How this Ryder Cup rules change completely flipped a key format’s strategy
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.
“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.
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
Collin Morikawa – TaylorMade TP5
Xander Schauffele – Callaway Chrome Soft X
Scottie Scheffler – Titleist ProV1
Jordan Spieth – Titleist ProV1X
Titleist 2021 Pro V1x Golf Balls
Justin Thomas – Titleist ProV1X
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
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
Jon Rahm – Callaway ChromeSoft X
Justin Rose – Titleist ProV1 Left Dot
Sepp Straka – Srixon Z-Star Diamond