The Same Exact Time Scramble format is a fast, fun way to play the game

April 26, 2010

And now for something entirely different — the SET Scramble. This could be the new and improved face of scramble golf in the 21st century.

Here’s why the finish of the SET Scramble’s introductory outing was dramatic but different: PGA Tour veteran Scott McCarron stroked a putt that was headed for the cup and the win on the last green. It looked good but it lipped out. Mike Perez (brother of tour vet Pat) stroked a putt that was also for the win. It looked good, too, and it was — it lipped in.

What’s so different? McCarron and Perez were teammates, and they putted at exactly the same time. That’s right, the drama of this finish was in seeing two golf balls rolling simultaneously toward the cup. If either one went in, the McCarron-Perez team would win the nine-hole match.

Crazy? Yes. Wild? Absolutely? Unique? No doubt about it. It sounds weird, but it’s the beauty of the Same Exact Time Scramble format. The concept is simple: all four members of each scramble team hit their shots at the same time, except when they’re on the tee or on the green. Then the team members hit two at the same exact time.

“It’s actually a lot of fun,” said McCarron. “We’ve all been playing in scrambles forever and this is something new. It’s a fun format. I loved it.”

Doug McCracken is the CEO and founder of the SET Scramble. He came up with the format as a way to speed up play, always a problem in scrambles (and any other golf tournament, for that matter), and to eliminate cheating. Having all four players from one team hit at the same time is an obvious time-saver and, better yet, it allows for eightsomes. Your foursome will play with another foursome, which should cut down on rules fudging and keep players honest in skill contests like closest to the pin and long drive.

“Isn’t it amazing how often the last group on the course seems to win the closest-to-the-pin prize?” McCracken said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”

McCracken and his friends hosted a nine-hole trial run match recently at Toscana in Palm Springs, Calif. McCarron and Perez were joined on one team by Jonathan Kaye, a PGA Tour player, and Adrian Young of the rock group No Doubt. Tour players Colt Knost, Boo Weekley and John Daly were the pros on the other team. They finished in two hours.

“There’s more camaraderie with eightsomes and more laughing going on,” McCarron said. “To hit four shots at a time, with everybody trying to time it, and seeing the balls criss-cross in the air is really cool. And it’s fun for spectators, too, to see four balls come into the green at once. Then you’re putting two at a time and sometimes the balls are hitting each other around the hole, knocking them in or knocking them out. There’s some serious strategy involved.”

McCarron said he served as the countdown man for his team. That he is, he counted, “One, two, three — swing,” so his team could synchronize its shots and putts. It takes a little getting used to, he admitted, but he enjoyed it. “Most of the amateurs need to be taken out of their games a little,” he said. “They need to quit thinking so much and no more, ‘Oh no, McCarron is watching me,’ or swing thought stuff.”

You can get the rules for the SET Scramble at (You can also catch video of the same-exact-time shotmaking.) Here’s how the national tournament works. Your team signs up for qualifying at a local course or club. The winners at each qualifying site advance to the quarterfinals in September at The Chase at Coyote Springs just north of Las Vegas. The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino is the official tournament hotel.

The top scores from quarterfinal play will return for the semifinals and final the following month. A team’s host-club pro will join the group, which will play as a fivesome in the semifinals Oct. 16-17. The top 12 teams will advance to the championship final the next day, where a celebrity pro (McCarron, Daly, Jason Zuback and others) will join the team, which will then play as a sixsome. The pros will play for a $120,000 purse — $50,000 goes to the winning team’s tour pro and $20,000 goes to the winning team’s host-club professional.

The format has some subtle strategy decisions. On a hole with water, for instance, one player may be designated to lay up or play a safe shot while the other three go for broke. And on putts, it’s important to take different lines to make sure the balls don’t collide and knock each other off course.

“We think it’s going to be a blast for the players,” McCracken said.

Added McCarron, “Scrambles always used to take too long. When you’re running a charity tournament, you want to get people out on the golf course and then get them off and get them inside for the auction.”

Fast play, no fake scores, no fudged prizes, and a reason to go to Las Vegas. What’s not to like?