Deciphering Shotgun Start in Golf: A Comprehensive Overview

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Slow pace of play is something that often happens at golf tournaments around the world. This is because all players start on the first tee, regardless of their handicap. This means that golfers sometimes have to wait for hours to tee off. This often results in players of differing abilities getting stuck behind one another and traffic forming on the golf course.

Fortunately, golf tournaments can be made quicker and easier with shotgun starts. In this guide, we will look at what a shotgun start in golf is and why it is such a benefit for you if you are planning to organize a golf tournament but want it to be effective and efficient while still being enjoyable for everybody.

What Is A Shotgun Start In Golf?

During a shotgun start, players begin from different points on the golf course at the same time. It is possible for players to catch up and overtake each other as they move from hole to hole. Golfers can play faster because of this.

Using one starting hole per group is often considered to be a more streamlined approach to tournaments. It is also likely to reduce the length of the round and make the event’s overall structure more flexible. They came about from May 1956, when a country club head pro named Jim Russell used a shotgun to signal the tournament start with golfers on tees spread out throughout the golf course. (TheSandTrap)

However, it’s important to remember that this format isn’t appropriate for every event. This is because a tournament with a shotgun start will need to use a range of different holes and there are some instances where it is appropriate to tee off from the same hole instead of roughly the same time but from a different hole.

Shotgun Start Vs Tee Times

Shotgun starts differ from standard tee times as each player will have a different start time from the same hole in a traditional format. Tee times allow for a more flexible approach as players can choose a tee time based on their schedule. However, shotgun starts allow a tournament to be completely much faster as players don’t need to wait to tee off.

What If There Are More Than 18 Groups?

If there are more than 18 groups of golfers due to be on the golf course and a shotgun start is in place then chances are that you are thinking that they can’t all tee off at the same time. The way around this would be to have an extra group on par 5’s or long par 4’s where the extra group could tee off once the first group had reached the green.

Shotgun Start Types

There are a range of different shotgun start types in golf and these range from a reverse shotgun start, double shotgun start, modified shotgun start and scramble shotgun start. We cover these in detail below.

Reverse Shotgun Start

In a reverse shotgun start, the shotgun format is played out in reverse. The benefit of setting a tournament up this way is that it will clear the first hole faster to open up the golf course for regular customers sooner.

Double Shotgun Start

A double shotgun start will come into play when there are tournaments with a large number of participants. This will typically see an early and late tee off times in shotgun format.

Modified Shotgun Start

A modified shotgun start will factor in regular paying customers and work the shotgun start format into a system that incorporates the tee times of non-tournament customers. This format will only really work if there is a smaller field.

Scramble Shotgun Start

The scramble shotgun start will follow a typical scramble format of playing the best ball but in a shotgun start format with everybody starting and finishing at the same time.

When Should I Choose A Shotgun Start?

Choosing a shotgun start for a tournament makes sense when you want the event to move as efficiently as possible, with a relatively large number of participants. As a result, the overall length of the day can be better set and the event can be planned more effectively.

Shotgun starts can work well for amateur events, with players of relatively equal ability as golfers with a similar ability will take an equivalent length of time it takes to play 9 or 18 holes of golf.


The shotgun start tournament format will involve golfers starting from a single hole simultaneously, which makes it a more streamlined approach to the start of a tournament. This will ensure that players are able to play more quickly and that overall event timing is kept as efficient as possible.

Compared to the standard tee time format that we regularly see at most golf courses, they will be faster but don’t allow golfers the flexibility to choose a tee time to start that suits their schedule.