Here’s our guide full of scramble advice, especially for women, from experts on the business and game of golf.
IT’S THE SEASON of the charity scramble, which is designed to be a fun golf tournament format for everyone. Of course you want to support a good cause, share in the good will and network with co-workers and clients. But if you’ve never played in a charity scramble, or maybe you’ve played in them and never enjoyed the experience of being the only woman on a team of guys, you need some tips.
FIRST, THE BASICS OF THE SCRAMBLE
Know that many people erroneously refer to the scramble as “best ball” because each player on the team will hit from the spot where the best of their shots finished. (A team is usually four players, although pro-ams may have four amateurs plus one professional.)
It’s usually pretty easy to agree on which shot was best: It’s the one that’s closest to the hole and not in any trouble. If that’s your ball, put a tee down in its place. Now everyone on the team will get to hit a shot, placing his or her own ball usually within a club length of the tee.
If your scramble is formal and highly competitive, with big prizes, you might want to agree on a captain to make all of the decisions. In the more formal, competitive formats, there is usually a requirement to use at least two or three tee shots from each player.
In the less formal, fun formats, it is really OK if you don’t play much golf. Just read up in advance on the etiquette and practice your putting.
Many scrambles create fun twists on some holes. For instance, maybe on one hole, the longest hitter in the county is teeing off for every team that comes through. On another, maybe the green has six or seven holes cut on it and you can shoot for any of them. Expect to see a “long drive” hole and a “closest to the pin” hole, both of which generally have women’s prizes. Be sure to check the card to see if you’ve qualified.
SCRAMBLE ADVICE FOR WOMEN FROM KATHERINE MARREN, PGA DIRECTOR OF INSTRUCTION, QUAIL LODGE & GOLF CLUB: Playing the game
I always try to advise my new golfers who have been invited to a charity scramble to participate and prep them by simplifying their swing thoughts and working on their putting and short game where they can really make an impact. Then we work on strategy ideas to bring to the team. This can make a big difference.
- Beginners, hit first in the batting order if possible. The first player in the lineup should try to get the ball in play (this means in the fairway) and even a 7-iron will do. Hit a club you have confidence in and let the seasoned players go for more distance. Most teams forget this strategy and everyone tries to kill it, so the beginner has the best chance to get one in play for the team — a very important role.
- The first putt on the putting green in a scramble format is critical. If a true beginner or non-golfer puts a little time into putting practice using the putting grip technique that Berhard Langer used to win the 1985 Masters (where the grip is clamped to the inside of your left forearm with your right hand) you can be deadly. Starting a ball on the correct line shows the rest of the team the break and gives the team the advantage they need to make some putts.
- If you are the only female in the group you usually get to play forward tees, which is a huge advantage for the team. Take a deep breath, relax your arms and let it fly with your driver.
- Sometimes a team has to have one woman. Step up and play, you will have a great time and be the hero. Remember you are playing for a good cause. Putting first on the green and using the putter around the green for short shots when possible should help the team.
Warning: The scramble format often encourages drinking, shots and other team bonding activities like smoking cigars. Get the vibe of the team and join in if you want. Scrambles are about fun and team bonding, not so much the golf or score. I don’t drink on the course, but, remember, always do what is most comfortable for you to enjoy your game.
SCRAMBLE ADVICE FOR WOMEN, FROM PAM SWENSEN, CEO OF THE EWGA: Networking
- Understand who your playing partners are or will be. Look them up on LinkedIn or Google them so that you know something about their background before you arrive at the course and can create common ground for conversation. Do not make excuses for your playing level. It’s OK to say something like, “I’m a new golfer and find this game exciting, and am looking forward to this format today because I understand it’s more forgiving for those of us who are just getting started. My favorite part is my putting!”
- Utilize the playing experience to get to know your other playing partners so that you can build a relationship. Even novice golfers recognize a good shot and are able to say “Great shot, nice putt.” The nice thing about a scramble is that you all play from the same position on the course until the ball is putted out, so you get to move together. And talk together.
- Cement the relationship. Thank your playing partners, sit with them at the closing awards banquet as the team and then follow up with them post the round with a personal note (most people send emails, so the note is a nice touch!) acknowledging the nice time you had playing with them and if appropriate, asking for a followup call or cup of coffee if there is a business building opportunity.
- Most of all, be yourself. It is OK to talk business if other playing partners bring up the subject. Otherwise use the round as a learning and getting-to-know-you experience, and wait until the 19th hole to make your business pitch if applicable.
Don’t be wary, be enthusiastic. You can be a contributor to the team: Your putts do count. I always like to bring a small gift for my playing partners, it could be something logoed from your company, a sleeve of golf balls, a nice divot repair tool. It’s a great icebreaker.
SCRAMBLE ADVICE FOR WOMEN FROM DEBBIE WAITKUS, CEO OF GOLF FOR CAUSE, WHICH OPERATES SEVERAL CHARITY SCRAMBLES EACH YEAR. Having fun:
1. Pack your pockets. Carry an extra ball, ball marker, divot repair tool, tees of different heights, including extras for the scramble format, and money for cart beverages so you never have to run for your purse.
2. Even if you aren’t a golfer, you can look like one. Call the course and ask for the dress code, then check the weather forecast. Treat yourself to a cute new outfit, or put something together from your closet for the day. Golf clothes nowadays are designed to work on and off the course.
3. Treat your foursome to a round of drinks from the beverage cart, in appreciation for their patience and for the golf tips you’re no doubt receiving.
4. Don’t be intimidated by an invitation from someone who loves golf and talks about golf all the time, because that does NOT mean that he is a great player. Your putts can help the team as much as his crazy long, and maybe lost, drives.
Most of all, be positive, have a sense of humor, and remember the cause. You’re making a great contribution, even if you never make a putt.