How this Ryder Cup rules change completely flipped a key format’s strategy

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A key element of partnering players together at the Ryder Cup was made slightly easier due to a rules change made years ago.

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The Ryder Cup has always been about putting the team over the individual, and in the case of the foursomes format (alternate shot) it also means potentially switching golf balls to accommodate your partner — but not anymore.

Since 2006, the Ryder Cup (and Presidents Cup) changed the rules that stipulated that foursomes teams had to use one model of golf ball for the entire match. Instead they can now switch at the completion of every hole, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t strategy involved.

What is the foursomes format?

As a refresher, foursomes — a.k.a. alternate shot — is a 2-vs.-2 matchup in which each team plays one ball, alternating shots between the two players until the ball has been holed. If scores are tied, the hole is halved.

How golf balls are selected

When you consider just how dialed-in players are when it comes to their iron carry distances and trajectories, most pairings will elect to use the preferred ball of the player hitting the approach shot rather than the drive off the tee.

This is the easiest decision because thanks to modern launch-monitor technology and driver optimization, there isn’t a huge difference on total distance numbers off the tee to the point where any given ball will lose or gain a significant percentage.

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“With three practice-round days and arguably a practice-round trip, there’s ways to get used to somebody else’s golf ball off the tee, and that’s really what it is,” said U.S. captain Zach Johnson, speaking to the media on Tuesday. “If we are playing together, I’m probably going to tee off with your golf ball more times than not so that we can have more control with your iron play or your wedge play or whatever it may be with your own golf ball. That’s kind of the unwritten rule.”

Although it could be a minor issue if a player misses a green on their approaching, meaning the other player would not be able to use their normal ball for some short-game shots. That said, these are the best players in the world, and they’re all using premium urethane-covered balls, so adjustments shouldn’t take too long.

Here’s a look at the balls used by each member from the U.S. and Europe.

Team USA

Sam Burns – Callaway Chrome Soft X

Patrick Cantlay – Titleist ProV1X

Wyndham Clark – Titleist ProV1X

Rickie Fowler – TaylorMade TP5X

Brian Harman – Titleist ProV1

Max Homa – Titleist ProV1

Brooks Koepka – Srixon Z-Star Diamond

Srixon Z-STAR DIAMOND 2023 Golf Balls

To push the limits of your game, you need a ball with all the right ingredients. That’s why the entire Z-STAR Series was designed to deliver tour-level distance, control and feel, from tee to green. Starring a reformulated FastLayer DG Core and improved Spin Skin+ coating, you, too, can experience the formula trusted by Major Champions when wins are on the line. FASTLAYER DG CORE The trade-off is age-old: hard cores are fast, soft cores are slow. But the firmer a golf ball, the harsher it feels at impact, which can reduce your confidence when the pressure is on. That’s why our new FastLayer DG Cores are soft at the center and get firmer from the inside out. The contrasting compression helps them rebound quicker off the face for incredible distance while still providing exceptional feel. NEW SPIN SKIN+ COATING This micronic layer of specialized urethane increases the cover’s degree of friction for even more spin and control. THIN, PREMIUM COVER Every Z-STAR Series golf ball features an extra thin, thermoplastic urethane cover to provide tour-level stopping power around the greens. SPEED DIMPLE PATTERN With their deep dimensions, the 338 Speed Dimples on each Z-STAR Series golf ball punch through air for a penetrating launch. Once aloft, the dimples generate lift, driving the ball upward toward its peak and maximizing glide distance during descent. When conditions get tough and the winds reach high speeds, the 338 Speed Dimples’ low drag coefficient helps the ball stay on target through the moving air and maintain distance in headwinds. Swing Speed: 90+ mph Launch: Mid-high Construction:3-Piece Cover Material: Urethane Cover Thickness: 0.6mm Compression: 102 Dimple Number: 338
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Collin Morikawa – TaylorMade TP5

Xander Schauffele – Callaway Chrome Soft X

Scottie Scheffler – Titleist ProV1

Jordan Spieth – Titleist ProV1X

Titleist 2021 Pro V1x Golf Balls

Titleist® Pro V1x® offers total performance and features long distance, high trajectory, low long game spin, Drop–and–Stop™ greenside control and soft feel. Benefits Long Distance with Consistent Flight Low Long Game Spin and High Trajectory Drop-and-Stop™ Short Game Control Soft Feel Features Soft Cast Urethane Elastomer Cover System Fast Casing Layer 2.0 ZG Process Dual Core Spherically-Tiled 348 Tetrahedral Dimple Design
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Justin Thomas – Titleist ProV1X

Team Europe

Ludvig Aberg – Titleist ProV1X

Matt Fitzpatrick – Titleist ProV1X

Tommy Fleetwood – TaylorMade TP5X

Tyrrell Hatton – Titleist ProV1X

Nicolai Hojgaard – Callaway ChromeSoft X

TaylorMade TP5x Pix Golf Balls

TOUR VALIDATED VISUAL TECHNOLOGY From the unmatched style and performance of Rickie Fowler comes the Tour-validated performance of pix with ClearPath Alignment™. INNOVATION YOU CAN SEE ClearPath Alignment™ is the most innovative visual technology in the game. Not only does it enhance visibility, but it also provides Tour-proven functionality to aid alignment on the green and help you gauge the quality of your putting stroke. The only way to see it is to play it. TOUR INSPIRATION We teamed with Rickie Fowler to develop a ball that reflects his swagger and delivers the performance he demands. Inspired by the results, fellow OSU Cowboy Matthew Wolff made the switch to pix™ and never looked back. INCREASED AERODYNAMICS WITH NEW TOUR FLIGHT DIMPLE PATTERN The all-new Tour Flight Dimple Pattern unlocks the next level of aerodynamics while still promoting maximum carry distances and a steep angle of descent for stopping power, especially on long irons. IMPROVED GREENSIDE SPIN & FEEL While maintaining the formula that makes TP5x a leader in speed and distance, we’ve added a softer cast urethane cover for increased groove interaction on greenside shots for more spin and improved feel.
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Viktor Hovland – Titleist ProV1

Shane Lowry – Srixon Z-Star XV

Robert MacIntyre – TaylorMade TP5X

Rory McIlroy – TaylorMade TP5X

Callaway 2022 Chrome Soft X Golf Balls

Chrome Soft is better for everyone, from amateurs to major winners. Now with Callaway’s proprietary new Precision Technology, the Chrome Soft Golf Ball is longer through the bag while providing the signature soft feel that golfers love.Precision Technology is the enhancement of every component, process, and measure, which allows them to make their highest quality, best performing, most consistent ball. They’ve leveraged over $50M of additional investment to create proprietary precision design techniques and manufacturing specifications that deliver their tightest dispersion, fastest speeds and unparalleled distance and control from every ball. PRECISION TECHNOLOGY New Precision Technology delivers their tightest dispersion, consistently fast ball speeds and total performance. They’ve enhanced every component and design feature to create the highest quality golf balls. CONSTRUCTION OPTIMIZATION New Hyper Elastic SoftFast Core for Tour level speed, spin, and control through the bag. NEW TOUR AERO Consistent ball flight at every condition with their Tour Aero design. WHY IS CHROME SOFT UNIQUE AND WHO’S IT FOR? Chrome Soft 22 is designed for a wide range of golfers who want outstanding feel, excellent distance, and incredible forgiveness. Key performance characteristics include our signature Chrome Soft feel, more distance off the tee, low spinning iron shots, and a high level of greenside control.  
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Jon Rahm – Callaway ChromeSoft X

Justin Rose – Titleist ProV1 Left Dot

Sepp Straka – Srixon Z-Star Diamond

Ryan Barath Editor

Ryan Barath is GOLF Magazine and’s senior editor for equipment. He has an extensive club-fitting and -building background with more than 20 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. Before joining the staff, he was the lead content strategist for Tour Experience Golf, in Toronto, Canada.