Best golfers from the USA and Europe meet every two years for the Ryder Cup tournament. 24 players from the USA and Europe create a team to play the USA vs Europe competition. Although the Ryder cup team is selected based on the players ranking and some other factors, the format remains the same.

The current Ryder Cup format was evolved in 1981, but some changes took place before the final format was established.

Ryder Cup Format: How It Is Different From Others

What are the 3 formats of play used in the Ryder Cup?

The Ryder Cup tournament is divided into three days, and three different formats are applied on three days. Usually, the tournament starts on Friday morning with fourball or foursomes and finishes on Sunday with singles. Let’s get to know the details on fourball, foursome, and singles.


To play fourball, two small teams are created consisting two-member each team. However, all the players will play with their own ball. Whoever earns the best score in a hole will win the point for that hole and contribute to the team. So, the idea is two players from each team play each hole, and between the two, whoever scored low, counted for the team. After that, the lowest score from each team is compared, and the team has the lowest score wins the hole. However, if the low scores are the same for both teams, the points are divided by two and distributed to both teams.

As the teams continue playing, when a team wins, a hole is uttered as 1 Up. Like this, if the team wins, two more holes than the opponent team call out as 2 Up. However, if both teams tied, it is called ‘All Square.’ The game ends at the 18th hole, where it can be all squared or 1 Up or 2 Up etc., for a team.


Like the fourball, foursomes are also played between two teams, and that is why it is called 2 man Ryder Cup format. 2 players from the USA and 2 players from Europe make up the team. But they play with one ball, and one golfer can play the tee shot on even holes, and another golfer can play on the odd holes.

So, at the beginning of the foursome, a player hits the ball first, and the partner takes the second shot. After they alter until the ball goes to the hole, the team with the lowest score on each hole will win the point. So, the winning team will be called 1 Up. However, if both teams are tied, it will be called all square.

At the end of the foursome game, the winning team earns the point, and in case of tie points get divided. Nevertheless, the foursome game can also end before it goes to the 18th hole if a team contains more points than the opponent.


As you can understand from the name, singles are played one vs one. Unlike other games, all 24 players participate in the singles. So, there are 12 matches that take place in total, and each player can earn a point for the team. So, when a player wins the most holes against the opponent player, he wins the match. However, if both golfers win the same number of holes, the point is divided between them, and each earns half.

Ryder Cup Format: Schedule of Play

The three game formats, fourball, foursome, and singles, are not played mix-matched; these follow some schedules.

Ryder Cup Schedule of Play

 Day 1

  • Day 1 begins on Friday, and four fourball and four foursome matches take place. One in the morning session and another one in the afternoon session.
  • The home team captain decides which format should be played in the morning and which one should be played in the afternoon session.
  • Eight golfers from team USA and Team Europe will play the two sessions, and four golfers from each team must stay on the course during the two sessions.

Day 2

  • On the second day, another round of foursome and fourball matches takes place.
  • The order of the game play remains the same as Day 1.
  • At the end of Saturday, all the double games are finished.

Day 3

  • Day 3 is the final day of the Ryder Cup, and 12 single matches take place.
  • Team captains of each team submit the order of play.
  • After finishing Day 3, the winner is decided.

So overall, 28 games take place in a Ryder Cup tournament.

DaySessionFormatNumber of Matches
FridayMorningFourball or Foursomes4
FridayAfternoonFoursomes of Fourball4
SaturdayMorningFourball or Foursomes4
SaturdayAfternoonFoursomes of Fourball4
SundayAll DaySingles12

Ryder Cup Format History

The Ryder cup format has changed several times over the years. At the beginning of the Ryder Cup, each golfer played two matches. However, during the 1960s and 1970s final day had two single sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Following are the significant changes in the Ryder Cup format.

  • 1927: Ryder Cup begins officially, and a 12 points tournament took place over two days which includes eight singles and four foursomes.
  • 1961: Total number of matches became 24.
  • 1963: Fourball was introduced, and the game extended to three days for the first time.
  • 1981: The format changed for the last time, and this format is still in effect. Hence, the Ryder Cup 2021 will follow this format.

How are Ryder Cup pairings decided?

Ryder Cup captains decide the pairings. The team captain decides who will play in which order during the fourball and foursome games. Besides, the order for single matches is also determined by the team captains. However, a captain might not know the opponent captain’s picks for the matches.

Ryder Cup points system

The tournament has 28 points in total in 28 games. Among those 28 points, 12 points came from the singles on Sunday, and the rest of the 16 points from foursomes and four ball games. Nevertheless, the foursome and fourball sessions run on Friday and Saturday in fours session, containing 4 points per session.

Ryder Cup scoring system

Each game is worth 1 point, and for a draw, each golfer earns s ½. If a team earns at least 14 ½ points, it wins the tournament. Nonetheless, if both teams end up with 14-14 points, it is a draw, and the current winner will retain the Cup. Fans can observe the live scoreboard through the Ryder Cup scoring app.