What Is The Difference Between Best Ball And Scramble?

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Up for having a bit of fun on the course this week? 

Why not book a four-ball and take your friends out for a game of scramble or best ball?

Scramble and best ball game types can liven up a round of golf from the traditional Stableford or stroke play game types. You’ll also find a lot of competitions and society days employ these rules too so its best to have an idea of the rules before you start playing. 

But what’s the difference between best ball and scramble?

Best Ball - Golf's Most Friendly Competition Format

Well, both are team games, and can really add a bit of friendly competition to your round. 

For best ball, players will play in teams of either 4 or 2, with each player teeing off and playing out each hole counting their score as they go. 

At the end of each hole players will compare scores with their teammate and whoever gets the better score on the hole, will put their score down on the team’s scorecard, with the higher player’s score being disregarded. 

The round will go on like this, with each player contributing by playing their own game, but also helping to give their team the lowest score possible. 

You can adapt the game to put a bit of an edge on it by playing match play rules instead of standard strokeplay scoring. In matchplay game types, players work in teams to score points against their opposition.

You score a point every time a team member shoots a lower score on a hole compared to your opponents, if both teams draw level on scores on a hole, you’ll half the hole with each team scoring a half point each.

Scramble - A Competitive Yet Fun Golf Game

Also known as ‘texas scramble’ or ‘captain’s choice’, scramble works a bit differently from best ball with teams playing from the best shot on the course.

Players will get into teams of either 2 or 4. The game works well in four balls as teams of two can play off against each other to add a bit more competition to the game. 

Each player will then tee off and the individual teams will pick the best ball they want to play from, with the player hitting the less desirable shot picking up and moving his ball to one club-length of the chosen shot. 

Both teams will then continue to play out the round in this format, scoring in either matchplay or standard stroke play formats. But there are a couple of rules, the first being that players can only play off the same cut of grass that the original shot landed on.

For example, you can’t play from the fairway if your chosen ball landed one club length away in the first cut. 

You can also add variations to the scramble format to spice the game up, like adding a rule that each player must contribute at least 4 drives to their overall score. 

This will challenge players to be tactical to play to their strengths, for example, if one player can hit it longer than the other, but one is more accurate, the accurate player might play more conservatively on the longer holes to keep the team in play, while the big hitter swings for the glory shot. 

You can even spice things up by playing Vegas scramble. Before the round, each player will be assigned a number between 1-4.

After each player has tee’d off on each hole, the group will roll a six-sided dice, that will pick who’s ball each player will have to play from. If you roll a five or a six the standard scramble rules apply and players will pick the best ball to play from.

Which Is Better?

Both are great games to play, adding extra competition and rivalry to your round. Plus both games let players of lesser ability play with more experienced golfers, ultimately helping them improve their game. 

Scramble may add a bit more fun to the game than best ball, as you can experiment with your golf shots more. Perhaps your partner might hit a relatively good shot to the outskirts of the green, but you might want to experiment and go that bit further and drive the ball pin high.

Scramble can also be pretty funny to watch when when somehow either one or all four of you end up hitting your balls from the rough. 

Although best ball will give you a indication of how you played. You can play your own game while also contributing to the team’s score. Plus you’ll also see yourself collaborating with your teammate and experimenting with your shots on the course to get the lowest score.

For example, if your partner is scoring well, you can use their game as an insurance to allow you to shoot for the hole and score lower rounds.


Players compete in foursomes in the Ryder Cup, with teams of two playing one ball, and alternating shots on the course. This is a great way to play with your partner as you can both strategize your game plan depending on your different styles of play, to score the best rounds.

If both players hit a shot out of bounds in scramble, the players both have to retake their shot and it will be classed as a penalty on their score.

Scramble is the best game to play as a four ball. All players can tee off and build a score together, based on the scramble shots from all four players. This four-balls final score will then face off against the other scores around the competition.

That extra bit of fun

Golf can sometimes get a bit too serious. It is a frustrating game, and it’s great every now and then to take the pressure off and have a little bit of friendly competition and fun on the course. 

Scramble and best ball are great ways to have some fun with your friends and can be great formats to play in competitions and society days. They’ll also enable you to play with better players and learn from more experienced golfers while you hack around the course.

Ed Carruthers
Ed Carruthers
Ed Carruthers is a London-based semi-professional golfer. He loves traveling and is a bit of a sports fanatic. When he’s not at his desk, he’s either hacking around the golf course, kicking a footy around with his mates, or watching his beloved football team Everton.