How to Score the Ryder Cup

By M.L. Rose
Europe's Graeme McDowell (left) defeated Hunter Mahan in a 2010 Ryder Cup singles match.
Europe's Graeme McDowell (left) defeated Hunter Mahan in a 2010 Ryder Cup singles match.

After a group of American golfers faced counterparts from Great Britain and Ireland in a pair of informal matches in 1921 and 1926, the two sides began a formal match-play competition called the Ryder Cup in 1927. The matches are held every two years. The U.S. team dominated the series until 1979, when the British team was expanded to include professional players from all of continental Europe. Since that change was made, the competition has been about even.

Use the standard match-play scoring guidelines in the Rules of Golf throughout the Ryder Cup, no matter the format that is being used. Whichever team holes the ball in the fewest strokes wins the hole. If both teams take the same number of strokes, the hole is “halved.” The team that wins the most holes in the round wins the match.

Learn match-play scoring terms. If a team wins its first hole, it goes “1 up.” When a match is tied, it’s said to be “all square.” When a team clinches a tie – for example, if it leads 2 up with two holes remaining – the match is “dormie.” The match’s final score is stated in relative terms. If a team has an insurmountable lead – for example, a team is 3 up with only two holes remaining – it wins the match “3 and 2.” If the teams are tied through 17 holes, then one team wins the 18th hole, it wins “1 up.”

Start by scoring the foursomes and four-ball matches on the first two days of the three-day competition. Foursomes competition involves two-player teams, with the players on each team alternating shots throughout the match (hitting every other shot). The team with the lowest amount of strokes on each hole wins the hole. Four-ball competition also involves two-man teams, but each golfer plays his own ball. Amateurs may know this format as better ball of partners. The lowest-scoring player wins the hole for his team. If players on opposite teams tie for the lowest score, the hole is halved. The Ryder Cup’s final day features head-to-head singles competition, with each player taking on a counterpart from the other side. The singles lineup for each team is determined by the captain.

Give each side one point for winning a match or a half point if a match is halved after 18 holes. The team with the most points after three days wins the Ryder Cup – and the worldwide bragging rights that go with it.

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

Photo Credits

  • Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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