Betting on Golf

Golf is one of those sports that’s had ties to wagering ever since it was invented. A lot of people will even attest that playing and betting on golf go hand-in-hand. How often do you see golfers playing a round with some cash involved in it? It doesn’t even have to be a full round. Some golfers participate in driving contests, putting challenges, and whatever kind of bet they can think of inside a full 18 rounds.

Yes, betting on golf is fun, and some people say that it's more fun to bet on the sport than to actually play it. But even those who have never picked up a club, let alone seen an actual tee can enjoy betting on golf. The sport has grown leaps and bounds from a sports betting perspective that a lot of sportsbooks make it a point to offer markets on golf tournaments all over the world. From the four majors to events in far-flung destinations that spread throughout any given year, golf betting has become so popular among sportsbooks that you can make a bet on the sport as long as a tournament is happening in the world.

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There’s Golf Everywhere

The days of golf being treated as a niche sport are long gone. All you need to do is look at a particular weekend, and you’ll see that there’s a tournament being played, whether locally or abroad. The sport has become so popular that professional tours exist in six of the seven continents in the world. Today, the two most prominent tours are the European Tour and the US PGA Tour. The former has since been rebranded as the “European Tour Race To Dubai” as a nod to the DP World Tour Championships, the climactic event of the tour. To give you a feel on how often golf tournaments are played these days, the European Tour runs pretty much the entire year now while the PGA Tour has a January to November calendar.

So yeah, as long as there’s a weekend in a calendar, there’s probably a golf tournament being staged somewhere in the world, making golf betting odds just as accessible to bettors.

Golf Betting 101

Generally speaking, open golf betting involves three different bet types. Each type has its own variations, but for the most part, the most popular ones used by sportsbooks include a golfer to win the event, a golfer to finish in the top 3, or a golfer to post a finish higher than another golfer.

Betting on a golfer to an event is the most straightforward among the three. Sportsbooks offer odds on participants of a specific tournament based on a variety of factors. The top-ranked and well-supported golfers are usually the ones with the shortest odds, and as the list goes on, the odds for dark horses and long shots become higher. In some cases, sportsbooks will even offer “the Field” as a betting option, referring to all the golfers who don’t have individual odds posted. The field usually consists of players who are all grouped together and taken as one bet. If anybody included in it wins the tournament, that selection cashes in. The size of the “Field” varies depending on the tournament and the players involved. It can consist of as little as five to 10 players, or as was the case during Tiger Woods’ dominance, it was made up of him against everybody playing in the tournament not named Tiger Woods.

Betting on a golfer to finish in the top 3 is another one of the most popular bets in golf. Over time, that bet type has extended to a golfer finishing in the top 5 or the top 10. The odds for this type of bet are obviously lower compared to a golfer winning the event outright. That’s because a golfer doesn’t have to win the tournament for the bet to cash. For example, if Tiger Woods has 5/1 odds of winning a tournament outright, his odds to finish in the top 3 will only be somewhere in the neighborhood of even odds, maybe even lower than that. That principle continues if a golfer finishes in the top 5 or top 10. In that case, a top 5 finish for Woods would probably be around 1/2 while a top 10 finish would be closer to 1/5 odds.

The “one-on-one” bet in golf is another exciting bet type because it focuses on just two golfers playing head-to-head based on their scores after the tournament or after a specific round. This type of bet is usually associated with knockout-style, matchplay events and is similar to how match odds are used in other sports. Each golfer will receive odds depending on the chances of them finishing higher against the other. This bet could last the entire tournament, or in the case of stroke-play events, a specific round depending on what sportsbooks are offering.

There are other markets too!

As popular as the three types of golf bets I mentioned above are, there are other betting markets that are being offered in golf betting. Just like the halftime odds in football and the first quarter odds in basketball, golf has the First Round Leader market. There are also the three-balls and two-balls markets wherein bettors can bet on the outcome of a specific group that’s drawn together in traditional stroke play events. The first two days of a stroke play tournament usually involves golfers drawn together in groups of three, hence the name three-balls. As the tournament progresses and a majority of the players get cut, the groups eventually go down to a pair (two-balls) of golfers that are drawn together based on their scores in the tournament.

Another fun golf market is the Top Nationality. This market can go in a number of ways. One is betting on the nationality of the winner, and the other is betting on a player of a specific nationality to finish higher than his compatriots. For example, a market is offered for the Top Australian in the tournament. The choices are limited to all the Australians playing, and each will receive corresponding odds depending on their chances of finishing higher than their countrymen.

There are some sportsbooks that also offer markets for individual golfers. This type of market zeroes in on just one golfer with odds like total birdies in the tournament, total bogeys, the number of fairways hit, etc. This type of betting is great if a bettor just wants to concentrate his bets on a single player instead of the entire field.

Then there are the always fun prop bets. Like with most sports, prop bets in golf take many different forms, some of them even bordering on silly. But that’s precisely why props are fun. Where else would you be able to bet the kind of meat Bubba Watson will serve at the 2015 Masters champions dinner, as was the case in April 2015 when a number of books offered this prop as part of golf Masters betting earlier this year? For the record, Watson served grilled chicken with mac and cheese, helping those who put money on “chicken” cash in. How about the prop on who the winner hugs first? Jordan Spieth, who won the 2015 Masters by a record margin, hugged his caddy, Michael Greller, first.

These are just two examples of the latest golf betting that sportsbooks are offering. For the most part, it’s these types of bets that make betting on golf really fun.

The Advantages of In-Play Betting in Golf

In-play betting is one of the most significant advancements in sports betting. Instead of being forced to make bets before a match starts, bettors can now place bets as the match is unfolding. This helps bettors get a feel for the flow of the action and make bets based on what they see. This is important in golf because tournaments typically last four days, traditionally starting on Thursday and ending on Sunday. This gives bettors ample time to make adjustments on their bets depending on how a specific round turns out. In some cases, in-play betting opens the possibility for someone to hedge his bets to increase his chances of cashing in at the end of the tournament.

Know Your Golf Courses

Now that myriad betting opportunities have been established, it’s important to gain the proper amount of knowledge to make sound betting choices. One of the most important pieces of information to know are the golf courses where tournaments are being played. This is unique to golf because unlike in other sports where venues are required to be the same, golf courses are the exact opposite. There are no two courses in the world that are identical to one another. Each course presents different sets of challenges that may suit a specific type of player and not another.

Some golfers are more comfortable in courses with longer fairways while others may prefer consistent greens. It’s important to understand the type of golf course that’s hosting a tournament and know who among the participants are comfortable in that course. If a course is known for its treacherous fairways, stay away from golfers with erratic drives. Conversely, if a course is known for having smooth greens, keep an eye out for those with great putting games.

Do Your Homework

We’ve all heard about how statistical analysis has changed the way sports research is being done. If bettors can take advantage of the wealth of information that statistical analysis provides for the sport, they put themselves in a better position to choose their bets wisely. In golf, there is a handful of stats that bettors need to study to stay informed about their picks. Stats like driving accuracy, driving distance, greens in regulation, and putting average can help bettors have a better grasp on which golfers do well in a particular course and which ones are more likely to struggle.

Statistical analysis can also be advantageous when someone's deciding what in-play bets to make. These days, there are things called Shot Tracker on the PGA’s official website. This can be used as a tool to keep tabs on how golfers are performing in the moment.

There is a caveat to statistical analysis, and it’s an important one. The wealth of information that’s available now can sometimes lead to over-analysis. The key here is to find the stats that really matter, load up on the information based on these stats, and filter out everything else. Be on the side of the informed and steer clear from the side that’s drowning with too much information.

Remember to Have Fun

Betting on golf may not be as popular as betting on football or basketball, but make no mistake, it’s arguably one of the most fun sports to bet on. Golf betting can also be lucrative if a bettor has a clear strategy in place. Know which bets to make and which bets to leave alone. Understanding the players’ skills and tendencies and understanding the nuances of the sport and its environment will also give bettors the necessary tools they need to be good at golf betting.

The sport isn’t as cut-and-dry as others. There is a multitude of factors in golf, be it straightforward or otherwise that a bettor should be mindful of when making bets. Once he has ingrained these things into his betting strategy, he can use this information to his advantage and become successful at betting on the sport.

Remember, a good golf bettor doesn't have to swing any golf clubs to make money from the sport.