Do Ryder Cup Captains Play? [What Do They Do?]

Being a Ryder Cup captain is one of the highest honours in golf. Usually, it’s given to a player who’s shown great commitment to the event in the past, having played a few times and perhaps acted as a vice-captain.

So when it comes to the actual event, do captains play in the Ryder Cup? Let’s have a look.

Do The Ryder Cup Captains Play?

Does The Ryder Cup Captain Play?

Do Ryder Cup Captains Play?

No, Ryder Cup captains don’t usually play in the event because they’re too busy organising the team and making sure that their team is in a good position to win the Ryder Cup matches.

They also don’t play because most of the time they won’t have played well enough to automatically qualify for the team and they’re not likely to pick themselves in one of the captain’s picks.

Once captains are announced over a year before the event starts, their main priority leading up to the Ryder Cup is preparation and doing all the work that goes into having a winning team.

With all this work leading up to the tournament, captains don’t get much chance to play on either the PGA Tour or DP World Tour, so it means their games aren’t in great shape and they can’t accumulate enough points to gain automatic qualification.

Has A Captain Ever Played In The Ryder Cup?

Yes, Ryder Cup captains have played in the event in the past, however, this hasn’t been the case since Arnold Palmer was a playing captain in 1963 at the Atlanta Athletic Club (now known as East Lake Golf Club).

Since 1963, when Team USA beat Great Britain (now Team Europe) 23 points to 9, no other captains have played, with the captain focus now more on building a Ryder Cup team that can win.

What Does The Ryder Cup Captain Do?

The primary role of a Ryder Cup captain is to select and organise their team to try and win the Ryder Cup.

This starts with the captain’s picks, following the automatic team qualifiers. Once they’ve got a team of 12, then they’ve got to choose who is playing with whom in the fourball and foursomes matches, as well as the order they’ll go out in.

Aside from team organisation, the captains are there to provide support for their players. The Ryder Cup is a stressful setting for even the best players in the world, let alone the rookies.

Captains, along with their vice-captains, also scout out the course and find anything that could be used to their team’s advantage.

Once the first match on Friday starts, it’s all down to the players to go out and perform their best. A good captain will be one who is there when they’re needed but stays out of the way of the players and lets them do their thing.

Can Ryder Cup Captains Play?

Yes, in theory, a Ryder Cup captain can play in the event, assuming that they automatically qualify for the team or decide to pick themselves, although this is very unlikely.

Not since Arnold Palmer took on both a playing and captain role in 1963, has a captain played in the Ryder Cup and I can’t see that ever changing.

The role of the captain is to take the pressure off the players, to allow them to go out and perform their best. The captain has too much to think about instead of playing golf.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a Ryder Cup captain is hugely prestigious and for many golfers, the pinnacle of their Ryder Cup career.

And although there have been captains who have played in the past, nowadays, the captain’s focus is on building a strong group of Ryder Cup players and winning golf’s biggest team event.

For the Ryder Cup Captains 2023, their only focus for the week will be on getting their team into shape and ready to go win the prestigious trophy.


Does Ryder Cup captain play?

No, it’s very uncommon for a Ryder Cup captain to play in the matches as they’re too focused on picking their team and trying to win the Ryder Cup.

Why don’t Ryder Cup captains play?

Ryder Cup captains don’t play usually for a number of reasons, but mostly because they need to focus on team selection for the match and they’re needed for focus and team leadership rather than their own playing ability.

Who was the non-playing captain of the Ryder Cup?

The only captain never to actually have experience playing in the Ryder Cup was J.H. Taylor, who captained the Great Britain team in 1933 to a victory over the USA.

Does the captain play in the Ryder Cup?

No, the Ryder Cup captain doesn’t play in the Ryder Cup but they could theoretically play if they wanted to.

What do Ryder Cup captains do?

Captains in the Ryder Cup pick and organise their teams, as well as dealing with the media, working on course tactics and offering moral support to the players.

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

Scroll to Top