For those of you who are avid watchers of the biennial competition, you’ll be as excited as I am for the kick off of the Solheim Cup at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa, USA. But for those of you who are a new to ladies golf or perhaps have never seen the Solheim cup, here are some facts to peek your interest.
The Solheim cup happens every two years and is the ladies equivalent of the Ryder cup. The competition was created by Karsten Solheim, who is the man behind PING and interestingly didn't even take up golf until the age of 42 (there is hope for us all yet). Just like the men’s Ryder Cup, there are 2 teams competing for the win - Europe and the US and is played over 3 days in alternate locations across the USA or Europe. Just like the Ryder cup, the format is 28 matches—eight foursomes, eight four-balls and 12 singles on the final day. This wasn't always the case though, before 1996 the competition was a shorter version of the Ryder Cup. Day one is an alliance where two members of the same team take alternate shots to win the hole against another pair from the opposing team. Day two is another 4 ball, but each person playing with their own ball. And finally on day three, 12 individual 2 balls go out to decide the winning team.
Now, getting into the team is a slightly complex thing as the Captain doesn’t just get to pick who they want to play for them and the Americans have a different criteria to the Europeans. The U.S. team is predominantly decided by points scored on the LPGA tour. Europe however, take the top 5 players from the Ladies European Tour (LET) and another four are selected on the basis of LPGA rankings as these days most of the top European players choose to spend their time on the LPGA Tour. In addition, each team has a number of "captain's picks", players chosen at the discretion of the team captains, regardless of their point standings, though in reality the captain's picks are often top ranking players who just missed the cut. Team captains are typically recently retired professional golfers with Solheim Cup playing experience.
Since its beginning in 1990, there have been 14 Solheim Cup competitions, the United States have won 9 and Europe have won 5 with 2015’s US win being fueled under a cloud of controversy where the US picked up a short putt believing it had been conceded to only be penalised by the European Team, in particular Suzann Pettersen who (although likely would have done) had not at the time given permission for the putt to be conceded. The whole affair appeared to pump the American’s to smash a win but leaving a sour taste in the mouths of all players in the competition and despite apologies being handed out post the event, it will be really interesting to see how atmosphere is this year.
That brings me onto the format of the event. Match play. My favourite form of play which makes for a quicker and more even game of golf where each hole is a mini competition and the winner is simply the person who wins the most holes against their opponent. The controversy mentioned above happened becuase match play also has the benefits of ‘gimmies’. A gimme in golf is a shot that is given (but counted) but a player without the their opponent having to take it. i.e. a putt that you would almost certainly not need to take because it is so close to the hole. The reason 2015 went horribly wrong is because you need to wait for your opponent to give you the nod that you can pick up your ball without putting it no matter how close it is to the hole and in this case Michelle Wie didn’t - tears followed by anger and eventually gritty determination from the US team ensued.
So this years teams have been picked, the venue is getting it’s final spritz and on Friday the 18th August, it all kicks off for the 15th time and with Europe trying to win back the Solheim Cup on American turf. The atmosphere is very different from your bog-standard golf game as the crowds are much more vocal and the desire to win is much more visible. It all makes for a very exciting competition and is great golf viewing for those who are not perhaps used to watching golf or find it a little stuffy. The last thing to mention, this year we have 5 players in the team who are English. This is a wonderful sign for women's golf a real testimony to the effort the country is making to increase the focus on ladies involvement in the wonderful sport.