Building A Perfect Scramble Team
By kickntrue on 5/3/10
By Matt Snyder, ClubSG Contributor

Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

I love the sport of golf, but sometimes, the individuality of the game can be frustrating. Thankfully, golfing geniuses of years past have created alternative forms of golfing competition that unite players as teammates. Alternate shot, better ball, and scramble are three great formats for generating team competition in the sport of golf. Of those three, the scramble is by far and away the most popular. Besides its simplicity, scramble golf is extremely popular because it allows even high-handicappers to play and contribute the success of their team. I could probably go on and on with other characteristics about the scramble format that make it such a success, but anyone who has played in a scramble already knows all of the things that make the format great. So, instead, I’m going to offer up some suggestions on how to build the perfect team for scramble success.

It is vital that at least three of the four people on your team have a legitimate chance of hitting the green from 150 yards and closer. Two of those three guys should be able to knock down the flag.
The first component that I want to talk about is the distance player. You should have at least one guy on your squad that has the potential to crush the ball, especially off the tee. With four people hitting second shots, a long drive can go a long way towards guaranteeing birdies on par 4’s and having opportunities for eagles on par 5’s. Even if your long-ball man is erratic, he is still an asset. Obviously, the more consistent he is, the better, but this role is not about stripping it down the middle. It’s all about bombing it out there and allowing the rest of the team to go to work. This player is best positioned last in the order of play when teeing off and also when hitting second shots on par 5’s. The three players ahead of him should ensure that at least one ball is in good position so that there is no pressure on the distance player to keep his shot in play. He can just grip it and rip it.

While the distance guy is important, he is probably the one you can get away with not having. You only need one of him or her and you certainly don’t want an entire group of distance players. After the tee shot has been hit, it is time for the next role to be filled. This role is that of the iron-man. It is vital that at least three of the four people on your team have a legitimate chance of hitting the green from 150 yards and closer. Two of those three guys should be able to knock down the flag. If you are going to be successful in scramble tournaments, your team must hit almost every green in regulation. And, just being somewhere on the green, is not good enough. If you want to compete, your team should be putting from inside 20 feet on a routine basis. To play to that level, it takes at least two solid iron players and one other guy who is able to put the ball on the green. When executing your second shots, the order of play should be based on ability. You want your worst iron player hitting first and your best iron player hitting last. The hope is that each shot played gets the team closer to the pin. Hopefully, when it is time for the third and fourth players to hit, your team already has one ball somewhere on the green so that both of these players can take dead aim. Iron play, and especially wedge play, is often the key that makes or breaks a scramble team. So, when choosing your players, make sure you’ve got at least two guys who can hit it close more often than not. Even in a scramble, you can’t make birdies if you can’t hit greens.

It is an absolute cardinal sin of scramble golf. Not only is it true that 99.9% of short putts don’t go in, but you also deprive the players behind you of an accurate read when your putt comes up short.
Now, the last element of your scramble team that is an absolute must have if you are going to finish at the top is a group of four guys who can all get it done with the flat stick. I don’t care how far your team can hit it or how good they are with their irons, if the team doesn’t have four guys who are at least average putters, you’ll be hoping for success in the second flight. Most of the time, the difference between first and first loser is that 6-foot putt that one team made and one team missed. I cannot tell you how many times I have played on a scramble team who hit the ball incredibly well all day, but didn’t even have a chance to win because no one could make a putt. And, it only takes one bad putter to make a big difference in the teams’ success. Even the worst putter on your team must be able to get the ball to the hole consistently on a relatively decent line. A good first putt exponentially increases the likelihood of the team making the putt. As it is with your second shots, on the green, you want your team operating in the order of their ability. Worst putter putts first and best putter putts last. And, regardless of where you are in the order, make sure you NEVER leave a putt short in a scramble. It is an absolute cardinal sin of scramble golf. Not only is it true that 99.9% of short putts don’t go in, but you also deprive the players behind you of an accurate read when your putt comes up short. So, get the ball to the hole! Just like in stroke play, the short game is where the strokes are. If you’ve got a team of good putters, you’ve got a good chance to win.

While scramble golf is a great format for having fun with friends, if your goal is to win, you need to look for teammates with these characteristics. Playing on a scramble team that is in contention for the win will give you a rush like few others in the sport of golf. It is an opportunity for mid to high handicappers to fall in love with competitive golf and its’ ebbs and flows. If you build your team properly, despite your handicap, you’ll be on your way to experiencing the thrills of scramble success.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

photo source

[ comments ]
kickntrue says:
I agree with most of these points- but let me add one more. Find the best female player in your town... Most scrambles let women hit from the forward tees. In a lot of cases this can give a 50-100 yard advantage. If you can find the best female in town- how can consistently hit the ball 200-225 yards off the tee and in play... game over.
clay84 says:
Agree with kickntrue. We had a female that played in our foursome of all our scrambles and he ws right game over..
wugolfer3118 says:
Great column idea! I think more importance should have been placed on finding at least two guys who are great with wedges. Our team is a 5-time defending champ in our club's annual scramble by having 2 bombers, and 3 excellent wedge players. If you're tapping in from 3 feet all day you don't need to have good putters. Great work Matt!!
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