Ryder Cup History

By Ryan Watson

Ryder Cup Trophy against Dunclue Castle ruins

The 43rd Ryder Cup took place in 2021 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. The tournament is one of the most popular events in golf and has a long history in the sport.

Early History

The biennial tournament dates back to a 1927 as a formalized contest between American and British golfers. Earlier exhibition matches had occurred between professionals of both countries, but this was the first organized international match between the two countries.

The tournament took its name from Samuel Ryder, a British businessman and golfing enthusiast who provided the the golden trophy. Because of the cost and duration of travel required, it was decided that the competition would be a biennial event. Irish golfers from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland began playing for Team Great Britain in the 1940s and 1950s, prompting a name change in 1973 to team Great Britain and Ireland to better reflect this fact. However, a period of post-WWII dominance created the most drastic change to the Ryder Cup.

Expansion to Europe

The American team only lost one Ryder Cup between 1947 and 1977, and the lack of competitiveness loosened the appeal of the match. The idea to include European golfers was initially discussed by American golfer Jack Nicklaus and British golf official Edward Stanley as a way to increase the competitiveness of the match. This period in golf saw a surge of European golfers, notably Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros, who proved eager for the chance to compete against the Americans.

The decision was made and 1979 saw the formal change in the Ryder Cup to a match between America’s best golfers and the best golfers of Europe. Since the change the Europeans have won 11 Ryder Cups outright to the Americans eight.


The format of the Ryder Cup is unique to professional golf. It contains of three different match play events. The tournament begins with games of foursomes, which pits teams of two against each other. These teams must play alternating shots while trying to outscore their opponent on an individual hole. For each hole won that team earns a point.

Next, games of fourball are played also requiring teams of two. In fourball, each golfer hits their own ball, with the individual low score on each hole winning that hole for their team.

Lastly, the Ryder Cup ends with intense singles matches pitting individual golfers against each other in a match play format. In all, there are eight games of foursomes, eight games of fourball and 12 singles matches. The team with the most wins out of all the matches is declared the winner of the Ryder Cup.

All-Time Records

The United States had early success in the Ryder Cup. However, since the USA began competing against Europe, not just Great Britain (and Ireland), the advantage has shifted across the Atlantic.

OpponentUSA Record
Great Britain/Great Britain & Ireland18-3-1

List of Ryder Cup Champions

The United States dominated the Ryder Cup when it faced Great Britain, but when the competition pivoted to include all of Europe, the tides began to turn.

Great Britain

1929, 1933, 1957


1985, 1987, 1989, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018

United States

1927, 1931, 1935, 1937, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2008, 2016, 2021


Team Great Britain was known during part of this period as Great Britain & Ireland, though in reality, Irish golfers had already been competing for Great Britain in previous tournaments.


Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.