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People often confuse a best ball competition with a scramble because both events use the term вЂњbest ball,вЂќ but in different ways. In a best ball competition, the best ball refers to score, while the phrase refers to an individual shot during a scramble. Understanding best ball rules will help you avoid a potentially embarrassing mistake during a charity or corporate outing.
During a four-man best ball competition, four players play each hole of the competition following the normal rules of the game. After each hole, the players compare scores and use the score of the player with the best score, or lowest number of strokes on that hole, for the team score. For example, Dave and Tom shoot 4s on the first hole, Rob takes a 5 and Steve shoots a 3. The team score is 3. During the competition, one player might account for most of his team's hole scores. Players keep their own scores as well as a team score because the event might award individual prizes, as well as a team prize, especially if the event is a corporate or charity outing.
A scramble, also known as Scotch golf, also uses the phrase вЂњbest ball,вЂќ but not to refer to the score. In a scramble, each player hits a tee shot, then the two, three or four players discuss and decide which of the shots they think is the best shot, or best ball, and all play their next shot from that spot. After they play their second shots, they again choose one of those shots as their best one and each plays from that spot, finishing out the hole in this fashion.
A team wins not by winning the most holes, but by shooting the lowest team score. It's possible that one team might win more holes, but that another team uses fewer total strokes during the course of the event. For example, Team A might win 10 holes to Team B's 8, but if team B wins several more holes by two strokes than Team A, which won most of its holes by only one stroke, Team B has a lower total score for the competition and wins the event.
During a best ball tournament, teams let specific players tee off first, rather than giving the person with the best score from the previous hole вЂњhonors,вЂќ or the courtesy of taking the first tee shot on the next hole. This allows teams to leave their best player to take the last tee shot each hole. After she watches the first three players hit, she will know whether she needs to be conservative with her drive because her three teammates hit bad shots, or if she can be aggressive and go for a big tee shot because one of her teammates hit a good tee shot and will likely finish the hole with a low score. Some teams put dependable team members first and last, with two aggressive players in the middle. This takes the pressure off the last player having to make a good shot each hole. In addition to managing the order of tee shots, teams may also manage the order of shots on the fairway. Normally, the player farthest from the hole hits the first shot. In best ball, the team might let weaker players go first to let better players know if they need to stay conservative because their teammates have no chance of a low score on the hole. If the competition awards individual scores as well as team scores, players must often choose between taking a risk to improve their personal score or staying conservative for the good of the team, or vice versa.
All of the rules of golf apply to individual players during a best ball tournament, but not to the team. For example, if a player hits a ball out of bounds and must bring it back in with a penalty, no penalty is assessed on the team score for that hole. Depending on the event, a team might be assessed a penalty if a player violates a rule the entire round, such as using an illegal club or carrying too many clubs in his bag during the round. If one teammate plays another teammate's ball, the player who mis-hit is disqualified from the hole, but his teammate is not.