Home Columns First Tee to Last Call: Scrambled

First Tee to Last Call: Scrambled

by Conor Coughlin

Summer is in full swing and so is golf season! I’ve gotten about 20 rounds of golf in so far this year. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider that I live in the Midwest. We only get about six or seven months of decent weather.

I’m also fortunate enough to work in an industry that has a different type of golf tournament every week in the summer. I don’t get to play in all of them, but occasionally I get to “work” in some.

Let’s Get Scrambled

As much as I love playing standard stroke-play golf and testing my skills against the course, I have come to prefer playing scrambles. A scramble is a type of tournament that takes the pressure off of each player and adds more fun to the game.

To begin, each team typically consists of four players, one of which is deemed the captain. The captain chooses the best spot to tee off, then the remaining three players play from the same spot. This continues through all holes of the tournament. For a more in-depth explanation, click here.

There are many reasons, but the most important one is that it’s casual and completely devoid of frustration. I can’t even remember a time when I got even a fraction as irritated playing in a scramble as I do playing stroke-play. The pressure is off for the most part. It has the intensity of playing any bar game and drinking with your friends. If there’s any pressure at all, it’s to keep up with the pace of drinking and the pace of play. 

There are downsides to actual scramble “tournaments” though. The more I play in them, the more I realize that people’s moral compasses seem to check out when there are prizes on the line. I recently played in a tournament sponsored by a local bar that saw the winning team shoot 21-under par.

Not impossible, but highly unlikely. The runner-up was 19 under. Like I said, not impossible but highly unlikely. The 21 under team would have had to have birdied every par 3 and par 4 and eagled every par 5 on the course. For reference, my team did play by the rules and counted every shot and came in at 12-under. Not a winning score but still respectable. Certainly not a score that should have lost by an entire nine holes worth of golf margin. 

Did we get three free cocktails and a free lunch? Yep, we sure did. Did the winning team get $500 cash and a bunch of prizes and that very same buffet of food? Yes, they did.

A perk of my job is that I typically do not have to pay to play in these tournaments so I don’t expect to walk away with anything more than a day of golf. But I’m still not a fan of losing to less-than-honest scorecards.

A Positive Scramble

I attended a friend’s 30th birthday party last weekend. We had 16 people who all wanted to play golf. Our friend’s sister decided to organize a scramble-style tournament for us and it was absolutely some of the most fun I’ve had on a course.

The prizes were golf balls with our friend’s face printed on them (which were as funny as you’d think), as well as an assortment of liquor. It was mostly inexpensive flavored goodies to encourage taking shots before, during and after our makeshift tournament. It’s important to note that the course was in a small lake town in Northern Minnesota, so we had the course to ourselves for the most part. 

During the afternoon, the course clears out as people head to the lake and the resort nearby. We split into four groups of four, with “on your honor” scoring. We had speakers blasting on every cart and a drone that our friend’s dad had brought to document the chaos. It was an absolute blast to the point that I almost forgot I was playing golf.

Remember, the point is to have fun. None of us are in danger of playing on the tour.

Here is the rule set that we used:

  1. All four players tee off from their respective tee box (men off of the white box and women off of the red box).
  2. Select the best shot and play from that spot, rinse and repeat until the ball is in the hole.
  3. All players must hit non-green shots from within one club length of the selected shot. 
  4. All players must hit putts within three inches (ish) from the selected spot.

A lot of scrambles cap the strokes per hole to bogey. We did not. However, we probably should have. The “Fireball birdie shots” (which are mandatory in this ruleset) start to catch up with you. Overall lowest team score wins!

My friends and I on June 18 at the Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minn. performing the ritual of doing a shot of Fireball anytime we birdied.

The great thing about playing a scramble format is that you don’t have to be good at golf to enjoy it. We had a woman in our group who had only played a few times, and that was OK. She ended up being a wiz with the putter. Another team had a boyfriend and girlfriend who had never even been on an actual golf course, just driving ranges. That team held their own too. 

Scrambles can somewhat level the playing field. A game as frustrating as golf needs ways to welcome new players in and I think taking newbies out to play a scramble style round is a great way to do it. Most golfers will be familiar with the rules mentioned above so next time you have a friend looking to get into the game, think about taking them out in a group and scrambling. Pack some beers and bring some music too. 

In the wake of the U.S. Open, I think we may be taking some of the pressure off of the players in this tournament. It’s not a scramble format, but it is a significantly easier course than what we saw last week.

Congrats to Jon Rahm on his victory in the U.S. Open. Nate Polvogt (@JeNateJackFF) and I were high on Rahm on our show, “The 19th Hole,” last week and he came through like we thought he might! He is a true competitor and watching the fire he played with coming down the stretch solidified that. 

Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands 

This week the tour is at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. for the Travelers Championship. The course is a par 70 playing at around 6,800 yards.

For comparison, this is about 600 yards shorter than last week’s U.S. Open tournament. The fairways and greens are a combination of Bentgrass and Poa. We should see decent and true speed on both. Being a shorter course, I am focussing on strong iron play, especially strong short irons and wedges. It is important to consider all types of players this week because ANYONE can win this. Players will be scoring on this course and look for the winner to be somewhere around 20-under par. 

Some Metrics I’m Looking at This Week

  • Approach
  • Ball-striking
  • Birdies or better gained
  • Opportunities gained
  • Shorter-proximity ranges

Travelers Championship Picks

Paul Casey ($9,900)

Coming off of a seventh-place finish at the U.S. Open, I really like what I’m seeing out of Paul Casey. He has six top-10 finishes in his last nine starts. He is No. 1 in my model for shots gained tee to green, No.2 for approach, No. 2 for ball-striking and No. 4 for birdies or better gained. I love the recent stats and results.

I’m looking for Casey to continue the trend this week on a much easier course. With many of the top-tier players with question marks as to why they’re playing this tournament at all, I like Casey to come out and make a run at a win.

Charley Hoffman ($8,600)

Everyone loved Charley Hoffman until he had a couple of 57th place finishes in a row and now nobody seems to be saying too much about him. I’m going back to him this week. In his last 12 starts, he has had nine top 20’s and of those, three were top 10’s.

He was playing some of the best golf he has played in quite some time. Over the last 24 rounds, he rates out third overall for me. He is in the top 10 for all of the key stats I looked at. I’m optimistic that we will see Charley return to form this week and if he does he could absolutely win this tournament. 

Emiliano Grillo ($7,300) 

Emiliano Grillo most recently had a missed cut. But before that, he had three top-ten finishes in six starts. He rates out No. 2 overall for me and is No. 1 in approach, opportunities gained and par-4 scoring.

His shorter irons are a little suspect and his putting is always a wildcard, but if he can keep those two pieces in check, he’s prime for a high finish. He will most likely be chalk this week, but there are plenty of pivots to be found for other spots. I’ll be overweight this week. 

Other Golfers I Like this Week

Brooks Koepka ($10,700)

Scottie Scheffler ($9,600)

Abraham Ancer ($9,100)

Sam Burns ($7,700)

Max Home ($7,800)

Dart Throws 

Matthew Wolf ($9,300)

Joseph Bramlett ($6,800)

“Last Call” Dart Throw of the Week

Rickie Fowler ($7,300) 

Thanks for reading, and good luck this week!

I use Fantasynational.com for analytics and statistical modeling. If you’re looking for an edge check them out!

Conor Coughlin @Cough_DFS

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