Ryder Cup Friday formats: How do they work?

We take a closer look at the formats played in the Ryder Cup on Friday and Saturday and how you can play them, too, when you next tee it up. 

Ryder Cup
Ryder Cup

With the 2023 Ryder Cup now in full flow at the Marco Simone course in Rome, we're taking a closer look at what formats the teams will be playing on Friday and Saturday and how you can play them, too.

Across the three days, three different formats will be played: four-balls, foursomes and singles matchplay, and in this article we're taking a closer look at how both the four-ball and foursomes formats that are played on both Friday and Saturday work. 

Ryder Cup
Ryder Cup


Played on both the Friday and Saturday of the Ryder Cup, the four-ball format features two players from each team, both playing their own ball.

Whichever member of the team cards the lowest score will be the one that counts, with the best score from each team going head to head to decide the victor of each hole. If the two lowest scores are tied, then the hole is halved, with neither team taking an advantage. 

One of the best examples of four-ball golf in Ryder Cup history came when a pairing of Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy recorded a memorable win over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson in the final match on Saturday at Medinah in 2012 to keep Europe's hopes alive of winning the Ryder Cup.

Poulter was in fine form, finishing his round with five straight birdies, kickstarting Europe's fight back, which eventually resulted in an iconic victory for Team Europe.

In the Ryder Cup, all players are playing off scratch, so there is no handicap advantage to be had on either side, but if you were to play it with your friends who have a range of different handicaps, then the stroke index of each hole will play a big part. 

Hopefully, when playing a four-ball format, each player will have an official handicap with England Golf, so it's easy to figure out who is playing off what, but a quick calibration will need to be done before the match begins. 

Each player will have to figure out what 90% of their official handicap is, then the player with the lowest handicap will be dropped to zero, and the three other players will be given shots accordingly.

That sounds complicated, but trust us, it's easy to figure out.

Let's lay it out like this:

Starting handicap

Player 1: Handicap 6

Player 2: Handicap 8

Player 3: Handicap 10

Player 4: Handicap 12

First, you need to figure out what 90% of each player's handicap is.

Player 1: 6 x 90% = 5.4 rounded to 5

Player 2: 8 x 90% = 7.2 rounded to 7

Player 3: 10 x 90% = 9 

Player 4: 12 x 90% = 10.8 rounded to 11

From here, you will deduct the lowest player's handicap from everyone else's to give everyone their final playing handicap.

Player 1: 5 - 5 = 0 

Player 2: 7 - 5 = 2

Player 3: 9 - 5 = 4

Player 4: 11 - 5 = 6

Once your final playing handicap has been assigned, you can figure out which players will have a one-stroke advantage on which holes. 

If your handicap is two, you will have a one-stroke advantage on the holes that are stroke index one and two.

Ryder Cup
Ryder Cup


Played on both the Friday and Saturday of the Ryder Cup, foursomes is played by two golfers on each team taking alternate shots with the same ball.

With only two balls in play, the lowest score on each hole wins.

For example, if the team consists of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, then Lowry might hit the tee shot, and McIlroy will then hit the second shot, with the two alternating who hits the ball until it ends up in the hole.

If the two of them score a four on a hole, but the other team consisting of Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka score a five, then McIlroy and Lowry win the hole. 

In order to play for format with players of ranging handicaps, each pair adds up their collective handicaps, and then you work out the difference between the two totals.

You'll then need to divide the difference in two to figure out how many shots the higher-handicapped pair will receive.

For example:

Team 1:

Player 1: Handicap 6

Player 2: Handicap 14

Total Handicap: 20

Team 2:

Player 1: Handicap 11

Player 2: Handicap: 15

Total Handicap: 26

So the resulting formula is as follows:

26 - 20 = 6

6 / 2 = 3

So, Team Two would have a handicap of 3 for the match, gaining a one-shot advantage on holes with a stroke index from one to three.

England Golf
England Golf

How can you play these formats?

In order to play these formats, in an ideal world, every golfer would have an official handicap, and now, thanks to England Golf and the new iGolf app, it's never been easier to get one. 

Whereas before, you had to be a member of a course in order to register an official handicap, now, using the iGolf app, you can acquire one for the very reasonable price of £44 per year. 

The setup is very simple, and once you have registered three rounds of golf on the app, you will have an official handicap under the World Handicap System. 

Not only will this allow you to play fair and honest matches with your friends and family, but it also means you will be able to enter official competitions. 


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