The history of the Solheim Cup

September 24, 2023
We’re swinging through the landmark tournament’s history, how it works, and where it's going.
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The history of the Solheim Cup

⛳️ How it started

Karsten Solheim and his wife Louise helped create the tournament which debuted in Florida in 1990. The Solheim’s were in part inspired by the Ryder Cup, the wildly popular men’s international team competition that had been around since 1927.

Named for those trailblazers, the tournament gave top professional women golfers a shot at competing for team international glory — a rarity in a traditionally individual sport.

  • The inaugural edition featured eight players on each team (USA and Europe), competing over three days. The first champs? The Americans, led by captain Kathy Whitworth, who was honored by the 2023 U.S. team this weekend.

Today, the Solheim Cup is arguably one of the most exciting women’s golf competitions. But while the tourney’s important, it still maintains the tradition of not awarding any prize money. On par with the Ryder Cup, athletes compete for team honor instead. It’s not always about the, ahem, green.

  • That said, monetization comes in many shapes and sizes. An impressive performance on golf’s global stage can capture the support of fans and brands, leading to potential sponsorship dollars down the road.

🏆 How it works


The Solheim Cup is typically held every two years, with the U.S. alternating hosting duties with Europe. The tournament takes place on a different pre-selected course each edition (this year’s is at Finca Cortesin in Spain), where teams compete in 28 matches across three days.

The first two days feature foursome and four-ball matches. In foursome, two golfers from each team share one ball, alternating shots until the hole is finished. Think of it like a tag-team situation. In four-ball (aka best ball), each golfer plays their own ball, but only the lowest score for each hole is counted for each team.

  • The final day (today!) consists entirely of singles matches. All 12 members of each team will be in action, battling one-on-one. Talk about a thrilling finale.
  • As far as points go, each of the 28 Solheim Cup matches is worth one point. Players or teams who win a match (a hole) will earn one point, and there’s no points awarded for a loss. For tied matches, the point is shared (0.5 each).

As for Team USA and Team Europe, each squad boasts 12 golfers and a captain — often an older pro with past Solheim experience. For Team USA, the first nine players are chosen based on rankings, while the remaining three are picked by captains. For Team Europe, eight athletes are selected based on rankings, and four are draft by the captains.

  • The captains hold extra responsibility as they’re also charged with organizing everything from player pairings to selecting outfits and bags.

This year’s tournament could be extra spicy. Europe is heavily favored and hunting a three-peat after taking their second-straight Cup in 2021 — just the second time the USA has lost on their home soil. But the underdog Americans are coming in hot with a young squad hungry to make their mark on the sport. Caliente.

  • Heading into today’s final round in Spain, turn on the Golf Channel or visit right now to see the drama (and fun) unfold.

🔢 By the numbers


4: The number of months since the youngest American, 20-year-old Rose Zhang, turned pro. Making the Solheim cut as a current Stanford student? Slay less.

5: The number of Swedish players on Team Europe, cementing Sweden as the most represented country on their roster by far.

7: All the single ladies points won by American Juli Inkster during her nine-edition Solheim tenure. Not only does Inkster hold that record, but she put a (championship) ring on it as captain of Team USA's back-to-back dubs in 2015 and 2017.

12: The number of times England’s Laura Davies has played the tournament for Team Europe, aka the most ever. She also holds the record for most points scored with 25. GOAT sh!t.

17: The total number of Solheim Cups held since 1990. Team USA leads the all-time series with 10 victories to Europe’s seven.

25.75: The average age of this year’s Team USA roster, thanks in part to the five rookies sporting the Stars and Stripes. It’s just shy of 25.5, a record that was set in 2019.

38: The age of Stacy Lewis, the youngest U.S. captain ever. With six Solheim Cups (four as a player, two as an assistant captain) under her belt, age is clearly just a number.

➡️ The future

Because the men’s Ryder Cup schedule was pushed due to COVID-19, both the Ryder and Solheim Cups occurred in 2021 and 2023. But the women will pivot back to even years after this tourney, meaning there’s no two-year wait for the next edition, which is teeing off at Virginia's Robert Trent Jones Golf Club next September. Who knew moving came with a gift?

And while the tourneys’ shared years were an anomaly, women’s players spoke out about the lack of joint marketing with the Ryder Cup. In a press conference on Wednesday, the aforementioned Lewis pointed out that “this could have been marketed together as two weeks in Europe, two Cups for play. I think it was a missed opportunity for the sport of golf.”

Still, women’s golf is on the rise. Despite golf having one of the worst gender pay gaps in sports, LPGA sponsors are helping bridge that gap, and are experiencing with huge returns.

  • In an interview with The GIST, Lewis mentioned how clutch those sponsors are, saying “thank God we have great partners because they've continued to push because they believe in us, and they believe in women's golf and the value of it.” HYFR.

But what would really skyrocket the women’s game? Media deals and coverage. Lewis says the answer is “to be on network TV, the opportunity to not be tape-delayed. The media dollars is what's going to really push [the sport].”

And the interest is already there. LPGA TV ratings have been growing all season, culminating in July’s most-viewed month ever. So, while you watch some of golf’s greatest gals tee off on the Solheim links this morning, know you’re also helping prove the value of the women’s game — one set of eyes at a time.