What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf

Last updated on February 24th, 2023 at 07:05 pm

A shotgun start in golf is when groups of golfers in a tournament all start on different holes of the golf course simultaneously, ensuring that all the groups of players complete the game at roughly the same time. The concept of a shotgun start in golf is to speed up the pace of play for everyone by eliminating waiting around for tee times to start. Essentially, one group starts on hole one, the other on hole two, and so on.


So, why do players and fans even call it a shotgun start in golf? How does the process of a shotgun start even work in golf? How many players are necessary to play this type of golf tournament? Do PGA matches use this type of format for their games? What are some reasons to use this method of golf?


Here is the complete breakdown of what a shotgun start is in golf.


Why Do They Call it a Shotgun Start in Golf?

Why Do They Call it a Shotgun Start in Golf

Shotgun starts received their name due to the early use of an actual shotgun to indicate the start of the tee tournament. The loud sound from the shotgun made it clear to everyone that the tournament had begun. Today, airhorns or sirens indicate the start of play in place of this old method.


The shotgun start began in May of 1956 when Jim Russell, head pro at Walla Walla Country Club in Washington state, got creative regarding quickly moving golfers through their rounds. The need to move players rapidly through the course was due to the high demand for tee times at the country club. Having golfers finish their rounds in a quicker amount of time would allow more golfers to play on a given day. Thus, the shotgun golf method would let more players play at once, making the course more money.


How Does a Shotgun Start in Golf Work?

How Does a Shotgun Start in Golf Work

A shotgun start in golf is when groups of golfers in a tournament all start simultaneously on different golf course holes. Once the airhorn or siren occurs, the players begin the tournament on their assigned first hole. Each foursome is then able to move simultaneously through the links. The group that starts on hole one will finish on hole 18, while the group starting on hole seven will end on hole six.


Using a shotgun start rather than tee times in a golf tournament is to avoid clogging up the golf course. When tee times occur in games, it often takes many hours for all golfers to finish their rounds. The shotgun start format reduces the time the tournament takes and usually allows other groups of golfers not participating to get out onto the course when the tournament has concluded.


How Many Golfers are Needed for a Shotgun Start?

How Many Golfers are Needed for a Shotgun Start

Shotgun start tournaments can occur with as little as 24 players up to as many as 144 players. Playing a shotgun-style tournament with 144 players is called a double shotgun, as there are two foursomes on each hole to begin the match. One of the groups on each hole is assigned to be group A, and the other is group B. Group A begins the game, and play moves to group B when the first group has completed the hole.


A double shotgun is a sporadic occurrence, as 144 players are the most that can be on a golf course at one time. You usually see a regular shotgun with three to four players on each hole.


Does the PGA Do Shotgun Starts?

Does the PGA Do Shotgun Starts

The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) sticks with the traditional tee time tournament style for their tournaments. All PGA Tour events, such as The Masters, The U.S. Open, and The PGA Championship, use tee times.


However, newer golf tours like LIV Golf have adopted the shotgun start. This adaption to this style of play is because the shotgun start is more conducive to smaller playing fields and reduces the time the round of golf takes.


How is it Different from Tee Times?

How is it Different from Tee Times

In a tournament with tee times, each golfer begins on the first or tenth tee at a specific start time and finishes on the eighteenth hole. When a shotgun start occurs, the tournament organizers specify to a group of players what spot they will begin on, and the players then play their round of golf, ending on the hole previous to their starting hole.


Using a shotgun start also ensures that all golfers finish their rounds within a similar timeframe. Golf tournaments with a shotgun start format are for charity events or other fundraisers. Using the shotgun start allows the tournament’s awards ceremony or other events after the conclusion of play to be held earlier in the day and at a specific time. This way, anyone who did not play in the golf round can join the festivities.


When Should You Choose a Golf Shotgun Start?

When Should You Choose a Golf Shotgun Start

Golf shotgun starts should occur when there is essential to get all players off the golf course and into the clubhouse simultaneously. Another reason to choose this format is if you would like to speed up the play rate during a tournament.


An example is an awards ceremony, auction, or meal following the time on the golf course. Another example of shotgun starts is for amateur golf tournaments such as high school or U.S. Kid’s Golf tournaments.


Conclusion: What is a Shotgun in Golf?

In summary, a shotgun start in golf is a specific tournament format that allows a bigger group of golfers to play the course at once. The shotgun format is for small-scale tournaments such as corporate outings or country club championships. With these types of tournaments, there tends to be a ceremony at a specific time, so using this format helps speed up the rate of play.


The best way to think of this golf format is by placing golfers around the course and in different holes. Instead of a group of golfers all waiting in line to tee off at hole one, you put everyone at different holes to start the game. That way, you begin the tournament (or match) simultaneously, and everyone plays golf rather than waiting to start at hole one.


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