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What is a shotgun start in golf? Could this type of format make golf more fun to watch?

One of the features of the LIV Golf Invitational Series is shotgun starts - an alternative to the traditional tee time start.

BOLTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 01: Phil Mickelson  of the United States during the Pro-Am prior to the LIV Golf Invitational - Boston at The Oaks golf course at The International on September 01, 2022 in Bolton, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy LyonsGetty

The LIV Invitational Series has rocked the world of golf and caused a sizeable rupture in the game with many key players abandoning the PGA Tour lured by the big bucks of the Saudi Arabian backed initiative.

Apart from the huge financial incentives, LIV Golf has introduced some the new elements to competitive golf. The LIV Golf Series comprises of eight tournaments - seven regular events and a season-closing Team Championship, which will be held at Trump National Doral.

Each of the regular events feature three rounds with no cut, and with play commencing by shotgun start.

There is also a team format with no more than 48 players making up of 12 teams of four, with the teams drafted each week.

Shotguns starts differ to tee time starts in that all groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes on the course. With a tee time start, each player is assigned a time to tee off from the first hole. These tee-off times are staggered with a 10-15 minute delay between players to make sure that players have time to continue their way down the course before the next player tees off.

Shotgun starts were first introduced in May 1956 when Jim Russell, the head pro at Walla Walla Country Club in Walla Walla, Washington, fired a shotgun into the air to signal the start of the round. A few clubs still blast a shotgun to get a tournament underway but in most cases, a loud horn or siren is used as it’s obviously far safer.

How will the shotgun start work at the LIV Invitational Series?

The LIV Invitational Series features 48 golfers split into 12 four-man teams. So each of those 12 groups will be assigned a different hole on the golf course. They all tee off simultaneously and make their way around the course until all 18 holes have been completed.

As with everything, there are pros and cons to the shotgun start format. On the one hand, every team should, in theory, complete the 18-hole course more or less at the same time. It is also a more efficient way of competing as in general, tournaments run smoother and can be wrapped up quicker.

Dustin Johnson of the United States
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Dustin Johnson of the United States ANDY LYONSAFP

There are drawbacks however, there will always be someone who is unhappy about being assigned a hole which involves a long walk and while the idea is for everyone to finish at the same time, there will always be groups who complete the course later than the rest. Whether the shotgun start format is more fun to watch is subjective and depends very much on the viewer but it certainly makes more use of expansive courses and at least ensure everybody finishes at more or less the same time which means everyone can take part in the post-game activities together.


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