Who Was Right? Viral Barstool Sports Clip Throws Up Scramble Rule Debate

Controversy raged at the Writer Cup as confusion over the rules of the scramble format led to an almighty argument

Dave Portnoy and Kirk Minihane at the Writer Cup
There was controversy at the Writer Cup over the riles of the scramble format
(Image credit: X @stoolpresidente)

Barstool Sports’ inaugural Writer Cup sees its journalists compete in a Ryder Cup-style match. However, it had barely got started before controversy saw tempers flare.

The match is played in the scramble format, which generally sees all players in a team tee off before deciding which is the most favourable shot, with all members then playing a second shot from that spot and so on until the ball is holed.

In the first match, Kirk Minihane and Hank Lockwood were taking on Francis Ellis and Arian Foster. Everything had appeared to be going smoothly after Ellis rolled his putt for four past the hole, but then he tapped in for five with Foster still to play his putt. 

Ellis insisted that though he was in for five, Foster still should have his chance to play for four. That didn’t go down well, to say the least. Minihane wasn’t having any of it, arguing the final shot Ellis had played was the designated shot for the scramble format.

Then Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy got involved, suggesting Minihane wasn’t playing in the spirit of the game. He began by saying, “That’s crazy” before lamenting “I thought you guys were better than that.”

Minihane shot back with “how f****** stupid are you?” and on the disagreement went, with Portnoy at one point inviting Minihane to go home, which drew a request for him to “shut the f*** up” from Minihane!

After the match, which Minihane and Lockwood eventually won, Portnoy posted a video of the spat on X (formerly Twitter) with the message: "Golf is a gentleman’s game and I had to stand up for what is right." But was it? Well, it’s complicated.

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Among the many people who responded to the video was Padraig Harrington, who wrote: “The 'rules of golf' do not cover scrambles so there’s no answer. Common practice would suggest the hole is finished when the first ball is holed, thus a 5."

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Per Barstool Sports' website, Dan Rapaport even got the opinion of Joel Dahmen. The World No.173's verdict? Technically a five.

If a pro like Dahmen and a player with the vast experience of the three-time Major-winning Harrington think it was a five, that's the end of the matter, isn't it? Maybe not. A poll run by @NUCLRGOLF asking: "Is this in for a 4 or 5?" beneath the video was 59% in favour of four after over 3,500 votes. 

In other words, it seems that, like the on-course argument, it's the kind of debate that can - and almost certainly will - run and run.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.