came up with the terminology must have been drunk or crazy, because both are very misleading.
The one thing both formats have in common is that teams typically have 2 or 4 golfers, competing against other teams.
Now, you might think that in a best ball format, you would use the best ball out of your team. Nope! In a scramble format, you might think that each player is scrambling around the course. Wrong again!
In a scramble, each player hits their own shot from the tee. The team then chooses the best shot. Players whose shots were not selected, go pick up their ball and the entire team shoots their second shots from where this “best shot” came to rest, (typically) with the option of shooting from within a club length of this “best ball” spot (except on the green of course). You cannot, however, move from rough to fairway, or fringe to green. After the second shot, this process continues as many times as necessary until a ball is in the hole. The team score for each hole is how many “best shots” were needed.
In a best ball format, each player on a team plays their ball from where it ends up (no “best shot” or picking up and moving the ball to another location). It can be viewed as each player playing a typical round of golf, with their own score for each hole. The team score for each hole is the lowest score by any one player. As an example, a team of 4 players shoot 4, 5, 4, and 6 on a hole. The team score for this hole would be a 4 because it was the lowest score.
Both formats have advantages and disadvantages.
By playing in a scramble, teams are able to put up some low scores, because there is a good chance that 1 out of 4 golfers will have a pretty decent shot. One thing I do find in scrambles is that players do no play their typical golf game. If the first player to tee of hits one safely down the fairway, every player after usually tries to crank one a mile, leading to bad habits.
When playing a best ball format, each player gets to play their own game. This gives everyone the chance to know how they scored for the course, because each player has an individual score for each hole. The team scores are usually much higher with this format, because it’s not a collective effort for each shot, like in a scramble.
When playing in a scramble, “Drive for show, put for dough!” In order to win, your team must be able to make putts of a decent length.