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Ryder Cup format 2023: Fourballs, foursomes and singles golf explained

By Andy Watson

Published: 16:09, 25 September 2023 | Updated: 15:13, 27 September 2023

For one week every two years, the world of Men’s Golf is transfixed by the Ryder Cup.

On the face of it, the competition seems a bit unusual. First of all, it is one country taking on a whole continent. That doesn’t happen in many other sports, except ones that have since attempted to emulate the success of this glorious competition. Of course, this quirk only came about in 1979, after years of American domination of the competition over the Great Britain & Ireland team.

1979 is when everything changed. The inclusion of European players made the playing field more even, and also ushered in a new format.

The format of the competition about to be embarked upon in Rome is the same, in terms of numbers and style, as was decided for the 1979 competition at The Greenbrier, West Virginia.

The Basics

The US and European teams are made up of 12 players. The method of selection has changed over the years, and there is no rule that captains have to pick their players in the same way as each other, though often an agreement is made over the number of wildcard selections that each captain has for their team.

For 2023, both the US and European captains, Zach Johnson and Luke Donald respectively, had six captain’s picks each. The other players were determined by rankings and points scoring systems.

All of the matches in the Ryder Cup are played using the matchplay format. This means that golfers set out to try and win holes. They do this by completing the hole in as few shots as possible, if they complete the hole in fewer shots than their opponent(s), then they win that hole. The players who win the most holes in an 18-hole round, win the match for their team.

Whichever team wins the highest number of matches in the total of 28 (8 foursomes, 8 fourballs, 12 singles), i.e. first to 14.5, wins the Ryder Cup. If the event ends 14-14, then the Ryder Cup is retained by the current holders, in this case, the USA.

Ryder Cup trophy

Player Participation Rules

Before we dive into the daily format, we must first tackle the rules surrounding participation. All 12 players that are named in the teams must be used — this happens in the singles on Day three. There is no written rule that says that players must be used in the team formats, which means that certain players might only contribute to the singles.

What is the difference between fourballs and foursomes?

All of the team golf is played over day one and day two of the tournament.

There are two formats which are used — foursomes and fourballs. Colloquially, and helpfully for explanation purposes, these formats are better known as ‘shared ball’ and ‘best ball’. Both formats are played by pairs.

In the foursomes, the pair of players from a team will use the same ball to hit alternate shots. For example, one player will play the tee shot, then the next will play from wherever the ball lands. The third shot will be played by the player who took the first shot, and so on, until the ball finds the hole. The pair who reach the hole in the fewest number of shots wins the hole for their team.

The fourballs sees all four of the players in the match play their own ball. The winner on each hole is decided by whichever player finds the hole in the fewest shots. If two players from opposing pairs tie on the hole, then that hole is halved. If one player completes the hole in fewer than their opposing pair, then they win that hole for their team.

Result Sky Bet odds
USA 1/1
Europe 11/10
Tie 12/1
You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds within this article are accurate at the time of writing (12:00, 26/09/2023). BeGambleAware.

Day One — Friday 29th September

It is the home captain’s choice as to whether foursomes or fourballs are playing in the morning or afternoon on each day of the team play in Ryder Cup golf. For 2023, Luke Donald has chosen to play foursomes each morning, with fourballs in the afternoon.

Day One’s schedule therefore is as follows:

Morning: 4 Foursomes (06:35 BST, 06:50, 07:05, 07:20)

Afternoon: 4 Fourballs (11:25 BST, 11:40, 11:55, 12:10)

The captains will select their teams for the opening session on the evening before play, and their afternoon teams will be announced after play has been completed in the morning.

Day Two — Saturday 30th September

Day Two’s schedule is the same as Friday, but the pairs that are selected can be different and will be announced the night before for the morning’s play, and and again after play is complete in the morning session.

Morning: 4 Foursomes (06:35 BST, 06:50, 07:05, 07:20)

Afternoon: 4 Fourballs (11:25 BST, 11:40, 11:55, 12:10)

Day Three — Sunday 1st October

All 12 players from each team will play an 18-hole matchplay competition on Sunday to decide the fate of the Ryder Cup.

Play commences at 10:35 BST, with 12-minute intervals between the games.

Play will continue until all matches are complete, regardless of when the trophy has been won.