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Ryder Cup 2023: The driving range setup is a genius piece of gamesmaship from Team Europe

September 29, 2023
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ROME — Listen, I'm not sure how much this, specifically, matters. The players themselves may not even notice it. They've got a Ryder Cup to play, after all. But I noticed it, and it's hard not to believe that this — or at the very least, stuff like this doesn't play some kind of role.

One of the benefits of being the host team is that you get to tailor the surroundings to your liking. That means the golf course itself (which you can learn more about here), but more crucially, the amenities around the golf course.

The European Team locker room, for instance, is an enormous, luxurious setup, with ample space for players to unwind, hang out, or take a moment for themselves. The U.S. team locker room, by contrast, is spartan. Described by one insider as "Nice, but more like a standard locker room. A place to change your shoes."

It's all fair game, and a benefit enjoyed by both sides whenever it’s their turn to host. At Whistling Straits in 2021, for instance, the U.S. team's locker room was larger and more stocked than the European Team's. It's all part of the charm of the Ryder Cup: Everything is subtly but consistently more convenient for the home team.

But one particularly funny, subtle way this manifested itself was on the driving range.

The driving range is, for lack of a better term, a kind of safe space for pros. An area for them to warm up, or work out the kinks in their swing, or groove the good stuff. To be surrounded by their team and prepare for the chaos ahead.

The way things are laid out at Marco Simone, though, means that’s not really the case for the American team.

There's only one way in and one way out to the driving range: Via a massive bridge. At the end of that bridge is a tent holding all the golf balls is located. Everyone has to go to that tent at some point during that range session, sometimes more than once.

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The U.S. Ryder Cup team was assigned the area of the driving range nearer the bridge. As they're on the range, they have players on the European Team (and their various entourages) walk past them on their way to and from the driving range. The crowd is gathered at this point, too, and cheers whenever a member of Team Europe walks past. Add in the coming and going to the golf ball tent, and there's just lots of general commotion.

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The European team, by contrast, was designated to practice on the far side of the driving range, further from the bridge. It means that there are a lot less people walking past them as they practice. And whereas there's a mini grandstand for fans near the U.S. team's spot, the crowd is walled-off from access to most of where the European Team practices. It all amounts to a relative — but not insignificant — more amount of peace and quiet as they practice.

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Again, things like this don't win and lose Ryder Cups. It's just a minor nuisance for the U.S. Team, and a subtle perk for Europe. A charming and quite clever piece of home team gamesmanship.