What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

by Bill Winters

Golf is a game very loved by Chinese and Russians, although invented initially by the Scottish. It's a game played very well by professionals and has a vast list of rules and regulations and there are tremendous ways of playing it. Obviously every step of the game has many ways of doing it just like every player has a different style of striking the ball may it be a straight shot or a swing shot like a slice, a hook and countless other ways. Today here, we are concerned with the ways of beginning the game and the number of players included in different ways of initiating the game. Since shotgun is an easy and approachable method, it is used widely. It is a quicker tournament and it allows the space to be cleared for the next groups of players quickly and more number of players can play on a single day. In this way the club owner earns more and also more entrants are allowed in the club thus making sports easier and merrier. 

There are mainly two ways of initiating the game: the shotgun start and tee times. Both of them are totally different ways with diverse utilities and some odds as well. It surely is the tournament holder's own choice and sometimes the player's own choice as well. As we are concerned with the shotgun start, we will begin with that. This is the most widely used method to hold a tournament.

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?
What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

Why Do You Call It a Shotgun Start?

Coming to the invention of the shotgun start method, it was very first observed in Washington in 1956, at the Walla Walla country club. The name says it all. 'Shotgun' suggests that the first time a tournament was initiated by this method, a weapon fired into the air by Jim Russell to give a notification that the pay is starting and the players are ordered to start teeing on their respectively allotted holes, and so the tournament begins.

Why Do You Call It a Shotgun Start?
Why Do You Call It a Shotgun Start?

Nowadays obviously guns are not fired but some other means are used to notify the players about the starting of the game. These other means include either a horn or a loud speaker notification from the tournament organizers.

Tee Time Start

The other way of initiating the game is tee time start. In the tournament of tee times, only one starting hole is used for all the players wanting to play throughout the day. Each of the players of the whole day is assigned a particular start time called tee time. As a single starting hole is used, the first player starts at that hole and with a gap of 10 to 15 minutes, the next participant comes and starts his game at the starting point. Just like that, each of the players is assigned a starting time or tee time of 15 minutes gap from the successive players.

Tee times have their own set of pros and cons. Many busy people or people with a tight schedule prefer tee times as they can choose a tee time by their own will whenever they feel they have ample time and they can go play. The player has a flexibility in the sense that he is not destined to play at a specific time along with everyone else.

As a minus point, less number of players can play and underutilization of the vast area of the club results.

Tee Time Start
Tee Time Start

The choice is difficult as it depends on the demands of the area and its owners and demands of the players. If you want the players to move through the ground quicker and to finish a tournament in lesser time, shotgun may be your choice. On the other hand, if player flexibility is to be achieved, the tournament organizers may go for tee time!

What Exactly Is the Shotgun Method?

What Exactly Is the Shotgun Method?
What Exactly Is the Shotgun Method?

Well, in this method, the players are given different teeing holes. They are to be present at their locations before the game begins and once the gun is fired, or any other initiating notification is given, all the players initiate their round from their respectively allotted tee holes and the tournament begins simultaneously. Each of the players is at a different tee hole initially and as soon as the game is initiated, all of them all together start from their own starting point and continue along the course.

Shotgun Tournament Explained

In case of 18 groups:

The steps to this game are as following-

  • Usually with a shotgun method, 18 groups each with 4 players are formed.
  • All the 18 groups have been allotted different teeing holes throughout the golf club. This method is called eighteen four balls, indicating that there are 18 groups with 4 members each.
  • Their group distinctions are already marked at their tee holes.
  • If there are 18 groups, it is likely that they will be aligned in reverse order, for example, the 18th group will be given the starting point that is the first in line of the club.
  • When they arrive to the club, they are directed to their starting points by the tournament organizers.
  • When all the group members are ready, the tournament is initiated with some signal may it be from a loud speaker or even a horn may be used.
  • As soon as the signal is made, the players start teeing from their starting point and continue through the club along their course.
In case of 18 groups:
In case of 18 groups:

In case of more than 18 groups:

The above method was for eighteen four balls. Now if there are more than 18 groups, it does not require separate tournaments instead they can be adjusted within the same tournament within the same allocated space. In this case the players will have to follow these rules:

  • Instead of one group at one teeing hole or starting point, there will be two groups, but remember this can only be done at two par fives and not more than two so you can accommodate twenty four balls at a time. If more than two par fives are assigned two groups, then there would be clashing of groups through their courses.
  • Say for example group A and group B are allotted one starting location. Group A is placed ahead of group B say for instance.
  • As the shotgun is fired or the game is initiated, group A starts its round and moves along its specified course.
  • After some time when the group A is out of reach, group B is signaled to initiate its round.
  • In this way many groups can be accommodated in a single tournament.
In case of more than 18 groups:
In case of more than 18 groups:

Types of Shotguns

There are following types of shotguns;

1. Shotgun Scramble

Shotgun Scramble
Shotgun Scramble

This is a type of shotgun method in which the players are teamed up into four balls within which is also their team captain and they are allotted their teeing point. As the shotgun is fired, each member of the four balls is allowed to tee. The team captain then selects the best tee. The same happens along the whole course, each player is allowed to hit his shot through the series of holes and the best shots are selected from each of them.

The total score in this case is the sum of best selected tees by the captain.

2. Modified Shotgun

In the modified shotgun type, all the rules are the same but instead of utilizing the golf club for only the shotgun tournament, other players and tourists are also allowed in the club.

This is more used in a small club. Although it is difficult to manage the recreational players and the tournament players all together in a single club but it is worth it.

3. Double Shotgun

This is a method used in clubs which have a great load of players on daily basis. So what they do is that they arrange two shotgun tournaments, thus the name "double shotgun", in a day let us say for example one shotgun is arranged at 10am and the other at 2pm. In this way more number of players will get a chance to play and player satisfaction will be achieved.

4. Reverse Shotgun

When eighteen four balls are not present, the tournament starts with fewer groups and after firing of shotgun, the teeing points are vacated for other recreational players so that both visitors and tournament players can play side by side and the club space does not go wasted.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: What Is a Tee and Tee Time?

Answer: Tee is the first shot a player hits for each hole. Tee time is the time allotted to a player at which he is to hit his first shot during the tournament. Mostly tee times are 10 to 15 minutes apart.

Question 2: Which Is the Most Fun Shotgun Method?

Answer: The most fun shotgun method is scramble shotgun method.


A shotgun start in golf was first observed in Washington, when Jim Russell fired from his gun as an indicator for the game to begin. All the members of eighteen four balls are positioned on their own tee point. As soon as the gun is fired, the groups initiate their rounds and follow the course through the area. All members initiate the game at the same second and also finish at almost the same time. There are 4 types of shotgun: reverse, double, modified, scramble. Shotgun start is utilized when more number of entrants is to be entertained within minimum time.

About Bill Winters

Those who have not yet tried the sport just can’t imagine what is driving these golfers to brave the sun’s heat and go around a course bigger than several football fields combined. It seems like an awful lot of work considering that the ball is quite small that is must be hard to hit, the ground of the course is not flat and, most annoying of all, there are sand traps lying around seemingly bent on preventing a player from finishing the course.

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Thoughts on "What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?"

About the Author

The game of golf may seem like an awful lot to take on when one considers that the ball is quite small, must be hard to hit and carry through windy conditions with little chance for error. The ground course has hillsides which make it challenging enough without adding sand traps who seem bent on preventing players from completing their round!

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