How to Play a Reverse Scramble

The "Reverse Scramble" format is sometimes played as a tournament. More often, golfers use it as a practice game to work on trouble shots.

You know what a scramble is, yes? Members of a team (2, 3 or 4) each play their drives. The best of those drives is chosen and all golfers hit their second strokes from that location. The best of the second shots is chosen, and all golfers play their third from that spot. This continues into the ball is in the hole.

So what is the reverse of that? It's this: In a reverse scramble, the team selects the worst shot, not the best, for each stroke, and all golfers have to play the next stroke from the location of that worst shot. Are you part of a 4-person team and one of your teammates duck-hooked his drive into the high weeds? Sorry, the other three of you are now playing your second strokes from the high weeds.

A regular scramble puts pressure on the team to come up with one good shot on each stroke. A reverse scramble puts pressure on everyone, each stroke, to not hit a terrible shot.

The worst-shot part of a reverse scramble even continues on the putting greens. Say your 4-person team is faced with a downhill, sliding 6-footer. Three of you just miss, but one of you runs your putt 10 feet past the hole. Sorry, you're all putting again from that spot 10 feet past the hole.

The reverse sramble format is also called an Opposite Scramble or a Worst Ball Scramble, and somes Bizarro Scramble.

Reverse Scramble Is Best As a Practice Game

Reverse scrambles, because they involve playing the group's worst shots instead of its best shots, take a lot longer to play than a regular scramble. So this format is not commonly played in tournaments. It would just tie up the golf course for too long. (A couple ways to make a reverse scramble tournament more manageable, however: make it a 9-hole tournament; and/or limit it to just 2-person teams.)

But reverse scramble is a fantastic practice game that can be played by two golfers against each other, or by one golfer all alone. You just need to be sure you aren't holding up any golfers behind you. But if you find yourself on a mostly empty golf course, fire away.

In the book Hit & Hope: How the Rest of Us Play Golf (affiliate link), the journalist David Owen wrote about playing reverse scrambles at his home club on slow days. For Owen, it was a two-person game: "We each hit two balls from the first tee, then each play two second shots from the worst of our two drives, and so on, until we have both holed out. If there is ever a doubt about which of any pair of shots is stinkier, the opposing player gets to choose."

Owen said that the Canadian pro Moe Norman liked to go out on the course alone late in the day and play four balls on every stroke over nine holes, always picking the worst result of the four for his next stroke.

What's the point? When you are playing your worst balls rather than your best, you'll be practicing from a much greater variety of lies and locations and trouble spots.

In Chi Chi's Golf Games You Gotta Play (affiliate link), Chi Chi Rodriguez and co-author John Anderson state that "a golfer will develop far more quickly learning to play difficult shots as opposed to easy ones."

The authors continue: "Because hitting two good shots in a row is hardly impossible, (this game) doesn't always mean having to hit from trouble or a terrible lie. But it will increase the level of difficulty on very shot, and that little bit of extra work will make a big difference when you go back to playing only your good ones."

As a practice game, the reverse scramble is also known as Worse Ball or Opposite. Remember when playing this game to always be considerate of any golfers who come up behind you on the course.

Related articles:

Owen, David. Hit & Hope: How the Rest of Us Play Golf, 2003, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks.
Rodriguez, Chi Chi, and Anderson, John. Chi Chi's Golf Games You Gotta Play, 2003, Human Kinetics

Popular posts from this blog

Ryder Cup Captains: The Full List