What Is A Shotgun Start?

A shotgun start is a type of golf tournament where all players commence play at the same time. Usually, groups of four start from each tee at a prearranged time with a shotgun used to signify the start (these days more likely an air horn). You need something loud enough to be heard in all corners of the course.

It is often used for charity days or public holidays. Corporate golf events might sometimes use a shotgun start too.

The holes closest to the clubhouse are obviously prized and club officials usually get the first chance to start at those. You will usually find the club captain and club president don’t have to walk too far!

What is a shotgun start

Why Is It Called A Shotgun Start?

According to the December 2004 issue of Golf Digest it would appear that the head pro of Walla Walla Country Club in Washington State, USA, Jim Russell was the first man to start a tournament with a shotgun in May 1956.

Is A Shotgun Start A Scramble?

Quite often a shotgun start will be played as a form of scramble. Because the scramble format is usually considered a little slower than ordinary golf, many clubs only use the format in conjunction with a shotgun start to minimize the effect of slow play on golfers not interested in playing in the competition.

How Long Is Shotgun Golf?

In terms of the amount of time taken to play the round, it shouldn’t really take any longer than any other round of golf. Obviously, you will need to add in time to get to and from your starting hole. Depending on the course you may need to walk for 15 to 20 minutes in order to reach the tee you will start on. This will also mean a 15 to 20-minute walk once your round is complete.

What Is The Point Of A Shotgun Start?

A shotgun start is useful because it allows all the players to finish at roughly the same time so you can have everyone in the clubhouse together for a meal and prize-giving. It saves players from having to wait around for hours if they have a good round.

It is also good at building camaraderie within the club as lots of players who maybe wouldn’t mix normally are brought together all at the same time.

I don’t think it’s quite as useful for the golf course since you’re going to have most of the course empty for quite a while once the shotgun competition has finished. Normally you would just have a steady stream of four balls filling the course all day.

It can be great if you have a large group arriving by bus though since they can all arrive and leave together in the minimum amount of time.

Are Shotgun Starts Slow?

They certainly can be slow. It all comes down to the players and their attitude. At one of the most recent shotgun starts I played, one group that should have finished on the 12th decided to play their way in which obviously added more than an hour to the round. It also delayed the prize-giving!

How Many Players Are In A Shotgun Golf Tournament?

Normally you would have four players on each hole so on an 18-hole course that would make 72 players. On par-5s you might be able to squeeze an extra fourball in so a maximum of around 88 players in total.

At the 9-hole course, I used to be a member of, you would be looking at 36 players or possibly 40 if we added an extra group on the only par-5.

How Are Ties Decided?

In club amateur competitions a count-back system is generally used to decide ties for the purposes of prizegiving. In a shotgun start the hole you started/finished on is irrelevant. The usual back 9, back 6, back 3, etc. rule would apply as per the scorecard.

How To Organize A Shotgun Start

If you have decided to use the shotgun start format for an event then you need to create a tee sheet listing who is going to tee off on each hole. As the tournament organizer, you’ll want to make sure everyone arrives before the specific time since they will need to walk (or ride) out to the hole they have been assigned.

The first tee is prized as you are getting to play the course the “right” way and you also aren’t having to walk out to some other teeing area. If all goes well on the day each group of players will arrive at the golf club in good time and travel out to their starting point in time for the shotgun or more likely horn to start the event.

Pros And Cons Of Shotgun Starts

The biggest pro in favor of a shotgun start tournament is that you get everyone finished at the same time which is great for events where there is a sit-down meal – charity events for example.

The biggest cons against holding a shotgun tournament is that the pace of play can be an issue. It is also likely to mean the driving range is full to bursting beforehand since you have so many golfers having to start at the same time. The bar can also be a bit busy at smaller golf clubs.

The biggest cons against holding a shotgun tournament is that pace of play can be an issue. It is also likely to mean the driving range is full to bursting beforehand since you have so many golfers having to start at the same time. It also limits the number of players in the event to either 72 or 144 if you have a morning and afternoon section.

What Is A Double Shotgun Start?

A double shotgun start is used to allow even more players to play in the competition. By having a morning and afternoon shotgun start you can have 144 (or more players) on the course during the day.

What Is A Reverse Shotgun Start In Golf?

If the club hasn’t been able to get enough entries to fill all 18 tees then they might use a reverse shotgun in order to free up the course for other non-competitive golfers. You can do this by having a group start in reverse order at the 1st, 18th, 17th et cetera until you have all players accounted for.

This means that all the competitors will have gone through the 1st as quickly as possible allowing anyone else that wants to use the course access earlier than if you’d picked holes closest to the clubhouse.

Professional Golf And Shotgun Starts

Three events on the European tour had used a shotgun start in an effort to beat expected bad weather:

  • 1994 Czech Open – final round
  • 2015 Portugal Masters – the final two rounds
  • 2018 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – final round

Apart from these occasions the benefits of a shotgun format had not been used in professional events outside of pre-tournament pro-ams. Of course this changed when LIV golf decided to go all shotgun for their 54 hole tournaments. This limits the field to 72 players and the large fields you see on the PGA and European tours aren’t possible unless they decided to go double shotgun!

What Is A Shotgun Start: Summary

A shotgun start can make for a useful option at certain times of the year and break up the monotony of the regular medal or Stableford rounds that make up the bulk of club competitions.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

What Is A Shotgun Start In Golf?

A shotgun start in golf involves all participants starting at the same start time on different holes rather than having individual tee times. 18 groups (assuming an 18 hole course) will start their round at a different point on the golf course. You may even have two groups starting on the par 5s.

Do Professional Golf Events Use Shotgun Starts?

No, ordinarily a professional event wouldn’t use a shotgun start. However, if severe weather is expected there have been occasions where a shotgun start allows the event to finish on time.

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