What Is Four-Ball In Ryder Cup? [Better Ball?]

The Ryder Cup has many different formats, one of which is four-ball matches. Captains will have a job to pick their pairings in order to find a winning combination.

But what are four balls and how does it differ from other formats such as Ryder Cup singles and foursome matches?

What Is Four Ball In The Ryder Cup?

What Is Four-Ball In The Ryder Cup?

What Is Four-Ball In Ryder Cup?

Four-ball matches in the Ryder Cup are where a two-man team plays against another two-man team, and the lowest score on each hole wins the hole.

This Ryder Cup format is also known as “better ball”, where each golfer plays their own ball and the pairing with the lowest best score will win the hole.

If scores on a hole are the same, the hole is halved and if the match ends in a tie, half a point is given to the two teams.

Four-ball matches are different to foursome matches because each golfer uses their own golf ball, compared to foursomes where only one ball is in play per team.

The four-ball matches are played on both the first and second days at the Ryder Cup, typically during the afternoon sessions.

With two balls in play on every hole, there’s far less pressure on the players off the tee but it also means there’s a greater emphasis for lots of birdies and eagles. With four of the best golfers in the world competing in the match, all playing their own balls, there’s a high likelihood of good scoring in the four-ball matches.

Matchplay events are definitely my favourite type of golf to watch and four balls is perhaps the best format for drama. It requires a good strategy and some very good golf if you want to get a result over the opposition.

Four Ball Ryder Cup Format Rules

The four-ball format consists of four matches in two of the sessions, with a total of eight players from each team playing per session.

Here’s a few of the key rules for Ryder Cup four-ball matches:

  • Each team has two players playing per match.
  • Each player plays their own ball and makes their own score on each hole.
  • The lowest score wins the hole. If the best score from each team is the same, the hole is halved.
  • The winning team will be the pair that wins the most holes.
  • The previous hole winners will tee off first on the next hole.
  • A team can concede a stroke, almost always a putt or shot to the other team.

Final Thoughts

Winning the Ryder Cup is a far from easy task. Essentially it’s the first team to reach 14.5 points, which usually occurs in the final day singles, however, the four-ball sessions are perhaps the most important for setting up a big last day.

Team Europe often do well in the paired sessions, whereas Team USA dominate the European team in the singles matches, but it can vary depending on the Ryder Cup teams.

One thing is for sure, the 2023 event will be one of the best in Ryder Cup history with the best from the World points list and European points list battling it out to earn a victory.


What is 4 ball match play in Ryder Cup?

The 4 ball match play at the Ryder Cup features teams of two players using their own balls and competing against another pair from the opposition. The team with the lowest score wins the hole and the team that wins the most holes will win the match.

What is the difference between foursomes and four-ball in Ryder Cup?

Foursome matches feature alternate tee shots and the team plays one ball on each hole, whereas four-ball matches consist of each player using their own ball and making their own score on each hole.

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.

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