What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

by | Last updated Mar 4, 2024

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf

The term “shotgun start” often surfaces in golf, especially in discussions around golf tournaments and event planning on the green. But what is a shotgun start in golf, and why has such a starting format become a staple in organizing golf competitions? This thorough investigation delves into the essence of shotgun start, its application across most golf courses, and its significance in amateur and professional golf realms.


A shotgun start in golf is a tournament format where all players begin their rounds simultaneously but from different holes across the course. This method optimizes course usage and efficiency, allowing the event to conclude more swiftly, with all participants finishing around the same time.

The tournament organizer assigns golfers a starting hole, and if more players register than there are gaps, extra groups or a double shotgun start may be employed. Unlike traditional tee times, the shotgun format does not stagger starts. It is ideal for large-scale events and ensures a cohesive and timely tournament progression, culminating in a unified end for award ceremonies or other post-tournament activities.

The Essence of a Shotgun Start

At its core, a shotgun start is a method tournament organizers use to kick off a golf tournament. Unlike traditional tee times that see golfers beginning their rounds at the first hole and proceeding in order, a shotgun start scatters participants across different spots on the course. This strategy allows all the golfers to begin play around the same time but from various starting holes, leading to a more efficient and cohesive tournament round.

Why Shotgun Starts?

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

The primary appeal of a shotgun start tournament lies in its ability to manage large groups of players efficiently. On days filled with back-to-back tee times, most golf courses struggle to accommodate all the players. By implementing a shotgun start, tournament organizers can ensure that the field moves synchronously, reducing wait times and allowing the tournament to conclude around the same time for all participants.

Variations of Shotgun Starts

1. Traditional Shotgun Start

In the classic shotgun start format, each group of golfers is assigned to a different hole, ensuring that all the spots on a course are covered. This method is particularly effective for full-field events, where the number of groups matches the number of areas.

2. Reverse Shotgun Start

A reverse shotgun start takes a unique approach by having groups begin on designated holes in reverse order. This format is less standard but can accommodate specific tournament logistics or course layouts.

3. Double Shotgun Start

For huge tournaments, a double shotgun start may be employed. This involves two groups of players starting at different times—usually morning and afternoon—across all the holes, effectively doubling the capacity of the golf course for the day.

4. Split Tee Start

An alternative to the shotgun start is the split tee start, where golfers begin on the first and tenth holes. This method is often used when the field is too large for a single shotgun but insufficient to warrant a double shotgun.

Benefits of Shotgun Starts

  • Efficiency: Shotgun starts to streamline tournament play, ensuring that all the participants begin and end their rounds in a tighter time frame.
  • Social Interaction: This format fosters a sense of community and camaraderie among participants, as golfers start and finish the event around the same time, allowing for collective participation in post-tournament activities, such as the awards ceremony.
  • Flexibility: Shotgun starts provide tournament organizers with the flexibility to host events that accommodate a wide range of participants, from charity events to professional tournaments on the PGA Tour, European Tour, and recently, the DP World Tour and LIV Golf.

Planning and Execution

Executing a successful shotgun start requires meticulous planning. Tournament organizers must consider the minimum number of players to justify a shotgun start, typically requiring the course to be closed to regular customers and other golfers. Additionally, mandatory carts for speedy transition between holes, clear communication about assigned spots, and coordination with the golf course’s head pro are crucial.

Notable Tournaments with Shotgun Starts

Shotgun starts are not limited to amateur play; they have also been utilized in professional settings. For instance, the Centurion Club, known for hosting events on the European Tour, has experimented with shotgun formats to enhance viewer engagement and tournament dynamics. Similarly, events under the umbrella of the DP World Tour and even select rounds in LIV Golf competitions have seen the adoption of shotgun or modified shotgun starts to accommodate television schedules and improve the spectator experience.

The Future of Shotgun Starts in Golf

As golf continues to evolve, the shotgun start remains a favored choice for many tournament organizers, thanks to its blend of efficiency, fairness, and community-building. Innovations in tournament management software and digital tools for assigning tee times and holes are making the process smoother and more adaptable to the needs of modern golf tournaments.


What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

From the driving shot to the final putt, shotgun starts have reshaped how golf tournaments are conducted, offering a practical solution to logistical challenges while enhancing the overall tournament experience. Whether for charity events, professional golf tours, or club championships, the shotgun start is a testament to the golf community’s innovation and commitment to inclusivity and enjoyment of the game.

In summary, the shotgun start in golf represents more than just a method for beginning tournament play; it embodies the spirit of the game, bringing together golfers of all levels in a shared experience that highlights the camaraderie, competition, and love for golf that unites players around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

A shotgun start in golf is a method used in golf tournaments where all the golfers begin to play simultaneously from different holes across the golf course. This starting format allows a game to conclude more efficiently, enabling all players to start and end around the same time, optimizing the use of the course for large groups.

How Do Golfers Know Their Starting Hole in a Shotgun Start Tournament?

In a shotgun start tournament, each golfer or group of golfers is assigned a starting hole before the game begins. This information is typically provided by the tournament organizer or head pro at the event registration or during a pre-tournament meeting. Signs or scorecards may also direct golfers to their designated tee.

Can Tee Times Still Affect a Shotgun Start Tournament?

Unlike traditional tee times that dictate a specific start time for players, a shotgun start aligns all participants to begin play at the exact moment from different holes. However, specific tee times are not used in this format, eliminating the need for staggered starts and helping to ensure the event progresses smoothly and finishes promptly.

What Happens if More Golfers Register Than There Are Holes in a Shotgun Start?

When more golfers register than holes available on the course for a shotgun start, tournament organizers might implement extra groups on select spots or use a double shotgun start, where the field is split into two groups with separate start times. This ensures that all registered players can participate and the tournament runs efficiently.

How Does the Shotgun Format Impact the Duration of a Tournament?

The shotgun format significantly reduces the duration of a golf tournament by allowing all the golfers to start and end their rounds around the same time. This coordination means that, unlike traditional tee times that can stretch the event over the entire day, a shotgun start tournament typically concludes with all players finishing their rounds closer together, allowing for post-tournament activities such as an awards ceremony to commence shortly after the final putt.