What Is The Solheim Cup Format?

We take a look at how points are won and lost at the Solheim Cup

Fans wave flags in the grandstand at the Solheim Cup 1st tee
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The 18th edition of the Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in Spain from 22-24 September is the most anticipated women’s team event in the golfing calendar, but what is required from each player to take Europe or USA to victory?

Here we explain the Solheim Cup format and how many points are up for grabs in the much-loved team contest.

What Is The Solheim Cup Format?

There are 12 players in each team representing Europe and the USA.

The match is played over three days and there are 28 points at stake. One point is awarded to the team that wins the match and in the event of a tie, both teams score half a point.

On day one and two, 8 of the 12 players will be selected by their respective captains, Suzann Pettersen (Europe) and Stacy Lewis (USA), to play a morning session of four foursomes matches and an afternoon session of four fourball matches.

Unlike regular weeks on the LPGA Tour and LET, the format for the Solheim Cup is match play as opposed to stroke play. Players compete against each other in match play instead of in stroke play where their score is measured against the course.

In match play, whichever player (or team) has the lowest score on each hole wins that hole to go '1up'. Whoever wins the most holes wins. Matches often don't last the full 18 holes, for example if a team is 3up with only two holes remaining they win the match 3&2.

Foursomes is an alternate shot format where teams in pairs take turns on each hole. Players on each team will take turns to tee off, so one will tee off from the even-numbered holes and the other from the odd-numbered holes.

Once the player hits the tee shot, the other will play the next shot from where the ball finishes and so on. This continues until the ball is holed out. Whichever pair takes the fewest shots wins the hole.

In fourballs, both players from each team play their own ball, so there are four balls in play on every hole. The best score from each team counts in the match, with the lowest score resulting in a win.

Team Europe celebrate with the trophy in 2021

The European team will need 14 points out of a possible 28 to retain the trophy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

On day three, all 12 players from each team play a singles match and compete against an opponent drawn at random based on the order each captain puts their team out.

How many points are needed to win the Solheim Cup?

After all matches are complete, the team with the most points wins or retains the Cup. 

Defending champions Europe must win 14 of the 28 points to retain the Cup. For an outright win by either team, the magic number is 14.5 points.

What is the format for day 1 at the Solheim Cup?

On day one, there are eight matches and therefore eight points up for grabs.

The morning session of foursomes sees four doubles matches with eight players competing.

The afternoon session of four balls again sees four matches and eight competitors.

What is the format for day 2 at the Solheim Cup?

The Solheim Cup format for day 2 is the exact same as day one. Once again there will be eight points up for grabs, with two sessions. The morning session is foursomes and the afternoon session is four balls.

After the first two days, there will have been 16 matches and 16 points on offer.

What is the final day Solheim Cup format?

The final day format at the Solheim Cup is different to the first two days, where the captains are able to choose which players they want to play.

All 12 players from each team compete on the final day and there is only one session - singles.

Captains select the order of the 12 players (anonymously) and each submit their order before the 12 singles matches are announced on Saturday evening.

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Solheim Cup format
Day 1Morning foursomes (4 matches)Afternoon four balls (4 matches)
Day 2Morning foursomes (4 matches)Afternoon four balls (4 matches)
Day 312 singles matchesRow 2 - Cell 2
Alison Root

Alison Root has over 25 years experience working in media and events, predominantly dedicated to golf, in particular the women’s game. Until 2020, for over a decade Alison edited Women & Golf magazine and website, and in addition to writing, overseeing all content and developing industry relationships, she was the go-to voice for TV and radio to comment on breaking women’s golf stories. Alison is also the Editorial Director of Glorious, the new digital platform devoted to elevating women’s sport and that includes golf! She is a 14-handicap golfer (should be better) and despite having had the fantastic opportunity to play some of the best golf courses around the world, Kingsbarns in Scotland is her favourite.