What Is The Ryder Cup Format?

We examine how the points are won and lost at the Ryder Cup

Ryder Cup scoreboard pictured at Whistling Straits 2021
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We take a look at the Ryder Cup format, where Europe go up against America in the most exciting contest on the golfing calendar

What Is The Ryder Cup Format?

The Ryder Cup takes place at Whistling Straits this year after it was pushed back 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is the 43rd edition of the biennial contest between Team USA and Team Europe, who each take turns to host the tournament.

In total, 28 matches are contested at the Ryder Cup with each worth one point.

How many points are needed to win the Ryder Cup

For an outright win, the magic number is 14.5, but should both sides accumulate 14 points, the defending champions will retain the Ryder Cup.

If the scores are tied at 14-14, Europe will retain the trophy after winning at Le Golf National in 2018.

There are 12 players on each team, with eight taking part in each foursomes and fourball session, and all 12 battling it out in the Sunday singles.

The format of the Ryder Cup

Friday’s action consists of four foursomes and fourball matches.

The home captain dictates which order these are played in and this year, Steve Stricker opted for foursomes in the morning followed by fourballs in the afternoon.

This is repeated on Saturday and then on Sunday, there are 12 singles matches during which everyone plays an opponent drawn at random based on the order each captain puts their team out.

Foursomes is an alternate shot format where teams in pairs take turns on each hole. So one player hits the tee shot and the other will play the next shot from where the ball finishes and so on. This continues until the ball is holed out.

It is a matchplay competition against the other team, so whichever duo takes the fewest shots wins the 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.

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.

The Ryder Cup schedule of play:


AM: Four foursomes matches (4 points to be won)

PM: Four fourball matches (4 points to be won)


AM: Four foursomes matches (4 points to be won)

PM: Four fourball matches (4 points to be won)


12 single matches (12 points to be won)

You can catch all the action live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Golf – or, if you don't have Sky, check out our guide to watching the Ryder Cup action without having to sign up to Sky Sports.

Joel Tadman
Technical Editor

Joel has worked in the golf industry for over 12 years covering both instruction and more recently equipment. He now oversees all product content here at Golf Monthly, managing a team of talented and passionate writers and presenters in delivering the most thorough and accurate reviews, buying advice, comparisons and deals to help the reader find exactly what they are looking for. So whether it's the latest driver, irons, putter or laser rangefinder, Joel has his finger on the pulse keeping up to date with the latest releases in golf. He is also responsible for all content on irons and golf tech, including distance measuring devices and launch monitors.

One of his career highlights came when covering the 2012 Masters he got to play the sacred Augusta National course on the Monday after the tournament concluded, shooting a respectable 87 with just one par and four birdies. To date, his best ever round of golf is a 5-under 67 back in 2011. He currently plays his golf at Burghley Park Golf Club in Stamford, Lincs, with a handicap index of 3.3.

Joel's current What's In The Bag? 

Driver: Titleist TSR3, 9° 

Fairway wood: Titleist TSR3, 15° 

Hybrid: Titleist TSi2, 18° 

Irons: TaylorMade P770, 4-7 iron, TaylorMade P7MC 8-PW 

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM8, 50°, 54° and a Titleist Vokey SM9 60° lob wedge 

Putter: Evnroll ER2V 

Ball: 2021 Titleist Pro V1x