The Curtis Cup is the best known team trophy for women amateur golfers, awarded in the biennial Curtis Cup Match (not "Matches"). It is co-organised by the United States Golf Association and the Ladies Golf Union and is contested by teams representing the United States and "Great Britain and Ireland". The same two teams originally contested the Ryder Cup, but unlike that competition, the Curtis Cup has not widened the Great Britain and Ireland team to include all Europeans (nor has the analogous event for amateur men, the Walker Cup). Many women who have gone on to become stars of women's professional golf have played in the Curtis Cup.
The first Curtis Cup Match was played in 1932 at the Wentworth Club in England, and was won by the American team. The trophy, a silver bowl of Paul Revere design, was donated by Harriot Curtis (who had won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1906) and her sister Margaret (who had won it in 1907, 1911, and 1912). The Curtis sisters had competed in the 1905 British Ladies Amateur, where an informal match had occurred between teams of American and British golfers, and they wanted to promote the international friendships in the world of women's golf. The cup is inscribed, "To stimulate friendly rivalry among the women golfers of many lands."
Discussions between various golf associations had been underway since 1924—the Curtis sisters had originally donated the trophy in 1927 to help these discussions along—but it was not until 1931 that the USGA and LGU agreed to co-sponsor the event. It was hoped that the French Golf Union would eventually participate, but that never occurred.
The Curtis Cup Match is played every two years in even numbered years, alternating between the two sides of the Atlantic. Each team consists of eight golfers. In 2004, then fourteen-year-old Michelle Wie played for the U.S. becoming the youngest player in Curtis Cup history. She won both of her singles matches. The United States won the 2008 event, extending its overall lead to 26 wins to 6, with 3 ties. This match also saw a historic first, with Team USA's Stacy Lewis becoming the first player ever to go 5–0 in a single Curtis Cup Match.
The competition involves various match play matches between players selected from the two teams of 8, either singles, foursomes, or (starting in 2008) fourball. The winner of each match scores a point for their team, with ½ a point each for any match that is tied after 18 holes. If the entire Match is tied, the previously winning team retains the Cup.
A foursomes match is a competition between two teams of two golfers. The golfers on the same team take alternate shots throughout the match, with the same ball. Each hole is won by the team that completes the hole in the fewest shots. A fourball match is a competition between two teams of two golfers. All four golfers play their own ball throughout the round. Each hole is won by the team whose individual golfer had the lowest score. A singles match is a standard match play competition between two golfers.
The original format was a single day of competition, with three foursomes matches in the morning and six singles matches in the afternoon, for a total of nine points. In 1964, the format was changed to two days, with three foursomes and six singles matches each day, a total of 18 points. In 2008, the format changed to a three-day competition, with three foursomes and three fourball matches on each of the first two days, and eight singles matches on the final day, a total of 20 points.