[Explained] What Is A Shotgun Start In Golf?

With the recent introduction of shotgun starts into the world of professional golf (think LIV Golf or other shotgun start golf tournament), you may be wondering what an earth a shotgun start actually is.

Here we’ll take a look at what does shotgun start in golf mean, the history of a shotgun start and the pro and cons.

Let’s get into it and find out a little more about the shotgun golf meaning.

What Is A Shotgun Start Golf?
Great for charity events, a shotgun start will get everyone done by the same time. But what is the golf shotgun start meaning?

What Is Shotgun Start In Golf?

What Is A Shotgun Start In Golf?

A shotgun start in golf is a way of getting all players to tee off at the same time. This can be achieved by each group starting on a different hole but at the same time.

For example, if there were 18 groups of players and a golf shotgun start was in place, one group would start on the 1st, another group on the 2nd, and so on. This allows all the players to start at the same time and then all finish at the same time.

The signal the start of the tournament, a shotgun is fired so that everyone can hear from all over the course. This is in fact the theory of how the name shotgun start came about.

It is, however, much more common these days to use a horn or a hooter to get things started. Or even more simply, players check ing what time it is and tee off at the known start time.

All players then go on and play their 18 holes but instead of all finishing on the 18th, each group will finish up on the previous hole to which they started. Say you started on the 5th, you would play your 18 holes round to your final hole the 4th.

If you’re playing in a competition via a shotgun start and scores are tied. The countback calculation will be based on the standard back nine (10-18) rather than which 9 holes were the player’s final nine.

Golf Shotgun Start Rules

The rules of a golf shotgun start are pretty simple, each group of players tee off at the same time, but on separate holes from other groups.

Once you’ve played a total of 18 holes from your start position, your round will be complete even if that isn’t the 18th hole on the scorecard.

What Is A Double Shotgun Start In Golf?

A double shotgun start in golf is basically the same as a normal shotgun start. It just means that you run a shotgun start in the morning and another shotgun start in the afternoon. This allows for a full day of golf with 36 groups playing the competition.

For the larger fields, there is another way of getting more than 18 groups out at once. For some of the longer holes on the course such as par 5’s, 2 different groups can both tee off from that tee just one at a slightly later time. It’s still a shotgun format, one group will be slightly delayed teeing off but it should all level up timing-wise as the round goes on.

What Is A Reverse Shotgun Start In Golf?

A reverse shotgun start is used when fields aren’t full, so the maximum 18 holes don’t need to be used. All players will still start at the same time, but hole starts will be prioritised from the 1st to the back nine.

For example, in a field of 10 groups, one group will be off the 1st, the next off the 18th, the next off the 17th, and so on all the way to the 10th tee.

This means that all groups will be through the 1st in good time, allowing the course to then be opened up to other players, not in the competition.

This can also be known as a modified shotgun start, where groups are allocated holes to start from and at a certain time, which allows for them to get around to the first tee in good time, thus letting other golfers play as well.

what does shotgun start mean in golf

History Of A Shotgun Start

The first time a golf shotgun start was used is reportedly May 1956 by the head pro at Walla Walla Country Club, Jim Russel.

According to Golf Digest, Russel fired a shotgun to let players know to tee off. Players could easily hear the shotgun from where they were positioned all over the course. This has led to the term being used and the format now known as a ‘shotgun’ start.

Pros And Cons Of A Shotgun Start

Ok so now we know what the golf shotgun start meaning is, but what are the pros and cons of actually using a shotgun start for playing golf in competitions?


First of all, a shotgun start is great because it allows all groups to finish at the same time. This is especially useful for when you’ve got a prize giving after the event.

Getting all players in at the same time means less time waiting around afterwards and more people likely to stay for the prizes.

This is why I love a shotgun start. So many times in a normal competition I’ve been one of the first groups out, only to have to wait a good few hours after finishing for the final groups to conclude their rounds. The shotgun start means we all start and finish at the same time, and no one has to wait around for ages for the prizes.

It also means that you can get a whole field of 72 players round and complete within 4 hours, unlike a standard 1st competition which will likely take 7+ hours before the last group is in.

This helps to free up the course for other players who weren’t in the competition, which is great for the club.

Sometimes it’s always nice to be able to start from a different tee box to the normal 1st. The 1st hole at your club could be a bit of a bogey hole, so starting on a different hole could be beneficial to your game. This means you’ll be more warmed up by the time you get to the 1st.


Although a shotgun start is a great way to get a lot of players around and done quickly, that also brings a few issues.

First of which is a rather long walk for some groups to their first hole of the day and a similarly long walk back to the car park afterwards. With there being 18 different holes to start on, inevitably some groups will be on the holes furthest away from the clubhouse.

Considering you’re about to walk around 18 holes of golf, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But for some, it might be a bit of a pain to have to walk that extra distance just to start and finish your round.

I don’t mind a walk before teeing off, but if you’ve got the furthest tee box from the car park, it can feel like you’ve played half a round before you’ve even teed off.

Next up is the fact that the winning player could end up finishing on the 5th hole and not the 18th as with a traditional setup.

For the club golfer, this might not sound like too much of an issue. But when this is brought onto the professional circuit, you want to be able to watch the winner holing out on 18, rather than some obscure position in the middle of the course.

Final Thoughts

That rounds up our look at what is a shotgun start in golf. In short, the shotgun start golf meaning is where all the groups in a competition tee off at the same time, but on different holes.

It’s a great way of getting lots of golfers round and done by the same time, but also means a fair bit of extra walking depending on which tee you’re allocated.

A super helpful structure for running club competitions and a great way to keep golf fun.

Shotgun Start FAQs

What is the golf shotgun start meaning?

The golf shotgun start meaning is where all golfers tee off at the same time but from different tee boxes across the golf course. This could be 18 groups teeing off from holes 1 to 18.

Why do they call it a shotgun start?

A shotgun start is called that because the first time the format was used, a shotgun was fired to let players know when to tee off. This shot signalled the start of the competition and players teed off from all different holes.

Does the PGA Tour use a shotgun start?

The PGA Tour uses a standard approach to start times, where all groups tee off the first tee at different times. This means that all groups are on the course at separate times and means that some players will be finished hours after others.

What is the benefit of a shotgun start?

The most obvious benefit of using a shotgun start for a competition is that all players start at the same time and they all finish at the same time. This fully utilises the course capacity and prevents clogging up areas like the driving range or pro shop.

What is shotgun rules in golf?

The shotgun rule in golf is where all groups of golfers tee off on separate holes all at the same time. This means no one has to wait around the 1st tee box to start their round of golf.

How many golfers can play with a shotgun start?

Usually, a shotgun start will consist of 72 golfers teeing off on 18 different holes. Sometimes, on longer holes such as a par 5, more than one group will start on that hole, with the second group teeing off slightly later.

Is a shotgun start a scramble?

A shotgun start is a good way of getting lots of groups out at the same time during a scramble competition. It gives at least 18 opportunities to get groups out at the same tee time.

How many teams in a shotgun start?

A shotgun start will usually consist of 18 groups, but it can always be less or a few more. On longer holes, more than one group can tee off, with the second teeing off just a few minutes after the first group.

Can you have a reverse shotgun golf start?

Yes, a reverse shotgun golf start allows groups to tee off on the back side of golf holes when there’s not 18 groups in the competition. it helps to open up the rest of the golf course to other golfers more quickly, than starting groups on the front nine.

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

Scroll to Top