How to Play the Lone Ranger Golf Format

Lone Ranger is the name of a golf tournament format for four-person teams. On each hole, one member of the team is designated as the Lone Ranger and plays the hole solo. The other three team members play the hole as a scramble. Those two scores are combined to create the team score.

The "Lone Ranger" designation rotates throughout the round; for example, Player A has it on the first hole, B on the second, C on the third, D on the fourth, then back to A on the fifth and so on. So imagine on Hole 1 that Player A is the Lone Ranger, which means that B, C and D are playing the hole as a scramble. If Player A (Lone Ranger) makes a 5 on the hole, and B-C-D score 4 as a scramble, then the team's score on Hole 1 is 9 (the two scores added together).

On the second hole, Player B is the Lone Ranger, while A, C and D play the hole as a scramble. And so on, throughout the round. The rotation — the order in which the team members rotate as the Lone Ranger — is up to the team to decide. In Chi Chi's Golf Games You Gotta Play (affiliate link), the authors counsel, "Look at the scorecard carefully when establishing your team's ... order. Keep poor players away from water holes, and put your best players on the highest handicap holes."

Variations of Lone Ranger

"Lone Ranger" is sometimes a synonym for the golf formats called Money Ball or Devil Ball. Those formats are very similiar even when they are not identical. But as a synonym for Money Ball/Devil Ball, the biggest variation from the Lone Ranger described above is that a team is eliminated from the tournament if the golfer playing the Lone Ranger ball loses it. (Eliminated doesn't necessarily mean the team stops playing, though, just that they can't win the tournament or contend for any prizes.) In this version, tournament officials might provide the teams with a marked ball that the Lone Ranger must use on each hole.

This variation obviously puts much greater pressure on the Lone Ranger player not to screw up: playing safe, avoiding risk becomes a priority. In the Complete Book of Golf Betting Games (affiliate link), the author advises, "The (Lone Ranger) should never take chances. ... Focus on hitting fairways and avoiding trouble. Keep the ball in play, and let the rest of your team focus on making a good score with the (scramble) ball."

Another variation: Tournament organizers might decide to count one score as the tournament score, and use the other for a honey pot (bonus pool). For example, a tournament can say that the Lone Ranger score determines the winning team while the scramble score is used to divvy up a bonus pool. Or the other way around: scramble score wins the tournament, bonus pool payouts go to the lowest Lone Ranger scores. It is most common, however, to combine the two scores on each hole as described above.

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