NCG's Golf Glossary: What is a shotgun start?

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Just the mention of the word shotgun is enough to send me running for cover but then I was brought up in a tough part of town.

It’s a fairly noisy way to kick off an event but, if you need everyone to get under way at the same time, there’s no more effective way of filling a bar at the end of a tournament than a shotgun start.

A loud horn, the type they use to suspend play on the PGA Tour, has mostly replaced weaponry at a lot of clubs but, I’m proud to say, at the place where I play my golf we still do things the old fashioned way – with two big barrels.

So what is it?

If a tournament has a shotgun start, holes are initially assigned to 18 groups of four golfers.

They can be playing in a team competition, in a better-ball pair or as individuals, the key thing is they are all there at the same time.


Each ‘group’ starts on a different hole and everyone makes their way around the course until they’ve completed a full 18.

It’s not always restricted to 18 teams – you can usually get a couple of groups on a par 5, with the second teeing off when the first lot are out of range – and it does mean competitions finish quicker.

There’s always a little bit of controversy. Someone is always complaining after having to walk about two miles to tee off on the 13th and, even though its meant to be a simultaneous finish, there’s always a few slower groups dragging up the rear.

Shots are fired

It’s said that head pro Jim Russell, of Walla Walla Country Club, in Washington State, first fired a shotgun to kick off play at a tournament in May 1956.

No-one was injured, and it has been in use ever since.

It’s a hugely popular on Bank Holidays, for charity events and has even been seen at the highest level.

A shotgun start has been used twice on the European Tour to beat the weather – in the final round of the Czech Open in 1993 and for the final two rounds of last year’s Portugal Masters.

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