As satisfying as it is to smash a huge drive down the centre of the fairway, it’s your wedges that save you shots – they’re your scoring clubs. This part of the bag often gets overlooked, especially by club golfers – many of whom pitch and chip with the same sand wedge until the face is totally worn.
Of course, that’s not you! You’re in the market for new wedges, and you understand the importance of having every distance covered from 130 yards and in.
The question is, what are the best golf wedges in 2021? Well, there are numerous options on the market for a wide range of golfers. So, if you’re looking for a new ‘wedge system’, here are the best options available.
1. Titleist Vokey SM8, RRP £160.00
This is not just one of the best wedges on the market, but arguably the best looking with its five eye-catching finishes.
According to Titleist, the SM8 is the most accurate and forgiving Vokey wedge to date, and its forgiveness has been achieved by shifting the CG forwards so it ‘hovers’ in front of the wedge face.
As a result, it produces a slightly more solid feel and improved ball flight. In addition, golfers should find that they get more consistent results because the club face wants to square up more at impact.
The patented Spin Milled grooves remain, and, as you’d expect from Vokey, you’re guaranteed plenty of spin and control around the greens.
2. Callaway Jaws Mack Daddy 5, RRP £149.00
The name offers you a clue as to what they’re all about. Groove Technology works with extremely sharp radius edges so that golfers can attack the flag with precision control.
Masters craftsman Roger Cleveland has precisely shaped each wedge with 8620 Mild Carbon Steel to deliver an incredibly soft feel, whilst optimisation head progression ensures a seamless transition into your iron set.
As a result, there’s a more traditionally shaped lob to sand wedge, whilst the gap through to pitching wedge is more compact.
3. Wilson Staff Model, RRP £130.00
Constructed with soft-forged 8620 steel and machine-engraved scorelines for Tour-calibre spin and control, Wilson’s Staff Model wedge helps accomplished golfers be more attacking with their wedges.
In addition, the higher density pattern on the face provides more consistent contact with the ball, giving golfers maximum control.
4. Cleveland RTX ZipCore, RRP £139.00
Providing plenty of versatility, feel, and spin control, this is Cleveland’s better player wedge.
The key piece of technology is a unique core at the heart of the muscleback design that’s four times lower density than the steel head it sits within. As a result, it’s helped make the sweet spot better aligned with the impact location.
Thanks to a new heat treatment process, the wedge also boasts greater durability, which boosts the lifespan of the grooves. Therefore, you’ll be able to chip aggressively time and again without worrying about experiencing a drop-off in performance.
5. Mizuno T20, RRP £140.00
Mizuno has a fine reputation when it comes to manufacturing premium irons, and its wedges are mightily impressive.
With its classic teardrop profile made from 1025E carbon steel, the T20 delivers a wonderfully soft feel around the greens.
Each head features precise CNC-milled grooves and is mechanically milled to the highest possible tolerances after Grain Flow Forging. This feature ensures a perfectly flat striking face and helps golfers achieve high levels of consistency.
6. TaylorMade Milled Grind 2, RRP £149.00
TaylorMade’s MG 2 wedge is quite unlike many other models on the market, but it’s popular on Tour, with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, and Rory McIlroy all opting for it.
This wedge features a patented Raw Face design, so while the rest of the wedge has either a satin chrome or matte black finish, the face is left untouched – hence the raw face. The purpose? TaylorMade says it gives players the opportunity to create bundles of extra spin.
7. Cobra King Snakebite, RRP £109.00
More ‘bite’, that’s what we’re talking about here. This has been achieved by creating a sharper and more accurate groove for increased ball spin.
On the 48-54° lofts, where you’d be using the club with a square or de-lofted face on approach shots, the grooves are a conventional length across the face but are narrower and deeper to optimise spin.
Meanwhile, on the 56°, 58°, and 60° wedges, the grooves are full face and are wider and shallower than the lower lofts to create more spin on the wedges you’d be using with an open blade around the green.
In addition, each wedge has an electronically enabled sensor built-in to the top of every grip. The system is powered by Arccos and can be paired to your smartphone via a free Arccos smartphone app.
So, come the end of your round, you can review your performance data and learn more about your short game.
8. Ping Glide 3.0, RRP £130.00
The clean, rounded head profile will appeal to many golfers, as will the tapered hosel and the slight extra offset, which frames the ball nicely.
Constructed from 431 stainless steel, these wedges deliver a remarkably soft and responsive feel. In addition, the patented precision wheel cut grooves with a sharper edge radius increases interaction with the ball at impact, which creates greater friction for improved spin and trajectory control.
Meanwhile, the HydroPearl Chrome 2.0 finish repels water from the surface, reduces friction through the grass, and provides better contact and control with the ball in wet conditions.
9. Cleveland CBX 2, RRP £119.00
In the CBX 2, Cleveland is also responsible for one of the most forgiving wedges on the market.
A Hollow-Cavity design with a hollow camber along the side of the heel and a heavy weight at the toe improves forgiveness, while
Rotex Face Technology has been used to create sharp grooves.
As a result, it delivers plenty of reaction off the face, and with its impressive forgiveness levels, that’s two big boxes ticked. Looks-wise, its chunkier appearance won’t necessarily appeal to everyone, but for a cleaner look, it does offer the RTX ZipCore.
10. Callaway Mack Daddy CB, RRP £119.00
If you’re a game improver, these wedges are definitely worth considering. This is because a deep cavity, along with a slightly larger club head, will help you achieve greater consistency.
High handicappers and beginners have more margin for error with the strike, which is usually the priority.
This is not to say they don’t offer any spin, however, because, with Callaway’s Jaws Groove Technology, they do offer a fair bit of bite when the ball is struck crisply.
The golf laser rangefinder market has grown rapidly in recent years, with both established and new brands introducing plenty of cutting-edge design features.
This growth is because we demand accurate yardages to the pin, and having a pinpoint number gives us the confidence to take on shots, as well as stay away from danger. In short, they save shots!
There have been advancements in ergonomics, too, because it’s important for these units to be simple to use as well as comfortable. Small details are crucial, especially given the premium price that’s attached to a number of these lasers.
Prices range from around £100 to over £500, so you need to assess which features are important and whether or not you’d get full use of the technology on offer.
For some, front, middle and back yardages are sufficient; for others, it’s important not to leave any stone unturned in getting a precise measurement. Plus, golfers want all the extras – and there are a fair few of those.
With the above in mind, here are the best golf laser rangefinders on the market in 2021.
1. EasyGreen 1300, RRP £179.99
The range on this laser? 1,300 yards, of course. However, its most impressive feature is its TOUR level Slope-Switch Technology, which gives users compensated distance based on the holes incline/decline.
Meanwhile, Pin-Tracking with Vibration Technology leaves golfers in no doubt as to when they’ve locked onto the flag. With fully waterproof housing, you needn’t worry about this superb piece of kit getting damaged, either.
2. Volvik V1, RRP £199.00
There’s a lot to like about this unit, with the 6x magnification one of its most impressive qualities – it offers a beautiful clear view of the target.
With Priority First Goal, you’re also able to pinpoint hazards, too – because, let’s face it, staying clear of hazards can make a real difference over the course of a round.
The slope adjustment feature gives you all the help you need in selecting the right club, too.
3. Nikon Coolshot Pro Stabilized, RRP £499.99
The price may raise a few eyebrows, but a good number of us wouldn’t think twice about spending this much on a new driver – so why not spend it on a device that can save you a bunch of shots?
This laser is one of the most cutting-edge rangefinders on the market. The key talking point is the stabilisation feature, which is said to remove up to 80 per cent of unwanted vibration to make the flag easier to pick out.
As you’d expect, it also has a slope mode, and the display is crystal clear. It’s also fully waterproof, a benefit few brands can offer.
4. Nikon Coolshot 20 GII, RRP £179.00
One of this rangefinder’s main benefits is that it can measure continuously for up to eight seconds when scanning the terrain. This means that if your hands are a little shaky, you can still be sure of getting the correct distance.
In addition, think about those times when you’re on the tee eyeing up hazards. This feature helps you to highlight these and even judge when the fairway runs out.
Looks-wise, the white and black colouring is sure to appeal to many golfers. It might not have the same number of features as some lasers, such as slope mode, but it’s perfect for quick use.
5. Shot Scope Pro L1, RRP £199.99
The sporty and ergonomic design looks great, and the device, which is also much lighter than most other models, is designed to sit comfortably in the hand.
It’s Shot Scope’s first-ever laser rangefinder, and there’s a lot to like about it, aside from the modern design.
Standout features include:
Adaptive Slope Technology, which displays the angle of slope adjustment and a recalculated distance, accurate to just 3.6 inches.
Target Lock Vibration, which gives you a clear indication of when you’re dialled in on your intended target.
6. Garmin Approach Z82, RRP £429.99
The Z82 is at the upper end of the price band due to the attention to detail involved in its features.
When looking through the viewfinder, you’ll have access to a full-colour 2D Course View mapping, which is displayed on the left-hand side. This shows you the distances to hazards and the green.
Meanwhile, the flag finder feature locks on the flag and gives precise distances to the pin. There’s also a ‘plays like’ distance feature that accounts for slopes and a Pin Pointer feature that points to the middle of the green on blind shots.
Finally, the unit allows you to keep score and measure shot distances to participate in weekly leaderboards, plus you can review your stats in the Garmin Golf app.
7. GolfBuddy Aim L10V, RRP £269.99
GolfBuddy’s most advanced laser features a unique audio option, which means the user gets spoken confirmation of distances – so it really is like having your own caddie on the golf course.
It’s not gimmicky, and plenty of other features make this device one of the best lasers on the market. For starters, there’s Slope Technology, as well as Pin Finder with Vibration Mode.
Meanwhile, the display offers superb clarity, while the wide LCD screen allows you to view every detail with precision.
8. GolfBuddy Laser 1, RRP £199.00
Golfers who don’t want to pay the big bucks for the all-singing, all-dancing lasers may lean more towards a device such GolfBuddy’s Laser 1.
It offers 6x magnification and a wide LCD screen for improved visibility of measurements, as well as a pin finder with vibration.
It’s also water-resistant, and the automatic shut-off after 10 seconds when it’s left unattended will prevent you from running out of charge mid-round.
9. Motocaddy Pro 3000, RRP £269.99
Motocaddy’s move into the laser market is interesting and, given the innovation behind its market-leading electric trolleys, its laser was always going to be high spec.
As well as Slope Compensation Mode and Pin Lock, this device offers wonderful clear views of the course, with 7x magnification and an adjustable eyepiece for the optimum viewing experience.
Meanwhile, it’s compact and lightweight, whilst the textured grip means it sits comfortably in the users’ hands.
10. Bushnell Tour V5 Shift, RRP £359.00
This golf laser rangefinder pretty much has it all. PinSeeker with visual JOLT technology gives the user confidence that they have locked onto the flag, whilst a new and improved slope algorithm and Slope-Switch technology allows golfers to turn the slope function on or off.
As a result, you’re guaranteed even more precise yardages, and these are returned rapidly with the Fast Focus system. The Bite magnetic mount is also a nice touch, as it allows the device to be secured to a golf buggy without the need for any aftermarket accessories.
11. Bushnell Tour V5 Slim Edition, RRP £299.00
The Slim Edition is exactly that – slimmer than its big brother. This is because Bushnell has moved the battery housing to the back of the unit and slimmed down the outer casing.
As a result, Bushnell says it has created a laser that fits snugly into the hands with ‘the minimum of interference when acquiring a target’.
In summary, it has the same features as the standard model, only a more ergonomic shape, which will probably make it easier for more golfers to use.
12. Bushnell Hybrid, RRP £399.00
Bushnell’s hybrid combines laser and GPS yardages.
The laser function, which is powered by a CR2 battery, gives precise distances to the flag, while on the side, a GPS display – powered by a USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery – delivers front, middle, and back yardages.
As with the V5, you get PinSeeker with JOLT Technology, too, so you receive short, vibrating bursts to isolate the target and lock onto the flag.
13. Zoom Focus X, RRP £219.99
Zoom might be a lesser-known brand, but its Focus X is proving to be a popular device, and it packs quite a punch for its relatively modest price.
Slope Compensation gets a big tick, as does the 6x magnification optics and eyepiece adjuster, which offers maximum comfort.
The unit vibrates when the flag has been picked out from the background, and it will display the yardage to the nearest 0.1 of a yard for an extra level of accuracy.
There’s much to consider before buying a new putter, as it’s arguably the most important club in your bag.
Choosing one that suits your stroke is the key to holing more putts and, ultimately, shooting lower scores.
As with every other club in your bag, a custom fitting is the best way forward. At the very least, you’d want a qualified PGA professional to look at your putting stroke, as some putters will suit you more than others.
Then, of course, there’s the look and feel of your flat stick. You want to be confident when you’re standing over a putt, as though you can roll the ball consistently and out of the centre of the face. Of course, we don’t always do that, not even the pros, so when you don’t quite find the middle, you want an element of forgiveness.
The head design is another key factor to consider. You might be a traditionalist in search of a new blade, or you might need more help stabilising your stroke or prefer a model that makes alignment easier, in which case a mallet putter might suit you better.
There are hundreds of models out there, and new putters are constantly being added to existing lines.
We look at the best golf putters on the market in 2021, and many of the putters mentioned are one of a number in the range. So, whilst you may not like a certain head shape, for example, there’s sure to be one in the line-up that suits your eye and putting stroke.
1. Axis 1 Rose, RRP £449
The Axis 1 putter is designed in such a way that it won’t naturally open during the putting stroke.
This feature is made possible by pushing the weight forward with a heel counterweight. The CG is positioned precisely on the centre of the putter face and aligns perfectly with the axis of the shaft.
As a result, users should find their putting performance improve as it helps the stroke to remain on line time after time.
The hosel design may be a little unusual, but it’s a beautiful-looking putter and one Justin Rose has enjoyed great success with in the past, as well as numerous other Tour pros.
2. TaylorMade Spider EX, RRP £299.00
TaylorMade’s Spider family is a hugely popular line, and the EX is sure to be another hit.
The new True Path system on the top of the head makes it easier to align, with three reflective white dots between the dual rail also helping golfers to line up the ball.
As well as alignment assistance, the putter features an aluminium frame and carbon composite head that increases the MOI for a more consistent roll. Users should find that this offers more forgiveness across the face, which is always welcome when you don’t quite deliver a centred strike.
3. Cobra King Vintage Stingray Single, RRP £199.00
The King Vintage series will appeal to those golfers who favour a more traditional look.
Cobra engineers worked alongside SIK Golf and Bryson DeChambeau to design a putter face that improves ball roll. It features an aluminium insert with four descending lofts on the face to produce the most consistent roll trajectory for different putting strokes and angles of attack.
The Stingray is an oversize mallet putter, but with multiple shapes, hosels, and an adjustable weighting system, you have various options for different putting strokes. And, of course, with Cobra you can monitor your performance thanks to the tracking system embedded in the grips.
4. Ping 2021 Anser 4, RRP £250.00
There are a dozen models in Ping’s 2021 range, comprising mallets, mid-mallets, and blades. All these models have been designed with improved forgiveness in mind.
One of the key technologies is a new dual-durometer Pebax face insert, the front layer of which is softer for precision on close-range putts, while the rear layer is firmer to aid speed and distance control.
The face also features uniform grooves, which Ping says provides more consistent distance control across the face. The putters come with a dark, stealth PVD finish which boosts their premium looks.
5. Odyssey White Hot OG #5, RRP £239.00
White Hot is one of the most iconic putters of all time, with the classic line proving extremely popular on Tour and with golfers of all abilities for the last two decades.
This is largely down to the insert used, which provides exceptional feel. For 2021, the original White Hot formulation, feel, sound, and performance are all back in one two-part urethane insert. Combined with a rich silver PVD finish with fine milling on the surfaces, Odyssey has another beautiful range on its hands. The line-up includes the #1, #1WS, 2Ball, #5, and #7 models, as well as the much-loved Rossie.
6. Odyssey 2-Ball Ten, RRP £299.00
Featuring Odyssey’s famous 2-Ball alignment, it should come as no surprise that the new 2-Ball Ten is still aimed at those players who tend to push or pull their putts.
It features a White Hot Microhinge face insert, which promotes immediate forward roll for improved speed and control – so you should see the ball ‘hugging’ the ground when you putt; in other words, less ‘skidding’.
In addition, the shaft has been made stiffer and more stable – it’s seven grams lighter than its predecessor – to aid tempo and improve consistency in the putting stroke.
7. Scotty Cameron Special Select Newport 2, RRP £380.00
Nothing quite turns your head like a new Scotty Cameron putter.
The Newport 2 was first released in 1997, and it’s been a favourite with many of the world’s best putters.
The latest model is a fraction sleeker than the 2018 model, and with input from Tour players, it’s been made thinner to sit a touch flatter on the ground.
Meanwhile, heavier tungsten weights have been added to the heel and toe to aid stability on off-centre strikes. ‘Classic, industrial with elegance,’ is how the master putter maker describes them, and it’s hard to disagree.
8. Mizuno M.Craft IV, RRP £269.00
There are three mid-mallet models in the extended line-up for 2021, and each has been CNC-milled to create the most precise shape and alignment.
This model is a slant neck-deep square back putter with moderate toe-hang to suit players with a moderate putting arc.
Forged from premium 1025 mild carbon steel and available in three striking finishes, the M.Craft putters are certainly eye-catching.
Designed for stability, the head has been designed to promote a fluid, rhythmical putting stroke, while additional weights can be interchanged to allow the user to fine-tune the feel.
9. Wilson Staff Infinite Bucktown, RRP £109.00
Wilson Staff’s Infinite putter range offers a range of different head shapes and styles.
The main talking point is Counterbalance Technology, which sees additional weight placed in the grip end of the club and head; this brings the point of balance closer to the hands, which makes it easier to control the swing and helps the stroke to be more consistent.
In addition, the oversized 104-gram Infinite grip works by softening the hand action and eradicates unwanted wrist movement.
Meanwhile, the dark anti-glare finish contributes towards a premium look, which isn’t reflected in the competitive price.
10. Evnroll ER11V Putter, RRP £369.00
Evnroll putters ooze quality, and it’s no different with the new V Series range. The ER11V is the flagship model, a high-performance mallet offering forgiveness and stability in a clean and compact look.
Evnroll’s Sweet Face Technology is behind the unique mill pattern, which delivers uniform performance across the entire hitting area.
So, the ER11V could be a game-changer for golfers who struggle with consistent roll and pace control.
11. Bettinardi Studio Stock 18, RRP £399.00
Those in search of a new blade putter would be well advised to try this beautiful handcrafted offering from Bettinardi.
Developed with input from some of the world’s best players, the Roll Control Face gives players exceptional feel and optimal audible feedback, while the asymmetrical design groove profile promotes more topspin at impact and shortens the distance the ball takes to get into a true roll with each putt.
With the Diamond Blast finish, which gives the putter its clean appearance, and red and back paint scheme, you have one of the most aesthetically pleasing blades on the market, too.
With Padraig Harrington now handing the reins over to someone new after defeat at Whistling Straits, let’s turn our attention to the Ryder Cup captain guessing games in the next decade. Here’s who our partners National Club Golfer are backing for the next decade.
Europe’s next Ryder Cup captains: 2023
When interviewed in 2018, Lee Westwood said he would probably wait until 2023 at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.
Which is code for “I’ll be captain in 2023”.
As Harrington explained: “They want to get a picture who is interested and a perfect example would be obviously in Lee Westwood’s case, they needed to know whether he was interested or not and he’s thinking he got the feeling from watching it that maybe have one more go and go for 2023.”
Which is code for “Lee will be captain in 2023”.
Europe’s next Ryder Cup captains: 2025
Here are the ages of Europe’s captains this century: 49 (Sam Torrance), 47 (Bernhard Langer), 48 (Ian Woosnam), 51 (Nick Faldo), 47 (Colin Montgomerie), 46 (Jose Maria Olazabal), 47 (Paul McGinley), 48 (Darren Clarke), and 47 (Thomas Bjorn).
You don’t have to be a genius to spot a bit of a trend here. Hit 45 and, if you’re not going to make the team, then you’re in with a shout. Interestingly of the last nine European captains, only five are major winners. The United States have never before chosen a major-less skipper. Needless to say plenty have just the PGA on their CV, but still.
Now we’re getting into a bit of a pickle. You can probably assume that one of Bjorn and Harringtons’s right-hand men, Robert Karlsson, who will be 56 in 2025, will miss out. Paul Lawrie, who wasn’t part of the 2018 set-up, describes himself as a “back of the room type guy” so we can now strike a line through him as well.
Now we’re into the realms of Ian Poulter, who will be 49, the same with Henrik Stenson, while Paul Casey is a year younger and Luke Donald two.
It’s away at Bethpage State Park in New York State and, in my head, that only points to one person – the proverbial Postman, Ian James Poulter.
Europe’s next Ryder Cup captains: 2027
Adare Manor in Ireland has this one so we can make things easy for ourselves and tick off another of Bjorn and Harrington’s vices in Graeme McDowell.
He’ll be 48 by then and, while he might have only played on four teams, which seems incredible, he’ll tick every box – charismatic, gutsy, astute, great speaker.
And Irish, of course.
Europe’s next Ryder Cup captains: 2029
And back to the ultimate templated US layout, Hazeltine. Now things really are getting awkward given that Casey and Donald will have brought up their half century and now we’ve also got Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose at 49.
Let’s eliminate Casey from our enquiries on grounds of, well, everything. Stenson, at 52, might now have gone by the wayside which, given his hugely likeable character, seems as criminal as it is irritating.
So we might have a toss up between Donald, Garcia and Rose. Let’s keep Sergio back for 2031 and a home match, hopefully somewhere on the continent, and look to Rose to lead us into battle.
And don’t for a moment think that I haven’t worked out that Rory will be 48 when Congressional and the 2037 matches roll around. Perfect.
Europe’s next Ryder Cup captains: 2031
So with Rory pencilled in for 2037 and Sergio still on the sidelines it seems like the simplest choice of the lot. Happy 50th birthday Sergio, here are the Ryder Cup reins.
With the venue to be confirmed, maybe we’ll even make it the perfect week and take it back to his homeland for just the second time.
The only possible weird thing about this is that he hasn’t played in the competition since France and all the talk of him being the record scorer for Europe will have run a little flat now that three players have overtaken him.
This article originally appeared on NationalClubGolfer.com in March 2020 and has been updated by the editor.
This month marked 30 years since the infamous 1991 Ryder Cup in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, which is famously dubbed the War on the Shore.
The tournament featured over-zealous spectators, off-the-course tension, accusations of gamesmanship, and hostility between the Americans and Europeans.
We speak to three key golfing figures to get their first-hand recollections and opinions of what went on.
Bernard Gallacher, the Europe team captain
What can you remember about the events that preceded the 1991 Ryder Cup?
The 1991 Ryder Cup marked the aftermath of America’s triumph in the Gulf War, and the Americans seemed to take this sense of nationalism into the event.
During the opening ceremony, President Bush appeared on television saying he was hoping for an American victory, which you just don’t say at a Ryder Cup. Then-Vice President Dan Quayle also came to the matches. It was undignified in many ways.
The Americans are always expected to win the Ryder Cups – they can’t get accustomed to the idea that we win and they lose. That’s why they did everything they could to win in 1991. There was a certain amount of desperation as the Americans hadn’t won the Ryder Cup since 1983, and their players seemed worked up.
We had no idea, for instance, that some players would come out with battle-fatigue baseball hats – it was obvious they were trying to generate a hostile atmosphere.
Various other things happened before the tournament, which didn’t sit well with me. We were staying at an apartment and the maids servicing the rooms gave out the players’ room numbers to an all-night disc jockey, who was ringing our players during the night. They called this segment ‘wake the enemy’.
Then there was the gala dinner in Charleston on the Wednesday. Three of the American team limos were involved in a collision on the way to the dinner, and Steve Pate got hurt. I thought it was just a minor bump, and, personally, I thought the Americans made a lot more of that than they needed to. And that, of course, led to the David Gilford situation.
During the dinner itself, this film of the Ryder Cup came on, and it didn’t show any British or Irish participation at the Ryder Cup – it was all about the Americans. Seve Ballesteros and Ken Schofield, who was the Chief Executive of the European Tour at the time, were incandescent with rage, considering we’d won in 1985 and 1987 and retained the Ryder Cup in 1989. I felt very much the same; I thought it was very unsporting. That got the week off to a poor start.
What did you make of the role the spectators played at Kiawah Island?
The Americans got the spectators roused up; there’s no other way of putting it.
I played in eight Ryder Cups, and this was the first one where the crowd got really involved in the match. They were hostile towards the European side, booing when our players holed a putt and cheering when we missed. They were overly nationalistic and partisan.
I’m not sure if it affected the players, but it meant there was an ill feeling, and the tournament was played in a bad spirit. It was getting out of control, to be honest.
What are your first-hand memories of what happened on the course?
Some players were accusing other players of gamesmanship. During the foursomes match, Seve developed a small cough throughout the match and his opponent Raymond Floyd became unhappy, to put it kindly, that Seve was doing that. Seve and (José María) Olazábal also accused Paul Azinger of illegally changing the golf ball at the ninth in the four-ball match because he wanted to hit the third shot in with a softer ball to get more spin.
We all go into these rule meetings before the match starts, so we’re all on the same page regarding the rules. It was the first Ryder Cup where you weren’t allowed to change your ball in a foursomes match, so whoever nominates the ball on the first tee had to stick with that ball throughout.
I was called to the tenth tee before they hit off, and Olazábal told me they’d changed the ball and I asked the referee to explain the ruling to the Americans again. The referee explained that you must play the same ball that you nominated at the first tee throughout the match. Any rules dispute must be brought to the attention of the referee before you hit off at the next tee.
Olazábal said he wasn’t hitting off until the referee told them the rule and that he was claiming the hole. Azinger said he didn’t change his ball at the ninth, and when he realised that the Spaniards couldn’t claim the hole at the seventh because they’d played the next two holes, he said he changed the ball at the seventh. I said: ‘If you didn’t know the rule at the seventh, how come you know the rule at the ninth?’. When the referee asked Azinger if he changed the ball, he said they hadn’t. Seve and Olazábal beat them 2 and 1 on the back nine anyway, and I think the Americans were upset that they’d been caught out.
There were also suggestions from the European supporters that Hale Irwin’s ball was thrown back into play after he pulled his tee shot at the 18th in the defining match against Bernhard Langer. I thought that the ball was in the heavy rough, but when I came up, it was in the semi-rough, not where I thought it should have been. I was very surprised to see that. We accepted it at the time because we couldn’t prove it, but there was a suspicion, and I’ve been told often that the ball was thrown back by a spectator.
You alluded to the Steve Pate and David Gilford controversy earlier. Can you give us your recollections of that?
The Americans decided that Steve Pate couldn’t play his singles match after he was involved in the car crash, and so they took a half match. Everyone knew he was due to play Seve in the singles, and although there was a doubt over his fitness, they stuck with him and didn’t bring in a reserve.
They played him in the four-ball on Saturday afternoon, and he and Corey Pavin lost to Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. They subsequently pulled him out and said he was still injured, even though he played on the Saturday.
When there’s an injury, a player from one side is paired up with a player from the opposition, and they get a half-point. The feeling was that America got a half point they wouldn’t otherwise have got because Steve Pate would not have beaten Seve.
But where the Steve Pate situation caused me the biggest problem was in regards to the ‘envelope rule’, whereby I had to select one player from his team that he would like not to compete. I hadn’t told David Gilford he was in this secretive envelope – you wouldn’t tell a player something like that unless you felt the rule was going to be triggered. You’d ideally have a discussion with the whole group and tell them that you’ve got to put one person in the envelope because of an injury to an opposition player.
I can’t remember the captain ever discussing the envelope rule during my time as a player because a situation like this never occurred.
Instead of Dave Stockton (the American team captain in 1991) telling me one of his players was doubtful for Sunday and giving me the chance to speak to David Gilford, I heard nothing until I was presented with the new draw on Sunday. So, I had to speak to explain to David why he was in the envelope, and he took it very harshly – he was very upset that his name was in there. It was a very difficult moment.
How do you reflect on the events at Kiawah Island, and how do you think they shaped the Ryder Cup?
The 1991 Ryder Cup wasn’t played in the spirit of the tournament. It was hostile and toxic. In the Ryder Cups I played in, there was no hostility or acrimony – it was friendly and competitive. There were always a few technicalities and disputes along the way, but nothing too serious.
The players can usually settle disputes themselves, and if they can’t, the referee comes in. But this whole tournament felt different – it was difficult. I found it tough as captain, more and more so as the week went on.
As a captain, you try and keep most of the big issues away from the players. Some of the players like Mark James have said they didn’t think there was much going on in 1991, but if the players are saying that, it’s a good thing. It shows I’ve done my job as captain by keeping a lot of the controversy away from the players.
This was the first tournament that changed the paradigm for a few Ryder Cups, right up until 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline when Mark James was the captain. It boiled over again then with all of the partisan stuff that was going on – the Americans prematurely spilled onto the green, even though Olazábal still had a putt to keep Europe in it. I felt sorry for Mark in that moment.
There’s no doubt that 1991 was the precursor to these events. It started there, and eight years later, it was completely over the top.
Renton Laidlaw, journalist and former golf correspondent for the BBC
Do you remember much about the build-up to Kiawah Island, and did you get any sense going into the tournament that things might get hostile or spill over?
I didn’t feel there was any sense of animosity going into the tournament. The Americans hadn’t won the Ryder Cup in eight years, so I suppose we felt that they’d be keener than ever to win the match. But I didn’t think there would be any nastiness because of the Ryder Cup’s history and what it represented.
When Samuel Ryder gave the cup to the PGA in Britain, he gave it to cement the friendship between the British and the Americans – it was a friendship cup. So, we didn’t anticipate that there would be any problems over in Kiawah Island, but of course, things got out of hand.
What did you make of some of the antics which went on prior to, during, and after the tournament?
The highlights video at the gala dinner was very bad. That was the PGA’s fault – they should never have allowed that. For the video to just show the Americans winning the Ryder Cup was ludicrous. The Europeans were on level terms with the Americans and had won two of the last three Ryder Cups, so for the PGA not to show any of that was so disappointing.
Dave Stockton also made the point of saying that his players had collectively won $50 million in prize money, equivalent to $4 million for each member of his team. It was said in a way that the Americans had such a good team and that they were far better than the Europeans. It was inflammatory and unnecessary on his part.
As we know, the Americans hate to lose. They’d been number one at the Ryder Cup for so long, and the formation of the European team changed everything. That, undoubtedly, had an impact on the American psyche going into the 1991 Ryder Cup.
After the match was over, Vice President Quayle was brought in to present the cup to the Americans That really annoyed Bernard, because it had always been the case that the captain handed over the trophy to the other captain, and then suddenly the Americans were bringing in a Vice President to do it. A Vice President who famously couldn’t spell the word ‘potato’, I might add!
Although Quayle was there to present the trophy to Dave Stockton, Bernard went and presented the trophy before he did, just to make a point. But not to be outdone, of course, Stockton handed the trophy back to Quayle, who handed the trophy back to him! It was a very bizarre situation.
Bernard was also never told by Stockton what was happening with Steve Pate – he found out from the BBC! Steve Pate was the star man at that time because he was playing so well, and he was number one in the draw against Seve. When Steve Pate dropped out, Seve got paired against Wayne Levi, who David Gilford was due to play.
How did you feel for David Gilford in that situation?
It was tough to take for David, no question about it. I think he’d have beaten Wayne Levi.
One of the reasons David was taken out was because he’d played twice and lost both of his matches. David had a difficult time with Nick Faldo – the two of them played together on the first day, and I don’t think Faldo spoke to him. Bernard must have thought that Faldo would help the young guy, but sadly it didn’t work out like that. Faldo hardly spoke, and David hated it.
David felt that he had something to prove, and this was his chance in the singles. The feeling was that he’d take on Wayne Levi and beat Wayne Levi. So, to be told by Bernard that was coming out as the match was beginning was very difficult for him.
What do you remember of the atmosphere and how the American spectators were towards the European contingent?
The group of people watching the golf were pretty antagonistic. They were very pro-American because their team hadn’t won the Ryder Cup for a long time.
They kicked Mark James’ ball into the rough, and there was a strong suggestion that Hale Irwin’s ball had been thrown back in. That’s just not golf.
There was an undercurrent of anxiety hostility towards the Europeans. The Americans thought they might not win again, and that would have been appalling, especially on home soil.
Ryder Cups are usually played in the best spirit, but this Ryder Cup wasn’t played in the best spirit at all. That was a disappointment to everybody, not to least to Bernard who already had the David Gilford situation to contend with.
What can you remember of the moment Bernhard Langer missed a six-foot par putt for victory, and how did it feel that it was Langer of all people who missed the putt?
My recollection is there were two spike marks on the way to the hole, and you couldn’t tap down spike marks at that point. So, Langer knew he wouldn’t have a completely smooth run to the hole.
He was such a reliable member of the European Ryder Cup team, but maybe he pushed it a bit too much or didn’t quite have the line, despite the conversation he had with his caddy. I suppose only he can tell you that.
It was a heartbreaking moment for him. It was a hole-able putt, and in normal circumstances, he would’ve holed it. But the spike marks created that added element of doubt, and it clearly affected Langer, who was presumably aware of what was going on elsewhere on the course.
To summarise, how will you remember the 1991 Ryder Cup?
Despite everything that went against the Europeans and the antics that were geared towards putting them off, our guys only just lost and no more. It was a fantastic performance in difficult circumstances.
We should remember that they only lost by one putt on the last green on the last day. Had that putt gone in, the Europeans would have claimed a brilliant victory in emotive conditions, and we’d have said they were all heroes. I still think they were all heroes, even though they lost.
They didn’t lose badly, they kept their nerve, and they were led by an exemplary captain who kept a lid on things as best as possible. Bernard handled the whole thing really well, considering how out of hand things got.
I was disappointed in the likes of Dave Stockton, Raymond Floyd, and Corey Pavin, who were all so determined to win that they crossed the line. It’s a shame that we lost, and it’s a pity that America won.
Sam Torrance, part of the Europe Ryder Cup team in 1991
How would you describe Kiawah Island from your perspective?
It was exciting. The American spectators obviously weren’t shouting for us, but I didn’t feel that there was anything particularly untoward. I thought the spectators were great – they were backing their team just like the European supporters would at the Belfry or in France. I didn’t have a problem with that side of things.
There was the other stuff going on off the course, like the phone calls to the players’ rooms which were a little bit tricky, let’s put it that way. I wasn’t one of the players who was called – luckily for the disc jockey, they never got through to me, otherwise there would certainly have been a few bleeps on their show!
The only reason it’s called the War on the Shore is because Corey Pavin – who’s a dear friend of mine – wore the camouflage hat. He realised it was a mistake, and he didn’t do it to antagonise anyone. He was just being a real American. It was taken out of context, in my opinion.
What do you recall of the dispute involving Azinger and Olazábal?
There was nothing that could be done about it because they’d walked off the greens – they needed to bring it up on the seventh. But despite the fact they were losing when the issue was brought up, Seve and Ollie were just magnificent on the back nine and showed great resilience. That calmed that down – that was one form of attack gone.
We obviously weren’t happy that the ball was changed – it was an elementary mistake. Whether or not it was done on purpose, we’ll never know.
How do you remember the Bernhard Langer moment?
I was stood ten yards away. I wouldn’t have put anyone else ahead of Bernhard for that putt – he was absolutely magnificent at Kiawah Island, and he’d holed the previous three putts of a similar length to keep the match going.
We all felt for him when he missed the putt, but it’s just one of those things that can happen to anybody, even someone as brilliant as Bernhard.
Did you have any thoughts on the American celebrations at the end when a few of them ran into the sea?
I had no issue with that – they won the match, and they wanted to go and jump in the sea. Let them enjoy their moment. We’d have done the same thing – look at Paul McGinley when he jumped in the lake at The Belfry in 2002.
At the end of the day, we’re all grown-ups, we’re all tough cookies, and we gave it our all.
What positives did you take from the 1991 Ryder Cup?
It was the start of Seve and Ollie, and they were a formidable partnership, going two undefeated. Seve led us beautifully – top points scorer, undefeated, four-and-a-half points out of five. What a performance he put in – had we managed to win at Kiawah Island, he’d have been a worthy winner, not for the first time in his career.
Europe took a beating – and there may be more to come – as an era came to an end at Whistling Straits. It may be a while before we get our hands back on that precious Ryder Cup trophy, as our partners National Club Golfer look at how the tournament could be about to change.
1. The Ryder Cup really does matter to the players
The old saw of the Ryder Cup being a glorified exhibition match was well and truly laid to rest by Rory McIlroy’s extraordinary, tearful interview immediately after his singles match against Schauffele when he apologised to his teammates and indeed the whole continent. It was a long way removed from his loose comments at the start of his professional career.
No doubt Poulter and Westwood also found parts of this week hard to stomach after so many glorious moments in this competition.
It was also clear that the Americans were in no mood to ease up on the Europeans even when victory was assured. And nor should they. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
2. Alan Shipnuck had a point
Arguably the finest contemporary writer on the game, Alan Shipnuck predicted a new era of American dominance ahead of the last match at Le Golf National. To say it struck a nerve among the Europeans would be an understatement – McIlroy namechecked him in the winners’ press conference in Paris.
Well, he may have been a little previous but he had a point. Which is why it registered with McIlroy in the first place.
We’ve enjoyed a generation of European dominance but this match has brought it abruptly to an end. There isn’t a member of the USA team who isn’t already eyeing the next match – a sobering thought for Europe.
It feels like reverting to the norm of American dominance with Europe playing the underdog card and hoping for extraordinary feats from star players and unheralded support acts.
Shipnuck had tongue in cheek when he made the point but there was more than a hint of seriousness about it too.
3. USA rookies are veterans in waiting
Technically, the USA fielded six rookies this week.
That was misleading if you looked a little closer. Among their number: Collin Morikawa, a two-time major champion already; Xander Schauffele, Olympic champion; Patrick Cantlay, FedEx Cup champion and a four-time winner on the PGA Tour this year; Harris English, World No 11; Daniel Berger, World No 16 and top 10s in the US Open and Open Championship this year; and Scottie Scheffler, World No 21 and runner-up in the WGC Match Play.
The first three seem categorically sure to play in the Ryder Cup for the next decade and more. Every time Stricker sent out four pairs, it was very difficult to perceive a weakness. And, crucially, these boys were all in form. The same could not be said for Europe.
4. The end of an era for Europe
Not even on the team: Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari. Unlikely to be seen again in European colours: Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. Possibly Paul Casey. Maybe even Sergio Garcia.
When you think that the start of Westwood’s Ryder Cup career neatly picked up from the end of Nick Faldo’s in 1997, you understand that this is more than just the passing of time.
This is the end of a group of players who redefined the Ryder Cup, picking up from the likes of Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle, and beat the Americans home and away.
No doubt come Rome in two years’ time there will be new European heroes to invest our hopes in, but they are unlikely to achieve what this group did. And the transition could be painful.
5. Harrington’s best efforts made little difference
Some of us felt that Justin Rose would have been a better option than Ian Poulter, while there was a suspicion that the team would have been stronger had Bernd Wiesberger not earned the last qualifying spot. With the benefit of hindsight, that was rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. It wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference.
Similarly, while we can second guess some of Captain Harrington’s pairings, it is hard to imagine a scenario where they could have made anything even approaching a difference to the outcome of the match.
Europe didn’t win a session and were convincingly beaten in four out of the five, culminating in Sunday’s demolition.
6. Viktor’s welcome to the big time
Rookies are supposed to get eased into the Ryder Cup, shielded in one of the middle games in the afternoon fourballs. Sometimes, not even seen until Saturday.
Viktor Hovland was up against Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa on Friday morning, then Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay in the afternoon. It was Thomas and Jordan Spieth next, then Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau, before Morikawa again in the singles.
He led at one point or another in every game, yet picked up only half a point before the singles, where his match against Morikawa was a classic. His reward was another precious half point.
The experiences of the week would break many – five games and no wins. You sense it has done nothing to diminish Hovland’s spirit. Better days in the Ryder Cup surely lie ahead for him.
7. Poor Casey takes four portions of DJ
How’s your luck when you draw Dustin Johnson in every single session you play in?
That was Paul Casey’s fate at Whistling Straits. He shook hands and offered his congratulations on the 16th, the 17th (twice) and the 18th. He was beaten but not bowed, and certainly not disgraced. As a microcosm of the match as a whole it was powerful. Europe were by no means unworthy competition but ultimately they were beaten by a better team. There’s no shame in that.