The Solheim Cup: The Ultimate Event in Women's Golf

By Kellie Noszka

Team USA celebrates during the 2019 Solheim Cup

The Solheim Cup is one of the most anticipated events in women’s professional golf, an entertaining and exciting competition between the top American and European golfers.

The Solheim Cup host site alternates between the United States and Europe, with each team playing on its own turn once every four years. The biennial event returns to the U.S. in 2021, set to be played at one of the top courses in the Midwest, the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

Solheim Cup History

PING golf founder Karsten Solheim helped create the match-style tournament that bears his name. The inaugural Solheim Cup was held in 1990 and was to be every other year, opposite of the men’s equivalent, the Ryder Cup. Some schedule changes occurred because of cancelations of the Ryder Cup after the attack on 9/11 and the 2020 pandemic, but the Solheim Cup will return to even-numbered years in 2024.

The United States currently holds a 10-6 lead in overall competitions, but the European team won the last Solheim Cup in 2019, held at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthland, Scotland. The U.S. team has only lost once in the eight occasions that the Solheim Cup was held in the United States (2013 at the Colorado Golf Club). The European team has won three of the last five Solheim Cup tournaments after the American team dominated the early years of the event.

Finca Cortesin in the Costa del Sol region of Spain will host the 2023 Solheim Cup, just one week before the Ryder Cup is held in Italy. Golf fans from across the globe have the rare opportunity to watch both events in close time and proximity.

All-Time Solheim Cup Results

Year Winner Score Venue
2019 Europe 14.5-13.5 Gleneagles, Scotland
2017 USA 16.5-11.5 Des Moines G&CC, USA
2015 USA 14.5-13.5 Golf Club St. Leon-Rot, Germany
2013 Europe 18-10 Colorado Golf Club, USA
2011 Europe 15-13 Killeen Castle Golf Resort, Ireland
2009 USA 16-12 Rich Harvest Farms, USA
2007 USA 16-12 Halmstad GK, Sweden
2005 USA 15.5-12.5 Crooked Stick GC, USA
2003 Europe 17.5-10.5 Barseback G&CC, Sweden
2002 USA 15.5-12.5 Interlachen CC, USA
2000 Europe 14.5-11.5 Loch Lomond GC, Scotland
1998 USA 16-12 Muirfield Village, USA
1996 USA 17-11 St. Pierre G&CC, Wales
1994 USA 13-7 The Greenbrier, USA
1992 Europe 11.5-6.5 Dalmahoy CC, Scotland
1990 USA 11.5-4.5 Lake Nona G&CC, USA

The Solheim Cup Format Explained

The Solheim Cup follows the same format as its counterpart, the Ryder Cup. Each team – Team USA and Team Europe – is made up of 12 women who compete in a total over 28 matches over three days. A point is earned for each match win; ties result in each team receiving half a point. 

First, let’s explain the type of matches that will be played over the three days:

Foursome Matches

Also known as Alternate Shot, Foursomes is a 2 vs. 2 format so each foursome includes two golfers from the U.S. team and two golfers from the European team. Each team in the foursome plays one ball during the round, with teammates alternating who hits.

Fourball Matches

Sometimes referred to as Better Ball, the Fourball format also consists of two players from each team in each group. All players play their own ball, but only the lower score on each hole counts towards the team total.

Singles Matches

This is typical 1 vs. 1 match play

Solheim Cup Schedule

On the first day of competition, the teams compete in four foursome matches and four fourball matches. Eight of the 12 members of each team will compete  in each of the two sessions on the first day.

The format of the second day is the same as the first – four foursome matches and four fourball matches.

All 12 golfers on each team compete on the last day in 12 head-to-head matches. 

The defending champion must score at least 14 points to retain the Solheim Cup while the other team must score at least 14.5 points for victory. This rule puts Team USA at a slight disadvantage heading into the 2021 Solheim Cup.

Past Champions

Juli Inkster is the name most often linked to the U.S. Solheim Cup. Inkster competed in nine Solheim Cup tournaments (1992, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011) and served as team captain in 2013, 2015 and 2019. As a player, Inkster has a 15-12 record and 18.5 points.

Cristie Kerr, who also played in nine Solheim Cup tournaments, has earned the most points of any American with 21.

Who Will Play for the Team USA in the 2021 Solheim Cup?

The criteria for making the U.S. Solheim Cup team was slightly adjusted for the 2021 competition. The selections are now based on:

  • The top seven players on the LPGA Solheim Cup points list
  • The next two highest-ranked eligible players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings
  • Three captain’s picks

Previously, the top eight players from the Solheim Cup Rankings, two from the Rolex Rankings and two captain’s picks made the team.

The top seven golfers in the Team USA Solheim Cup standings are Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Ally Ewing, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Austin Ernst and Megan Khang. 

Pat Hurst is this year’s Team USA Solheim Cup captain. Hurst competed in five Solheim Cup tournaments and served as assistant captain in the last three competitions. 

Image: David Cannon/David Cannon Collection via Getty Images

About The Author

Kellie Noszka is a freelance writer and former sports reporter for the Cincinnati Post. She was a golf caddie for 10 years and earned an Evans Scholarship to The Ohio State University. Kellie developed a deep appreciation for the game of golf at an early age.

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