The Ultimate Ryder Cup Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Ryder Cup

Is there anything more exciting in golf than the Ryder Cup?

This epic team event is like the Super Bowl combined with the Olympics in golf. It’s created some of the best memories in the game for both fans and players alike. 

For most golfers getting the chance to see a Ryder Cup live is a bucket list experience. One of the few events that even compares with it is going to Augusta National or possibly another major championship. 

Needless to say, it’s an amazing event that brings out some of these golf ever on the biggest stage. It’s the best golfers in Europe vs. the best golfers against in the United States in a truly epic few days of golf. 

Before the 2023 Ryder Cup, let’s get into the history of this event, how the teams are selected, venues, and more. 

Ryder Cup Guide


One of the reasons golf is such a great sport is the rich history of the game. Some historians note that golf has been played since the 15th century before becoming more popular in the 1700s. But the Ryder Cup didn’t come along until 1927. 

Samuel Ryder was the creator of this great event that started nearly a century ago. It was originally a competition between Great Britain/Ireland and US golfers before expanding in later years. 

The first official Ryder Cup took place at the Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts. Walter Hagen was the team captain of the USA while Ted Ray was the team captain of Europe. 

The United States won the first Ryder Cup with 9 ½  points to Europe’s 2 ½ points (scoring has since changed). The following year team Europe won but the Americans tended to win in lopsided fashion until a change was made in the 1970s. 

In 1979 the event expanded to allow players from all of Europe and has been much more competitive since then. In total, there have been 43 Ryder Cups over the years with 1012 matches and 363 different players.

Ryder Cup
Image Source Koobit

Teams and Players

If you’re like most golfers, you’ve probably wondered how the players get selected for each team? First, it’s important to note there is a captain for each team and several assistant captains too.

The USA team captain is selected by the PGA of America while the European team captain is selected by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee. Being selected as a team captain is a great honor for both teams and these individuals get to pick assistant captains as well. 

Each team has 12 players. 

The European team is composed of the top three eligible players from the European Tour Points list, top three players from the World Points List, and six captain picks. While the USA team is composed of the top six eligible players in the points ranking with six captain’s picks. 

This is why the Official Golf World Ranking points are so vital to the sport and why players make it their goal to finish in the top. Obviously finishing high means great play but it also means an automatic spot on the Ryder Cup team. Otherwise, they risk having to get a captain’s pick to compete in the event. 

The youngest player to ever compete is Sergio Garcia in 1999 at only 19 years old. While the oldest player is Raymond Floyd who was 51 years old in 1993. Additionally, Phil Mickelson has the most appearances with 12 from 1995-2018. 

Below are some of the best performances by a single player:

  • Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabl are the top team ever with 12 points
  • Sergio Garcia has the most point ever (28 ½) and also has the most foursome points (13 ½) 
  • Five players have won seven points for their team (including Lee Trevino, Colin Montgomerie, and more) 

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Captain’s Picks

Captain’s picks are one of the most exciting parts of the Ryder Cup. While a lot of times it’s easy for them to select players, the last few spots are usually a toss up. Captains juggle who’s played well recently, their past history in the event, match play experience, mental game, and other factors to fill their rosters. 

The players to get selected are known as “wild cards” and some have been much more successful than others. 

Ryder Cup Format 

What makes the Ryder Cup so much for both players and fans alike is the format. All the matches are played using match play format. A team can only win or lose by one (ex. If team USA makes four and team Europe makes 6, team USA only goes up by one on the hole). 

Here are some other basics of match play compared to traditional stroke play:

  • Teams can concede putts and holes.
  • The team furthest away from the hole must play first. 
  • Practice is allowed on the greens once the hole is complete. 

In terms of scoring each match is worth one point and matches that end in a tie are worth ½ point. The first team to reach 14 ½ points will take home the iconic trophy. In the unlikely event of a tie, the latest winner of the event will retain the cup. 

While match play itself is exciting, there are three different formats over the three-day event to make it even better. On Friday and Saturday there are a total of eight matches with a morning and afternoon session. While Sunday is the singles matches where all 12 players are required to play. 

In total, there are 28 matches over the three-day event (Friday-Sunday). What’s unique about the Ryder Cup is that there are no extra holes like a traditional match play event. Here’s the itinerary for the week of the big event. 

Related: Stableford Scoring in Golf 

Opening Ceremony

The Ryder Cup officially starts at the opening ceremony on Thursday before the matches. Each team introduces the players and is a formal affair with the player’s wives and significant others. 

Day 1 & 2: Four-Ball and Foursomes 

To start the tournament off there are four ball and foursomes matches. A four ball match is pretty simple to understand; each member of a 2-man team plays his own ball on the hole. 

Each team counts the lowest score (aka best ball) and the lowest score wins. If the hole is tied then it’s halved. 

But foursomes (also known as alternate shot) is a much harder format. Each two-man team plays one ball per hole and alternate hitting tee shots. 

For example, if Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia are playing together, one tees off on odd holes and the other tees off on even holes. Once Sergio tees off, Ian would then play the next shot and alternate until the hole is complete.

Not all players will or do compete in day one and two matches. Some players might play all five matches, while others might play only on Sunday single sessions. This is a choice made by the captains and assistant captains. 

Usually if a team or player has a hot streak they’ll keep the same groupings and leave them on the golf course. Adrenaline is high so players have no issue with playing 36 holes per day. 

Related: Golf Scramble Format

Image Source CBS Sports

Sunday Format: Singles Matches 

On the last day of the event each player must compete in a singles format. It’s 1 vs. 1 match play and every point (or half point) might make the difference between winning and losing. Even if the Ryder Cup is won before all matches are played, everyone finishes the event. 

Ryder Cup Venues

Another reason the Ryder Cup is so exciting is because of the incredible venues it’s played at. Some top sites in Europe include:

  • Muirfield Gullane
  • Walton Heath Golf Club 
  • Royal Lytham and St. Annes
  • Royal Birkdale (home to the Concession by Jack Nicklaus in a match with Tony Jacklin) 

While the USA has hosted the event at sites like:

  • Pinehurst
  • Muirfield Village Golf Club 
  • The Country Club (known as the Battle of Brookline)
  • The Ocean Course (known as the War by the Shore) 

While the following sites are set to host the event in future years;

  • 2025: Bethpage Black Course, New York
  • 2027: Adare Manor, Republic of Ireland
  • 2029: Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota
  • 2031: TBD; European site has not yet been awarded
  • 2033: Olympic Club, San Francisco
  • 2035: TBD; European site has not yet been awarded
  • 2037: Congressional Country Club, Maryland 

The event was held in odd numbers of years until 1999 when it was moved to 2002 due to the 9/11 terror attacks. While the pandemic postponed the 2020 match and now it’s back to odd years. 

Ryder Cup Results 

Now that you know more details about this event, who’s won the Ryder Cup more? 

In the beginning team USA had the edge and won more frequently until the change of eligibility was made in 1979. The Americans have won 27/43 matches, 18 of them before 1979. 

But lately, team Europe seems to always have the edge. In the 21 matches since the changes 11 matches have been won by Europe, nine by the Americans, and one match tied. 

Even if the players on team Europe haven’t been as highly ranked in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), they seem to have an “X” factor. The Europeans are able to rally around each other and beat the Americans, even on “away” years. 

Top Questions About Ryder Cup 

Do you have more questions about the iconic match play event? If so, keep reading to learn more facts about the Ryder Cup.

Where will the 2023 Ryder Cup be played?

The event will be held in Rome, Italy at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club. 

Is the 2023 Ryder Cup sold out? 

Yes, the event sold out within the first seven hours of tickets being released. 

Who’s won the most Ryder Cup points?

Sergio Garcia – he’s won a total of 28 ½ points for team Europe. 

What’s the difference between the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup?

The Ryder Cup is team Europe vs. team USA. While the President’s Cup is a similar biennial event that features team USA vs. team International. All the players from the international team are from around the world, excluding Europe.

This event isn’t quite as popular as the Ryder Cup but still produces some great golf. However, the tournament is quite lopsided as team USA has won 12/14 times vs. the Internationals only winning once with a tie as well. In 2003 Tiger Woods and Ernie Els battled in extra holes but darkness ultimately led to a tie. 

Similar events include the Walker Cup (US vs. Great Britain And Ireland) Curtis Cup (women’s amateur event), Solheim Cup (women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup), Junior Ryder Cup, Junior Solheim Cup, and PGA Cup. 

Can LIV golfers play in the Ryder Cup? 

LIV Golf has changed the landscape of the game as some of the best players in the world have switched professional tours. This will impact both teams as some great players jumped ship and at this time, are not allowed to play in the Ryder Cup.

Some notable players that won’t likely be eligible include Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood for team Europe. While Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson among others aren’t allowed to play for team USA. 

Only time will tell if the event allows LIV golfers or if the OWGR is updated which would make players eligible. 

Wrapping Up

The Ryder Cup is one of the greatest traditions in the game of golf. 

Even though both teams aren’t playing for millions of dollars in purses like normal, it produces some of the best golf ever. For many players, winning a Ryder Cup is just as important (if not more important) than winning a major championship. 

If you ever get the chance to attend a Ryder Cup in person, do it! 

It’s an environment unlike anything you’ll experience in golf and a great way to show your national pride. If you’re unable to attend in person, make sure to set your alarm early on away years to not miss any of the action. 

Do you watch the Ryder Cup? Or, have you been lucky enough to attend one in person?

Let us know in the comments below. 

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Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

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