Graeme McDowell Questions Ryder Cup Course Set-Up After Fifth Big Home Win In A Row

The former Ryder Cup player thinks it may be time for the Europeans and Americans to collaborate on how the courses are set up

Graeme McDowell during the LIV Golf Orlando tournament
Graeme McDowell thinks Ryder Cup course set-up is becoming a problem
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell thinks the Ryder Cup is suffering from the dominance of home teams over recent editions.

The former Team Europe player, who nowadays is on the LIV Golf circuit, addressed the issue in his column for The Telegraph.

Since the Europeans completed one of the greatest Ryder Cup comebacks of all time in the 2012 match at Medinah, each of the five subsequent editions has never been closer than five points, with the home team winning every time. That trend continued at Marco Simone in Italy as Luke Donald’s Team Europe won by 16.5-11.5.

McDowell, who has made four Ryder Cup playing appearances, including a win by an identical score in the 2014 match at Gleneagles, thinks that home dominance is becoming increasingly problematic.

Graeme McDowell during the 2014 Ryder Cup singles session at Gleneagles

Graeme McDowell was a Team Europe player in its five-point win over the USA in the 2014 match at Gleneagles

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He wrote: “It is now over 10 years since we had a really close Ryder Cup. And over 30 years since the US won in Europe. As much as that fact is something to be proud of, it is also a concern.

“In 2014 at Gleneagles it was a beatdown, 2016 at Hazeltine was a beatdown, 2018 in Paris was a beatdown, 2021 at Whistling Straits was a beatdown. And now Rome. Rory said in his press conference that winning away in the Ryder Cup had now become the biggest test in golf. But is that a good thing?”

McDowell then addressed what he sees as the main reason why the home side has become so dominant in recent years, saying that course set-up informed by state-of-the-art analytics is responsible.

“Yes these guys are the best players in the world and should be able to adapt to anything you throw at them," he wrote. "But with the analytics we now have at our disposal we know exactly where our strengths lie versus our opponents.

“Over the course of a weekend, with thousands of shots hit, the sample size is such that it does make a difference. That is why in Paris we saw such narrow fairways, and green speeds of 10.5-11 max on the Stimpmeter, because that is what we are used to growing up.

“Here again the fairways were cut narrow. We had the drivable par-fours, but otherwise the par-fours were super-long and we tried to keep wedges out of American hands because our stats told us that was what they were better at. The stats were right.”

McDowell also pointed out that, while there is now some collaboration with the course set-up, with a joint committee determining specifics during match week, it could be time to consider working together throughout the process.

He explained: “Potentially, they could go one step further and collaborate on course set-up right from the start of the two-year process. Set it up together and then say: ‘May the best team win.’ The home team would still have the crowd but that might make it closer?”

McDowell then suggested that playing the match at a neutral venue could also be an option, but admitted he wouldn’t necessarily advocate for that.

Away from issues surrounding course set-up, McDowell congratulated the team for its win, writing: “That was some performance and every single member of that team should be incredibly proud of themselves.”

He also expressed a desire to one day represent Team Europe again. He wrote: “I hope one day I will be back in some sort of capacity. Anything to represent that shade of blue again.”

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.