3 Ways You Can Make The Ryder Cup -- and Everyday Golf -- Even Better

You probably spent most of your Sunday (like we did) watching the stunning conclusion of this year's Ryder Cup, when the U.S. broke Europe's three-match winning streak by taking back the Cup for the first time since 2008.

The matches between Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy (8th hole, anyone?) and between Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia were two of the most fun we have ever seen.

What makes the Ryder Cup so special is two-fold:

  1. It's a match-play event, whereas the vast majority of major amateur and professional golf is stroke play.
  2. It's a team event, while the vast majority of amateur and professional golf is an individual affair.

Some people think the Ryder Cup is special only because it's so rare and different from "normal" competitive golf.

But we think seeing -- and playing -- more match play and team play formats would INCREASE the excitement of this event AND the enjoyment you get from the golf you play at home and away.

Sound good? Here are three things you can do:

Course Setup Suggestions

Did you hear European team members Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy comment on the "weak" setup of Hazeltine National Golf Club for Sunday's singles matches?

They were talking about the shorter-than-normal primary rough and a number of easier-than-usual hole locations.

But what they call "weak," we call fun and exciting.

There were lots of birdies (19 alone in the Mickelson-Garcia match), and tons of heart-pumping roars from the crowd all day.

This is good for golf.

How you can help: Encourage your fellow players to support things like shorter rough, wider fairways and more "fun" hole locations.

We've been to so many courses where the rough is so thick that members and visitors are demoralized by having to hack out to the fairway whenever they hit a wayward tee shot. That is no fun.

And don't get us started on those impossible hole locations. We've played in Member-Guests and Club Championships with with hole locations even the PGA Tour would refuse to use.

Again, is this fun? Is watching your partner pick up on numerous holes any way to get the field into the spirit of the event?

If you have any influence over the way your home course is set up -- for big events or just regular play -- you owe it to yourself and your fellow golf lovers to help make it as fun an experience as possible.

And when you visit a course on vacation, make a point of mentioning the fun hole locations (those at the bottom of feeder-slopes, for example).

Likewise, don't be afraid to politely note the ones you thought were really tough or borderline silly.

Club pros and superintendents may sometimes get a bit "in the weeds" about their courses, but the best ones love to hear feedback from players about how to improve the experience.

Proper Stroke-Play/Match-Play Balance

As we mentioned earlier, part of why the Ryder Cup stands out is because it's a match-play event in a sea of stroke-play tournament golf on the yearly schedule.

We'd love to see more events like the World Golf Championships - Dell Match Play on the PGA Tour calendar so golf fans could see their favorite players (and envision themselves) in Ryder Cup-like situations more often.

In the U.S., countless regular foursomes play without anything on the line -- not even pride.

Many groups go out, whack the ball around for four and a half hours, rake back most of their four- to six-foot putts and then lament in the bar that they never seem to improve at golf. Or it wasn't "fun."

On the other hand, many of our friends in the British Isles never play a round of golf that doesn't count for at least a little something.

How you can helpSimply, play more matches yourself. The Euros are so good at match play because they're incredibly comfortable with the format.

We're not saying you need to play for mortgage payments; not by a long shot.

Trust us -- the feeling of making a 20-foot putt to turn the tide in a $2 Nassau is awesome enough.

It builds your resolve, makes you a better player and gives you an inkling of the pride that the Americans and Euros feel in the Ryder Cup when they come through with an important point for their squad.

So, lean on your home club or regular course to organize semi-regular competitions. It'll open up a whole new way to love golf.

Play More Team Golf

Yes, a scramble, best-ball or alternate-shot match is one form of "team" golf, but there are ways to make it last longer than just 4-5 hours.

How you can helpIf you're part of a regular group of, say, eight or more players, you can split up into two teams at the beginning of the year and designate matches that count toward a year-end Ryder Cup-type prize.

Again, it doesn't have to be something big on the line -- bragging rights are plenty for most golfers -- just as long as it makes you sweat a little bit over a three-footer to close out the match.

One of the coolest places we've visited in golf is a national-style club called The Olde Farm in Bristol, Virginia.

As their first act in the club, new members pick either a blue or grey marble out of a bag, and the color they pick is the "team" they're on for life.

Any intra-club matches play out between the Blue and Grey sides, adding a convivial competitive atmosphere to the experience of membership.

On buddy trips, this idea is nothing new. But if your group hasn't tried it, you owe it to yourselves to make a game out of your next vacation together.

Pick teams, feel free to trash-talk a little bit, make sure the stakes are low enough that everyone remains friendly no matter the result, and have fun.

Do you and your friends try to capture the spirit of the Ryder Cup -- or enjoy match play -- when you play golf?

Please share your thoughts on this and read others' ideas below!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
Commented on

Some good points here but I tend to disagree that setting up the courses easier lends to more exciting golf.

I actually found the lack of rough at Hazeltine a bit boring. I like to see the players rewarded for good golf, rather than being able to hit it anywhere and still make birdies.

The match between Phil and Sergio was undoubtedly fun to watch but I always had in the back of my head, that the course was set up too easy, which took the gloss of it for me.

Whereas watching Phil and Henrik at the open was totally exhilarating in my view because they were doing it on a tough golf course, where everyone else was seemingly struggling.

I think overall it's best when they strike a balance between US Open tough and a regular tour event, where 25 under wins it.

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Commented on

I too am from MN and attended the weekend at Hazeltine. I observed Marshalls standing around the greens with their hands in their pockets, never lifting their hands during putts to quiet the crowd....hmmm. PGA?
we had an idiot fan, drunk in front of us on 18 green, heckling Lee Westwood over a 3-4 foot putt. Westwood's caddie and Bubba Watson, both stared him down, to no avail...Marshalls???? The heckler needed to be removed but nobody in authority made that move. Westwood missed the putt and my son and I felt ashamed as spectators rooting for the USA. The stands were totally littered with beer cans and an official of some sort looked at the mess and said, "Wow we sold a lot of beer today!", mission accomplished.

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I attended the Wednesday practice round and didn't see anything untoward just some good natured ribbing. Of course this was before the competition started. Part of the fun and interest in the event are the fans themselves. It can become a fine line between support and belligerence.

I believe that some significant signage on the course regarding acceptable and unacceptable behavior would be helpful. Also enlisting the help of the spectators to point out boorish behavior is great. Peer pressure can help in this situation.

Congratulations to Hazeltine for hosting an amazing event.

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Love the article. My friends and I play foursomes and we do the 6 hole swap partner so you get a chance to be paired with everyone in your foursome. We play a buck a hole. Never have won more than $8.00 or lost more than $7.00 and it is great fun.

I live in Minnesota and was lucky enough to be at Hazeltine for the week. The problem with the Ryder Cup is that it has, thanks to the PGA of America and the European PGA, a corporate event. That means it attracts more than golf fans, it attracts sports fans. That is a huge difference. That is why you hear the "in the hole", "baba booey" and other stupid stuff that is perfectly acceptable at an NFL game but not a golf match.

What you did not see on TV was many of thosespectators that did cross the line were escorted off the grounds and some were issued citations. How were they found? The crowd pointed them out to the officers by the golf fans in attendance.

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The PGA should take a lesson from the Open . no alcohol on the stands! They have "villages" with pubs and big screens not on the course where people can drink and watch the event . Also the Open has better food, toilets, signage, villages, security and stands.They did catch on to the radio , the best aid to keeping up with the play Also,why buy a hat or other things from the Ryder cup if every person can buy one before the event at many outlets including the Ryder cup shop. I fear maximum $ gain is spoiling the event.

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The problem is the Yanks think they own the world. They will really have something to shout and holler about after their elections.
Does Don or Hilary play golf ???????

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I watched the press conference after the match and the topic of fans came up. A comment that I agree with was that many/most of the poorly behaved people are not regular golf fans but sports fans in general who decide to attend and "have a good time". One particular incident that illustrated this was when a heckler shouted out in the middle of a players swing and was immediately pointed out by all of the fans around him so that he could be ejected. Darren Clark said he believed that 99.9% of the fans behaved in an acceptable manner. I think that booing in general and cheering after missed shots, while I agree this is inappropriate on a golf course, is something that most players are able and prepared to put up with.

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I'll start by saying I'm British so nearly all my golf is in competition with no gimmies except in match play. It does improve your game having to putt out as we can all miss from a foot. As for USA fans, 99% are there to cheer their side, no problem with that. It is the idiots that heckle and were often then booed by the rest of the fans. If we can get rid of them as well as the 'In the hole' mob it would be better for everyone. Oh, and if you can lean more than 3 letters of the alphabet it might make your singing more interesting!

Commented on

The reason the sponsor like rowdy crowds is the profits it brings in from beer and liquor. The Ryder Cup used to have class and respect, not any more
it's just like any other sport, boo the opposition and make noise when there
at there back swing. Too bad if that's the only way USA can win.

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I fully agree with Tom's comment; the behaviour of the US fans on the course was absolutely inappropriate on a golf course. And unfortunately, that's what happen every four years, when USA hosted the Ryder Cup. That's the reason I hope if there are more math-play format in golf, please don't do that with nation or state team.

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3 Ways You Can Make The Ryder Cup -- and Everyday Golf -- Even Better