Whose Ball Is Used In Foursomes At The Ryder Cup?

A big issue when it comes to the Ryder Cup foursomes - which ball is used?

A ball is passed between players during the Ryder Cup
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One question on many fans' lips during the Ryder Cup is always whose ball is used in foursomes?

It's a big deal as players are so meticulous with their golf ball choice to the extent that it is always the first thing that goes in the bag.

Some players prefer a softer ball or perhaps a more-spinny option, so does that mean that golfers who use the same ball normally play together in the foursomes? Players' ball choice can influence foursomes pairings, but not always.

Well, just because players use the same manufacturer and type of golf ball doesn't necessarily mean that they will work well together.

Players may prefer to be paired with someone using a different manufacturer's golf ball in the Ryder Cup because although they are different manufacturers, the balls themselves may have similar characteristics.

This used to be a bigger issue pre-2006, because in 2006 foursomes partners were allowed to change to a different golf ball, and crucially a different compression, on each hole.

This means that in foursomes a player uses their partner's ball off the tee on par-4s to ensure that their partner gets to hit their own ball into the green, because there isn't as much difference seen in tee shots compared to how the ball flies on iron shots and reacts when it lands.

Rory McIlroy spoke about this ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup.

"I think all these golf balls react pretty similar with a driver. It's more the iron shots and around the greens," he said.

Rory McIlroy at the 2023 Ryder Cup

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"If I'm playing with a guy that uses a different golf ball, I can just hit his golf ball off the tee. He's able to hit it into the green and we go from there. Vice versa; he can hit my golf ball off the tee, and I can hit my ball into the green and do that.

"Yeah, it can get a little tricky and you're chipping and putting and different feels of balls. I think a couple of days, hitting some, getting numbers with that golf ball. Spin rates is a big thing. Especially in the wind gets up in some of these elevations. Just if you're into the wind, and, say, the other golf ball minutes 200 or 300 more RPMs more than your golf ball, that makes a huge difference into the wind.

"So just trying to get comfortable with that in some ways and trying to be mindful of it."

A big issue prior to the 2006 rule change was at the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills where Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were paired together in foursomes.

Woods, famous for playing a spinny ball, and Mickelson, who played a less-spinny model, had to figure out a way of getting the best results from a not-ideal situation.

The pair couldn't switch between balls on each hole so went with Tiger's Nike ball because Woods couldn't get on with Mickelson's. That meant Mickelson had to 'learn' it just two days before the event... It didn't go well.

“I grabbed a couple dozen of his balls, I went off to the side, and tried to learn his golf ball in a four-or five hour session on one of the other holes, trying to find out how far the ball goes," Mickelson said.

"It forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, to stop chipping and putting and sharpening my game in an effort to crash-course learn a whole different golf ball that we were going to be playing.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the 2004 Ryder Cup

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“And in the history of my career, I have never ball-tested two days prior to a Major. I’ve never done it. Had we known a month in advance, we might have been able to make it work. I think we probably would have made it work. But we didn’t know until two days prior."

They lost 1 down to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. That was the last match they played together.

We also saw Lefty testing one of Bryson DeChambeau's Bridgestones prior to the 2018 Ryder Cup.

A close up of Phil Mickelson's Callaway iron and Bryson DeChambeau's Bridgestone ball

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Another issue surrounding golf balls in foursomes at the Ryder Cup came in 2010 at Celtic Manor, when Rickie Fowler dropped a Titleist Pro V1x on the 4th hole whilst playing with Jim Furyk after the pair found trouble.

The problem was that the duo began the hole playing Furyk's Srixon Z Star-X, meaning they were forced to concede the hole.

Jim Furyk consoles Rickie Fowler after he cost them the hole for dropping a Titleist ball when the pair began the hole using a Srixon

Jim Furyk consoles Rickie Fowler after he cost them the hole for dropping a Titleist ball when the pair began the hole using a Srixon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

They lost the hole and ultimately halved the match with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.

USA went on to lose the trophy by a single point.

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV