What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

by | Last updated May 21, 2024

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

Imagine you’re all set for a golf tournament.

At most golf courses, players head out in small groups with tee times, waiting their turn to start.

This can make tournaments drag on for hours.

Is it cool if there was a way to get everyone playing at once?

That’s exactly what a shotgun start tournament does! Instead of waiting, all the golfers spread out across the course and began to play on different holes around the same time.

It’s a popular such a starting format for big tournaments, and even the PGA Tour uses it sometimes!


Shotgun Starts in Golf

  • Instead of waiting in line, players start simultaneously on different holes across the course.
  • This speeds up huge tournaments, keeping things exciting.
  • It creates a sense of community with everyone playing at once.
  • Even the pros use it sometimes to get ahead of storms and finish the tournament on time.

Defining the Shotgun Start

Picture this: It’s the day of a big golf tournament.

But instead of the first group teeing off with everyone else waiting, something crazy happens!

All the participants head out to different holes all over the golf course.

Then, a horn blares, and everyone swings away at the same time.

So, What Exactly is a Shotgun Start?

A shotgun start tournament is a way of getting everyone playing their round of golf at once.

Tournament organizers pick a starting hole for each group.

Instead of the usual first hole, players might find themselves beginning on the 10th or even the 18th!

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

Why The Funny Name?

Nobody’s totally sure!

Some say it’s like everyone firing their shots at once.

Others think it’s because the golfers spread out over the course like pellets from a shotgun blast.

Even The Pros Do it!

Shotgun starts aren’t just for charity events and fun outings.

Big tours like the European Tour and LIV Golf sometimes use them for professional golf if the weather threatens to ruin the tournament.

Remember that dramatic final putt at the Centurion Club?

That was part of a shotgun start format!

Sometimes, if there are many players, tournaments may even have a double shotgun start, with two groups on certain holes.

Benefits of a Shotgun Start

Okay, having everyone play at once sounds a little chaotic, but there are some awesome advantages to this starting format:

  • Time-Saver: The biggest perk? Everyone finishes their tournament round around the same time. This means tournaments that usually take all day are wrapped up in just a few hours.
  • Built-in Buddies: In shotgun start tournaments, you’re out there on the course with tons of other golfers from the very beginning. It’s a great way to make new golf friends and adds a fun, social vibe!
  • Bad Weather Buster: If rain or storms threaten to cut a tournament short, a shotgun start can help accommodate the whole thing. The European Tour even used it to beat bad weather during their final two rounds on the DP World Tour!
  • Easier on the Course: In regular tournaments, some holes can get crowded as everyone passes through. Shotgun starts to spread players out more, helping the course stay in better shape.

When and Why Shotgun Starts are Used

Shotgun starts aren’t for every single golf event, but they’re super popular in a few situations:

2 players in a golf course

Big Charity Tournaments

When there’s a huge crowd of golfers, shotgun starts are the best way to get everyone playing.

Most golfers sign up for these events to have fun, and it lets everyone finish together for the awards ceremony and socialize afterward.

Company Outings & Group Fun

If your school, company, or a big group wants a golf day, shotgun formats add a party atmosphere because everyone’s on the course at once.

Weather Worries

Bad weather can derail a tournament.

Pro tours like the PGA Tour don’t usually use shotgun starts, but if there’s a storm coming, they might do it to squeeze in a full round before things get messy.

Special Cases

Sometimes, courses might do a “reverse shotgun,” where players start in reverse order of their assigned different hole.

This can help regular customers get a few holes in without running into the tournament.

In really huge events, organizers might do what’s called a “split tee start,” where half the field starts on the first hole and the other half starts on the 10th.

Logistics of a Shotgun Start

Shotgun starts might seem simple – send everyone out on the course and blow a horn, right?

Well, to make them run smoothly, there’s actually a lot of planning involved:

  • Organization is Key: Before the tournament begins, tournament organizers have to assign each golfer or group a starting hole carefully. This keeps too many people from crowding around the same area.
  • Sounding the Alarm: A loud horn, siren, or even an actual shotgun blast signals play to begin—everyone needs to know when it’s go-time!
  • Accommodating Big Groups: Some courses can’t fit all the players on the 18 holes at once. In this case, they might put two groups on the longer holes to make it work.
  • Pre-Round Prep: Golfers need to know where to go beforehand. Some tournaments will have their starting hole marked on the scorecard to avoid confusion.

Pace of Play and Other Considerations

Even though they’re quick, shotgun starts don’t magically make slow golfers disappear!

Few Things to Keep Things Moving

  • Pace is Still Important: Tournament organizers might set rules and time limits to prevent big backups, which would defeat the purpose of a fast round.
  • Navigating the Course: Since many golfers won’t be familiar with their starting hole, clear signage and directions from the tournament staff are crucial. Getting lost looking for the right tee box wastes time!
  • Post-Tournament Timing: Shotgun starts mean everyone finishes around the same time. This can create a bit of a rush for things like the awards ceremony and food afterward, so organizers need to be prepared!

Are Shotgun Starts Right for Everyone?

Shotgun starts are incredibly efficient and offer a lot of fun, but they’re not always the perfect choice for every golf event:

  • Smaller Tournaments: If you’re running a small tournament with a limited number of players, regular tee times might still be easier to organize.
  • Serious Competition: If you’re after super precise scoring and competitive play, a traditional tee time format lets players focus on just their group and compare their scores more clearly throughout the day.
  • Player Preferences: Some golfers just like the rhythm and slower pace of a regular tee time. There’s nothing wrong with that!


What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

Shotgun starts offer a unique and exciting way to experience golf tournaments!

They speed up even the biggest events and add a social element, as everyone plays at the same time.

While they don’t fit every situation, they’re a great solution when you need a quick tournament format or want to create a fun atmosphere.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a shotgun start mean in golf?

In a shotgun start, all golfers tee off at the same time but begin their rounds on different holes of the course. This format speeds up large tournaments and creates a fun social atmosphere.

Why do they call it a shotgun start?

While the exact origin is debated, one theory is that it sounds like everyone’s firing their shots at once, like buckshot from a shotgun.

Are shotgun starts used in professional tournaments?

Yes, but less frequently. Professional tours often use shotgun starts when weather threatens to shorten a tournament, allowing them to squeeze in a full round quickly.

Can a shotgun start be confusing for golfers?

It can be slightly more disorienting since players don’t start on hole one. Good signage and communication from the tournament organizers help everyone find their starting hole.

Do reverse shotgun start affect the pace of play?

Shotgun starts can help prevent backups on certain holes, but players still need to maintain a good pace to keep the tournament running smoothly.