“I bet you can’t shoot under par in a 4-ball scramble”
That’s the random out of the blue challenge I received today. It came from an individual I’ve never met. He publicly bet me $18,000 I couldn’t break par. On one of Florida’s toughest golf courses. From the tips. Playing a 4-ball scramble.
It’s an easy win for me. I’ll explain below.
I accepted the bet and offered to double it to $36,000… if he could verify funds.
Of course, the dude could not back his mouth up with funds.
Which is fine. I felt bad for him. I was hustling him. He’s clueless when it comes to the effects of having 4 chances on every shot.
But it got me thinking. What would you score?
How does a 4-ball scramble impact your score?
It’s not an overly complex formula to calculate.
First, you can take a look at any scrambles you’ve participated in. I’ve participated in many and typically score between -10 and -18, and that’s with a team of three other golfers who score higher.
But you’ve also got to factor in the golf course. This dude picked a place called Old Corkscrew. It’s ranked as one of Florida’s ten toughest golf courses. The scorecard shows 7,393 yards and a rating/slope of 76.6/151. But allegedly there is a “secret” back tee at 7,800+ yards with a rating close to 80.
So what does that mean?
Stick with me here.
The course rating is basically the number that when added to your handicap you will match or beat that number 25% of your rounds. Example: If you are a 20 handicap and the course rating is 70, you would be able to score 90 or better approximately 25% of the time, while 75% of your scores would match or be higher than 90.
This means that as a +1 handicap (1 better than zero), playing a course with a rating of 80, I would score 79 or better 25% of the time. Breaking the par 72 at Old Corkscrew from the “secret” back tees would be virtually impossible for a +1 handicap golfer. Additionally, since my scoring average at my home club is 2 strokes higher than the course rating, we can assume a +1 handicap would average 82 from these tees.
Fortunately I’m in luck. The dude bet me I couldn’t break par playing a 4-ball scramble. That means that I get to hit each shot 4 times and choose the very best one!
So the question becomes, could a +1 handicap golfer, playing their own 4 ball scramble, score 11 shots better than average and successfully play under par from the tips at Old Corkscrew?
Let’s see how this plays out.
First we’ll look at a regular two man scramble I play in where I have a 13 handicap playing partner. We use about 80% of my shots and our scores range from 55 to 68 on a course where I average 69 on my own ball. Looking back over the last 18 rounds our average score is 61.88.
*In full disclosure the format in this event allows for mulligans which we convert about 40% of the time. Thus I’m adding two strokes to the average to be more realistic. So we’ll take 63.88 as our case study and round it up to 64 for good measure.
As you can see, in a two person scramble where the other person is an average of 13 strokes higher, we still beat my average score by 5 strokes a round. Once you factor in my own ability and the advantage of hitting the same shot 4 times in a row, one could assume the scoring average would be at least 12 shots better.
But let’s also take a statistical approach. A typical +1 golfer hits the fairway about 45% of the time, hits the green in regulation about 50% of the time, averages 2 penalty shots per round and averages 30 putts per round. On a course like Old Corkscrew these statistics would not be as successful. The +1 would be closer to 25% for fairways, 30% for greens, 3 penalty shots and 32 putts.
Now how does that work in a 4 ball scramble?
Take the 25% fairway stat. Over the course of 4 shots you are going to hit the fairway at least once on every single hole. But remember. Golf is not a consistent game. A +1 may occasionally miss the fairway 7 times in a row! So, even in a scramble, the +1 golfer is likely to miss a few fairways. We’ll say that well over 90% of the time a +1 would hit 14 of 18 fairways on this extremely difficult golf course playing a 4-ball scramble.
On to the greens in regulation statistic. Very similar to the fairway statistic. At least 1 of every 4 swings for a +1 golfer is going to hit the green. Therefore in a 4-ball scramble a +1 golfer is likely to hit 15 or more greens in regulation well over 90% of the time.
It comes down to putting. We all know how difficult putting is. And the greens at Old Corkscrew are legendary for their difficulty. However we also know how easy it is to make the putt on the 2nd try. How many of you have said “best 2nd putter ever!” after you miss an easy putt and try it again. Now imagine having 4 chances at it! Yep! This is exactly why so many 4 person scramble teams come in at 18 under par; even when they have two higher handicap golfers on the team. Putting is infinitely easier!
Rarely do you find a 4-ball scramble score with more than 24 putts. But for arguments sake, and since the greens at Old Corkscrew are extremely difficult, let’s just say the +1 golfer only has 6 one putts for a total of 30 putts.
14 fairways, 15 greens in regulation and 30 putts.
Penalty Strokes? You want to talk about penalty strokes? With 4 chances on every shot a +1 golfer would only receive a penalty every 1,000+ holes, even on a course as difficult as the one I have been challenged to play.
The above statistics result in a score of 3 under par 69.
And I’ve been very conservative to make the score and statistics high. I firmly believe a +1 golfer would score closer to 62 to 66 playing a 4-ball scramble on even the most difficult golf course in the world.
It’s a no brainer bet on my part. And it would have been fun! Unfortunately for me and fortunately for the random social media dude, he doesn’t have the funds to back up his big mouth.
So now that you’ve seen how to calculate the numbers if you played a 4-ball scramble, what would your score be?
When spring arrives, get back on the course and try it for real. Let me know how close your guess is to your real score!
P.S. At least I invoiced him $997 for the gambling lesson.