Texas Scrambles

Texas Scrambles

Texas Scrambles are one of the most popular team golf formats, usually consisting of three or four players and where each member of a team plays a shot on every hole.

Texas Scrambles have also been known as Captain’s Choice, because the chosen captain of a team used to decide which of the balls struck would be chosen to decide the spot where the next shot would be played from.

The name Texas Scramble is believed to have originated because of 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 near to where their ball came to rest and continue playing from the fairway.

This allows players to relax more, yet still encourages the teams to play aggressive and shoot low scores.

Because of 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 fun, 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.      

Texas Scrambles have never been recognised by CONGU as an ‘acceptable’ golf format and there have never really been any specific rules regarding the handicap allowance when playing Texas Scramble.

However, the most common handicap allowance that used to be applied when playing the game was 1/10th of the total of four players handicaps or 1/6th of three players.

Unfortunately, the Handicap Allowances that had been used tended to favour the lower Handicap players and hence the stronger teams.

Now, under the new World Handicap System, this has changed, and a more equitable  handicap system is used 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, in GB&I, if you’re a team of 4 with handicaps 5, 10, 15 and 20, your team Texas Scramble handicap would be 8.

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 (Rounded to 8)

So, if the team above scored a 71 gross, then they would take away their handicap of 8 giving them a net score of 63 which is what they would mark on the scorecard and return. 

In GB&I, these Handicap Allowances are rounded up.

In other jurisdictions, generally, in Texas Scrambles, you 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. 

In GB&I these Handicap Allowances are mandatory, however in other countries it is 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.

It is fine that WHS have recognised Texas Scrambles and recommended Handicap Allowances for 2, 3 and 4-player teams, but it has not considered the case when players cannot enter a full team.

For example, in a 4-player Texas Scramble a team turns up one player short and therefore can only field a 3-player team.

In a 4-player Texas Scramble if a 3-player team is entered, the Handicap Allowance of 30%,20%,10% cannot be used, the allowance would be totally unfair compared to that given to a 4-player team.

There is no recommendation in the WHS as to how you should deal with this situation, and, as before Competition Committees are being left to their own devices to deal equitably with these situations.

I have contacted CONGU regarding this situation and am assured that they are looking into it.

I await their decision, in time.

Meanwhile, I have found a few ways in which clubs are dealing with this.

  1. Applying the Terms of the Competition, if it states that it is a 4-player Texas Scramble, then any team that will not have 4 members will not be able to compete in the competition and may be asked to withdraw.
  2. Because you cannot override the Handicap Allowance set by WHS in your Handicap Software some clubs introduce a ‘Ghost Player’ to make up the team. From what I have been able to find, this has been either a ‘player’ with a Course Handicap of 18 or 20. I would personally choose a Handicap Index of 20, for a male Ghost Player and a Handicap Index of 24, for a female Ghost Player. These values represent the average Handicap Indexes recommended by the WHS for the respective genders. A male Bogey Player is considered to have a Handicap Index between 17.5 and 22.4, while a female Bogey Player is considered to have a Handicap Index between 21.5 and 26.4.
  3. A third option has been to use, in an example of a 4-player Texas Scramble, the Handicap Allowance for a 3-player Team multiplied by a factor of 1.33. So, allowing an addition of one third to the 3-player handicap allowance. In a 3-player Texas Scramble for a 2-player team there would be a multiplication factor of 1.5, so allowing an addition of one half to a 2-player handicap allowance. In my opinion this adjustment can be a little too generous.

A few tips and hints on playing Texas Scrambles

Below, I have set out some tips that I have gathered for you to consider so that you can be confident and more competitive when playing Texas Scrambles.

A Typical Texas Scramble Format.

  1. Handicap Allowance

Using the information I gave you in the last Newsletter, you can work out the handicap allowance based on the number of players in your team. Something you may notice is that the highest handicap player always has the lower percentage. In England, Wales and Ireland this Handicap Allowance will be Rounded.

  • Tee Off

Every player in your team will tee off, there are no exceptions. Remember, not every ball will be used from the position it lands.

  • Pick the Best Drive

Choose a team captain. You 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. Your 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.

  • All Play Second Shot

Having chosen which drive to use, every player in your 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.

  • 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.

  • Mark Down Gross Scores

The total number of strokes played must be marked down on the scorecard, for each hole.

  • Total Score

At the end of the round, calculate the total number of strokes played and take away your team handicap to give the total net score.

How to Win at Texas Scramble

The most obvious way for you to have the greatest chance of winning when playing Texas Scramble is to put together a strong team.

Other than a 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 low, given the handicap allowance is quite low, a lot of the shots from higher handicaps will be wiped out.

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

With higher handicappers, there’s little reward for consistency when playing a Texas Scramble.

So, in this case, it makes sense to choose high handicap players who may play some poor holes but are also capable of producing great shots. There may be times when the ball of a high-handicap player is completely out of contention but at other times, it may be in a really good position and that is all you need when playing a Texas Scramble.

As I mentioned 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.

It can also be an advantage if you decide the order of play for players within your team.

For example, if you are teeing off first and believe you can carry the ball over a penalty area, say a pond or small ravine, 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 penalty area, you’re going 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 than yours for the second shot.

Perhaps the only time when you may consider playing 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 in play on the fairway, without trying anything too ambitious.

Another point to consider in your playing strategy is which drive to use and when.

If one of your team regularly struggles off the tee, you should try and use their drives as early as possible or on par-3 holes and try not to leave one player with most of her or his drives in the final few holes.


  1. There is an advantage to playing a Texas Scramble, in that, whatever anyone may say, it removes the pressure from each individual player in a team.
  2. But, if you end up forcing a player to use her or his drive in 3 of the final 4 holes, however good they are off the tee, you increase the pressure on them and leave the team without any options should they miss a fairway.

I hope you find this useful,

Good Luck in your next Texas Scramble