Imagine you are attending a golf tournament and notice players starting at different times and finishing at different times. As a spectator, keeping track of the action and knowing who is leading can be challenging. You’ve heard some people say a shotgun start can fix this. But the question is:

What is a shotgun start in golf?

It is a tournament play format in golf where all players start their golf round at the same time but from different holes on the course. It’s typically used in larger tournaments or events where many players compete. The term comes from the idea that the tournament organizer fires a shotgun to signal the start of play, which can be heard by all players regardless of their starting hole.

What’s the history of a shotgun start in golf?

The shotgun start format was introduced in the United States in the late 1950s by Jim Russell, the head golf professional at a course in Illinois. It quickly gained popularity due to its efficiency and excitement.

In May of 1956, Russell was organizing a large tournament with over 100 players, and he needed a way to get them all started on the course quickly and efficiently. Russell came up with the shotgun start, where all players would start their rounds simultaneously from different holes on the course.

Russell fired a shotgun into the air to signal the start of play, and all players began their rounds simultaneously. This format proved a success, allowing many players to start simultaneously, minimizing delays, and improving the playing pace.

The excitement generated by the shotgun start also added to the tournament’s atmosphere, making it a more enjoyable experience for players and spectators.

Since then, the shotgun start has become popular for golf tournaments, particularly for larger events where time is a significant factor. The format has evolved, with organizers using various methods to signal the start of play, such as air horns or sirens. However, the concept of players starting at the same time at different holes on the course remains the same.

What are the advantages of a shotgun start?

Shotgun starts are perfect when time is a factor since it allows players to progress faster and allow others to play. Conversely, the tee time method is ideal when organizers need flexibility.

image of 2 golfers looking at the cup - AEC Info

Other benefits include:

  • Minimized congestion: All groups begin their rounds simultaneously, reducing bottlenecks and slow play for an enjoyable experience.
  • Increased camaraderie: With players starting and finishing at approximately the same time, this start format fosters a sense of camaraderie and shared experience.
  • Simplicity in scoring: Simultaneous round completion makes it easier for organizers to tabulate scores and determine winners without waiting for straggling groups.

What are the disadvantages of a shotgun start?

One potential disadvantage of a shotgun start is that it can create confusion and chaos. Since players start simultaneously from different holes, keeping track of who is going where, and which players are in which groups can create disorganization.

Other potential disadvantages include:

  • Limited warm-up time: Less opportunity for participants to practice and get warmed up before teeing off could affect performance.
  • Uneven course conditions: Golfers starting on different holes may encounter varying course and Weather conditions, impacting their play.
  • Lack of spectator-friendly environment: It may not be ideal for spectators, as players spread across the course, making it challenging for fans to follow their favorites or catch exciting moments.

What is a reverse shotgun start in golf?

In the reverse shotgun format, players begin their rounds simultaneously but in reverse order, starting from the 18th hole, followed by the 17th, 16th, and so on, until they reach the first hole.

What is a double shotgun in golf?

A double shotgun start is a tournament play format used when more than 72 players participate. It’s organized like a normal shotgun start tournament but split into two sessions (morning and afternoon) to accommodate the large field of players.

Alternatively, organizers can arrange a modified shotgun start where some groups start at hole one and the rest at hole ten. This offers more flexibility and accommodates regular play within set timelines. However, this planning is more complex and needs more coordination and communication.

What’s the difference between tee time and shotgun start?

While a shotgun start has players starting their rounds simultaneously at different holes, a tee time format has a predetermined time at which a player or a group of players start their rounds at hole one. The players start at 10-15 minute intervals allowing for a leisurely or staggered pace.

image of golfers waiting for a shotgun start - AEC Info

The tee time format is commonly used in smaller tournaments or events, where time isn’t a major factor, and players can enjoy a more relaxed pace of play. In contrast, a shotgun start allows for a quicker pace since all players progress together and is commonly used in larger tournaments or events, where time is a major factor.

Another difference is in the organization. In a tee time format, players are typically organized based on their individual handicap or team rankings, and the order in which they tee off is predetermined.

If you have a Good handicap, you will typically be paired with golfers with similar indexes.

In a shotgun start, players are typically assigned to different holes based on a random draw or a predetermined order, which adds an element of chance to the tournament.

What does shotgun tee time mean?

Shotgun tee time refers to a simultaneous start for all golfers in a tournament, with each player beginning at a different hole on the course. This format ensures efficient use of the course and timely completion of the event.

In a shotgun start, organizers assign each group of players to a specific hole, distributing them evenly throughout the course. When the event begins, all participants commence play simultaneously, following the course’s hole sequence from their starting point. This arrangement not only helps to manage large groups of golfers but also reduces wait times and congestion on the course.

Shotgun starts are particularly useful for large tournaments and charity events, where a high number of players need to complete the course within a specified time frame. This format also encourages camaraderie and networking among participants, as they can socialize and interact with different groups of players throughout the day.

What is the duration of a shotgun golf tournament?

The duration of a shotgun golf tournament can vary depending on the number of players and holes. But generally, expect this format tournament to last 2.5 hours for nine holes and 5 hours for 18 holes.

Does the PGA do shotgun starts?

Yes, the PGA tour uses the shotgun start format for some of its tournaments, particularly for larger events where time is a major factor. However, the PGA also uses other tournament formats, such as tee times and modified shotgun starts, depending on the specific needs and goals of the tournament organizers and players. Liv golf is also starting to adopt this tournament format.

Bottom line

The shotgun start and its variations offer advantages and disadvantages that should be considered when choosing the format for professional and amateur golf tournaments. While it can provide a more efficient and exciting way to complete a tournament, it can also create challenges with course congestion, spectator experience, and organizational management.

Ultimately, the choice of format should be based on the specific needs and goals of the professional golf tournament organizers and players.