What Is A Shotgun Start In Golf?

If you enjoy golf, you may have heard of the term “shotgun start.” But what does it mean? And why the funny phrasing? We’ve got the details below.

What Is A Shotgun Start?

A shotgun start is a style of starting the round of golf, typically suited for a tournament or a social outing. In this form of the game, different groups of golfers begin playing different holes at the same time. For example, the first group would start at the first hole, while the third group would be assigned to the third hole.

This practice gets its name from the fact that a shotgun is fired into the air to signal the start of the game. Nowadays, it is more common for airhorns to gesture at the beginning of a match.

Though this form of start can be quite loud and disruptive, it nonetheless creates a sense of energy and excitement.

This can make golf a really thrilling experience. It is also an effective method of getting the attention of all of the players, who will all be positioned at different parts of the golf course.

How Will It Affect The Game?

This style of golf essentially means that the players will start and finish at approximately the same time, and won’t affect the type of play. Because of this, it is an ideal form of play for a social event.

Playing in this way can help to mix up the game. This will help if you are beginning to feel that you are in a rut to your home course – finishing on hole 7 can make for a different perspective.

Where Does The Shotgun Start Come From?

The shotgun start has been around for a while, it has not become more popular until relatively recently. The process dates back to May 1956. Jim Russell is attributed as the inventor of this method, having fired a shotgun to start the game of golf.

Man Placing Golf Ball on Green

At the time, Russell was a professional player at the Walla Walla Country Club in Washington. 

As a safety precaution, guns are typically not used any longer.

What Are The Advantages Of A Shotgun Start?

There are many reasons why a group of people may want to play a shotgun start.

These advantages include:

  • The players will start and finish playing at practically the exact same time. This will put an end to waiting around for the social events afterward.
  • They are ideal for party events since they require a large number of players.
  • They are well-suited to charity affairs. Because the game starts and ends at the same time, you can have a charitable meal after you have played golf.
  • It can mix up your golf game. The reason for this is that it is different from the standard version of the game.
  • The game will flow effectively since the course will not be filled up by players. This is because all the golfers are playing at the same time. This means that parts of the golf course will not go unused.
  • Shotgun starts can be quicker as there’s a flow to the whole party – this creates an atmosphere where keeping up with the group in front of you is a must.

What Are The Conditions That Golf Courses May Enforce?

When booking a shotgun start at a golf club, you may have to conform to a set of rules set out by the club. These rules will ensure that the game works and that the course is not losing out on money.

The reason for this is that other people will not be able to use the golf course when a party is having a shotgun start.

These conditions may include:

  • A minimum number of players. This will ensure that the club makes a profit.
  • Considerable cancellation notices may be needed. You will need to give the club notice of a cancellation a considerable amount of time before the event.
  • Costly deposits, which are higher than a typical golf course, may also be required. This will mean that the golf course does not lose money.
  • There may be limited days available. Typically, shotgun starts are not held on weekends.
  • Moreover, limited course times may also be enforced. The times will differ between different golf courses. This will mean that the club can organize the games at times that work for them, such as their less profitable times.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Reverse Shotgun Start?

You can also play a variation known as the reverse shotgun. Though this is less popular than the shotgun start, it is used when there are fewer than 18 groups playing, with the intent of clearing the first hole quickly. This allows the course to send out groups as it normally would earlier than with a traditional shotgun start.

In this version of the game, players will start at the last few holes instead of the first few. Aside from the first hole, players will start from holes 18, 17, 16, and 15…until the group has all passed hole 1.

It’s reverse in the sense that you still begin the first group on hole 1, but you work backward rather than forward to fill the tees.

Does PGA Do A Shotgun Start?

PGA, standing for professional golfer’s association, does not typically do shotgun starts, but may during winter tournaments where daylight is a concern, or when weather has caused delays. They’ll typically start with golfers off holes 1 and 10, or just 1 on weekend rounds when the days are long enough.

What Is A Scratch Golfer?

If you play a lot of golf, you may have heard of the term “scratch golfer.” Essentially, a scratch golfer is someone who is extremely skilled at golf.

While scratch is technically a zero handicap, the term often implies those that are better – but maybe not quite professional – as well. It can take a lot of time, skill, patience, and hard work to get to this level.

Closing Remarks

If you have a group of friends and are looking to spice up your golf game, you may want to try a shotgun start.

There are many advantages to this form of the game, as listed above.


David Anderson
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