what is a shotgun start in golf

What is a “Shotgun Start” in Golf? (Rules + Reasons to Use)

Whether you are a golf enthusiast or you’ve just started developing an interest in the game, there are certain related words and phrases that you’ll often hear during the game. One of such phrases that always come up is a shotgun start in golf. Unfortunately, many people do not know what the phrase stands for or when to use it.

So, what is a shotgun start in golf? A shotgun start in golf is a golf tournament starting format that sends each participating group to specific unique starting holes or positions. The shotgun start is named after the idea of firing a shotgun into the air to indicate the start time for all players. It signifies to the groups to tee off their specified holes at the same time.

The whole idea behind inventing the shotgun start is to allow a large field of players to get through rounds of golf without necessarily clogging up a driving range all day in preparation for a tee sheet of starting times. It also keeps the players engaged and in continuous action so that they don’t have to stay the whole day in the course. Irrespective of how the organizers choose to handle the event, a shotgun start always serves as a unique way to condense the time a tournament would typically last.

Shotgun Start Explained

For starters, it’s important to note that a shotgun start is not a type of golf tournament. Instead, it’s the way a tournament starts.

golf shotgun start

As explained earlier, it signifies to all the players to begin to play simultaneously, with each group of four golfers teeing off on different holes on the golf course.

For example, the first group begins on hole 1, the second starts on hole two, and the third group begins on hole 3. The sequence continues like that, depending on the number of groups available to play. All the groups would typically start play after the blast of a shotgun. These days, more people are using a horn sound to indicate the start of play instead of the traditional shotgun sound.

You’d probably see announcements for tournaments featuring shotgun starts like this: “the tournament this Sunday has a shotgun start at noon.” This announcement means that the gun would be shot at noon, and all groups should be in place on the appropriate hole before then.

How Can You Have More Than 18 Groups Play With a Shotgun Start?

You probably already know that most tournament organizers prefer to play with 18 groups who would start simultaneously on different holes in the golf course. This play setting means that a group would play the 8th, 9th, 10th, etc. holes if they are starting on the 7th hole.

The shotgun start allows all the groups to begin and finish their golf rounds simultaneously. However, it’s also possible to have more than 18 groups start a tournament. Although this is a rare scenario, you can still accomplish it by sending two groups of golfers to par-5 and par-4 holes. This way, the second group can tee off to a clear fairway immediately the first group tees off and hits the second shot.

Shotgun Starts vs. “Regular” Starting Methods

You’ll probably notice different groups starting their rounds during professional golf tournaments by teeing off on the first or tenth hole (although it could also be just the first). All groups start at one of the two holes listed above, with their start time usually separated by 10 minutes.

This more common starting method would usually mean that the 18 groups would complete their teeing off within three hours. It would also mean that the entire tournament round would last for about 3 hours longer.

On the other hand, shotgun starts are becoming more popular because of the time it saves for tournament organizers. It is vital for moments when tournament organizers will need to get other groups of golfers out to play after a particular tournament. You could also see tournament organizers using a shotgun start for events that would be played late in the day or if they expect poor weather conditions.

Another significant benefit of using a shotgun start is that it exposes all golfers to the same weather conditions since they would play simultaneously.

When Should You Choose a Shotgun Start? (3 Scenarios)

If you are new to organizing golf tournaments, there’ll be moments when you’ll wonder whether to use a shotgun start or the regular start. It would be best if you chose a shotgun start in the following situations.

1. If you have a relatively high number of participants

As explained above, having a high number of participants would typically mean spending more time on the golf course. Well, a shotgun start would allow you to complete the event without staying all day out in the course. This allows for a more efficient organization of golf events.

2. If you are organizing an amateur event

Organizing an amateur event typically means that you’ll pitch players with relatively equal abilities to play against themselves. You don’t want to grant any player undue advantage over the other, and that’s where a shotgun start comes into play. It allows you the opportunity to monitor all participants at the same time.

3. If you are starting an event late

Another reason a tournament organizer would consider a shotgun start is if the tournament starts late in the day. Playing for several hours would mean playing into the night. Why stay out that late when you can start and finish the tournament within a shorter time using the shotgun start.

However, let’s mention that despite allowing for faster plays, shotgun starts do not allow new golfers the flexibility to choose tee times that would suit their schedule.

Rules of a Shotgun Start

Depending on the number of holes that a course features (9 or 18), each group of players would begin their play from a unique and specific starting hole or position. Bear in mind that no two groups can start from the same hole. Each of these groups starts at the blast of a horn. In the past, real shotguns were fired to mark the start of the tournament, but these days, horns or sirens are predominantly used.

After each group tees off from their designated holes, they’ll play all the 9 or 18 hole rounds in the course in a coordinated order from where they had started. For example, a team that starts from the 11th hole will play the 12th, 13th, 14th, to 18th holes in that other. After completing the 18th hole, they’ll come back to play from the 1st to the 11th hole.

Why is a Golf Shotgun Start Unique?

Other tournaments are set up in a manner that allows players to begin at different times. But in tournaments that adopt the shotgun start, all groups have to start their game simultaneously. The tournament would come to an end when the slowest foursome finishes a full round.

Perhaps, the most significant benefit of a shotgun start is its ability to allow a large number of players to get through the round without clogging any driving range. Every hole of the course is kept busy throughout the tournament.

Recap: Shotgun Starts in Golf

That’s it, a detailed look into what a shotgun start is. As expected, the phrase can easily confuse starters and amateur golfers. It represents a starting format in golf where all participating groups are sent to different holes or positions from where they can begin to tee off after the sound of a shotgun or the blast of a horn.

Although this starting format suits amateur golfers more, there are times when it’ll be great for professionals too. If you are a golf tournament organizer that wants to finish an event within a very short period, it may be worth it if you consider the shotgun start.