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The 2023 Ryder Cup: A Spectacle of Golf, Tradition, and Business

This biennial contest, steeped in history and tradition, pits the golfing titans of the United States against their European counterparts. Taking place at the picturesque Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy

This week, the global golfing community witnessed a grand spectacle as 24 of the world's finest golfers embarked on a journey to Europe for the 44th edition of The Ryder Cup. This biennial contest, steeped in history and tradition, pits the golfing titans of the United States against their European counterparts. Taking place at the picturesque Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy, this event is not only a showcase of golfing prowess but also an exploration of intriguing facets like player prize money, the infamous "envelope rule," ticket pricing, and the rich history of the Ryder Cup.

A Legacy Born in 1927

The Ryder Cup's roots can be traced back to 1927, but its genesis can be found in events that transpired six years earlier. In 1921, golfers from Great Britain and the United States faced off in match play at Gleneagles in Scotland, a friendly precursor to the 1921 Open Championship. This informal tournament repeated in 1926, and it was during this time that Samuel Ryder, a wealthy English businessman, became enchanted by the idea.

Samuel Ryder, who had taken up golf at the age of around 50, was an ardent devotee of the sport. Legend has it that he invested substantial sums in golf lessons from the professional golfer Abe Mitchell. Inspired by the 1926 match play tournament, Ryder decided to formalize the event. He created a deed of trust with the British PGA and donated a magnificent £250 gold cup, adorned with a 17-inch figurine of Abe Mitchell. Thus, the Ryder Cup was officially established.

The inaugural tournament unfolded from June 3 to 4, 1927, at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts. Led by the legendary 11-time major winner Walter Hagen, the United States team triumphed, beating the British team 9.5 to 2.5. Subsequently, after a period of dominance by the United States, Great Britain expanded its talent pool to include all of Continental Europe, shaping the Ryder Cup into the competition we know today.

The Business of the Ryder Cup: A Multimillion-Dollar Affair

Over the course of 96 years, the Ryder Cup has evolved into a global sporting phenomenon. The first tee, affectionately known as the most electric hole in golf, witnesses the cheers and jeers of 6,500 passionate spectators for each player.

However, the business behind the tournament is equally impressive. The 2021 Ryder Cup, for example, garnered an average viewership of 2.47 million over three days of competition. The event secured a monumental 15-year, $440 million TV deal with NBC. Approximately 150,000 spectators attend the Ryder Cup, paying between $53 to $1,500 for tickets on the primary market, with prices soaring 2-10 times higher on the secondary market.

The 2023 Ryder Cup also boasts a merchandise shop covering over 40,000 square feet, offering more than 1,000 different items. Sponsorship revenue during the current Ryder Cup cycle (2019-2023) has surged by an impressive 153%, drawing support from renowned companies such as Rolex, BMW, Citi, Hilton, PepsiCo, UPS, Titleist, Polo Ralph Lauren, Moët & Chandon, and more.

Despite generating hundreds of millions in revenue, the players themselves do not receive monetary compensation for their participation. Instead, the PGA of America provides each Team USA player with $200,000 to be allocated toward charity, with 50% directed to a charity of their choice and the remaining half benefiting organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Drive, Chip, & Putt Championship, and the PGA Junior League. Players are also given $7,500 stipends for clothing and $30,000 reimbursements for travel expenses. Additionally, they receive 20 complimentary tickets for friends and family, with captains often presenting personalized gifts like Rolex watches.

The Unexpected Host: Marco Simone Golf & Country Club

The selection of Marco Simone Golf & Country Club as the host for the Ryder Cup in Rome, Italy, raised eyebrows due to the course's relative obscurity. Marco Simone triumphed over established golfing nations like Germany, Spain, and Austria in the bidding process, largely thanks to Italy's proposition of holding the Ryder Cup in the culturally rich city of Rome and a commitment of $15 million for course renovations.

The Marco Simone course, however, is nothing short of remarkable. Spanning 350 acres, it boasts Europe's largest clubhouse at 70,000 square feet. The backdrop of the course offers stunning vistas of the city of Rome and a thousand-year-old castle, creating a picturesque setting for the competition. The course itself presents a formidable challenge for players, featuring the longest closing par 5 in Ryder Cup history at 597 yards, and punishing bunkers and deep rough for those who stray from the fairways.

With international visitors flocking to Rome for the week, the Ryder Cup is poised to make a substantial $250 million economic impact on the city, doubling its contribution from 2021.

Fascinating Nuggets for Conversations

  • Marco Simone's proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, just 24 miles away, can make the course windy, adding an unpredictable factor to the competition.

  • The course underwent a comprehensive renovation from 2018 to 2021, resulting in the creation of several entirely new holes.

  • Between 1935 and 1985, Europe managed to win the Ryder Cup only once, highlighting the United States' dominance in that era.

  • The first hole at Marco Simone boasts seating for 6,500 spectators, creating an electrifying atmosphere.

  • Due to the tight layout of the course, all spectators are transported to the main entrance by bus from an off-site location.

  • The golf superintendent at Marco Simone, Lara Arias, manages a diverse staff of 120 individuals from around the world and owns an Australian shepherd named Ryder, who is set to play a unique role in this year's Ryder Cup.

  • The intriguing "envelope rule" allows team captains to make a surprise substitution in case of player injury, with a sealed envelope containing the replacement player's name chosen in advance. This rule, while rarely used, adds an element of strategic intrigue to the event.

  • As the 2023 Ryder Cup unfolds at the scenic Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, it not only showcases the world's top golfers but also exemplifies the blend of tradition, business acumen, and unexpected surprises that make this event an enduring spectacle in the world of sports.

Undrafted Team


Thursday, September 28, 2023

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