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:
- It’s a match-play event, whereas the vast majority of major amateur and professional golf is stroke play.
- 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 help: Simply, 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 help: If 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!