If a tournament has a shotgun start, here's how it works: Say there are 18 groups of four golfers each entered in the tournament. Each of those groups is assigned to a different hole on the golf course. Group A goes to the tee box on the first hole, Group B goes to the tee box on the second hole, and so on. When the starting time arrives, all groups begin play simultaneously from their assigned teeing grounds. Typically, groups are notified to begin play through the use of an auditory signal such as the sounding of a horn.
Why use a shotgun start? A shotgun start allows for a tournament to be completed in less time, since a large number of golfers begin play simultaneously (as opposed to each foursome teeing off from the No. 1 hole in succession).
The term "shotgun start" comes from the first known use of such a starting format. As reported in the December 2004 issue of Golf Digest, Walla Walla (Wash.) Country Club head pro Jim Russell fired off a shotgun to sound the start of play to golfers waiting on tees around the course at a tournament in May 1956.
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"The shotgun start is at 9 a.m., so make sure your group is in place on the appropriate hole and ready to begin play."