#Betting101: Get Your Golf Wagering Skills Up to Par

Brady Kannon

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 5:34 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 5:34 PM UTC

The handle for betting on golf increases every year. With Tiger Woods healthy again, bookmakers expect to see an even greater surge of action in 2018. Are you prepared?

Golf: Betting Options Galore

There are many different ways to bet on professional golf and there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to do so these days because of the number of tours and the length of the seasons.

The most popular golf tour in the world is the PGA Tour. The Tour season used to run basically from January through September, and the in-between was called the "Silly Season" with a handful of fluff exhibitions, team events, skins games, etc. -- competitions that were not considered official Tour events. This has changed dramatically over the last five to 10 years. While January through September still represents the meat of the PGA Tour season, October through December provides ever-increasingly popular events that do count -- in official money and FedEx Cup points -- so it truly has become a year-round league totaling roughly 50 tournaments.

What’s more, you also have the European Tour running alongside the PGA Tour schedule. Many of the top golfers in the world also compete on this circuit and it also runs essentially year-round, offering up nearly 50 more tournaments on which to wager.

In all, a golf bettor has roughly 100 events to choose from week to week, held at golf courses across the globe ... and that doesn't include the women's circuit (LPGA Tour) or the Champions Tour (formerly the Senior Tour).

Within each of these tournaments are three primary ways to bet.

Outright Winner

The futures market is used to place a wager on one particular player to win a particular tournament, with odds associated with that player. Every tournament begins with about 150 players in the field. Typically not every player is given odds to win; usually 60 to 80 players are listed on the board. You will have the favorites, the second favorites, the long shots, and for those players are not listed individually, you have what is called “the field,” meaning if anybody who was not listed wins the tournament, “the field” cashes the ticket. For example, this would resemble a handful of players or a portion of the futures board, to win a certain tournament:

Dustin Johnson (7-to-1)

Jordan Spieth (9-to-1)

Justin Rose (15-to-1)

Rickie Fowler (18-to-1)

Phil Mickelson (30-to-1)

Bubba Watson (50-to-1)

Lee Westwood (80-to-1)

Ernie Els (100-to-1)

Field (8-to-1)

The futures market can be a great deal of fun and often can yield big payoffs, but it is very difficult to isolate just one winner out of 150 golfers. It is a tough market in which to bet the big favorites because one is not getting much return on what amounts to picking a needle in a haystack. My best recommendation for betting golf tournament futures is to shop early. Often you can get a player at 100-to-1 or better who might be down as low as 25-to-1 come game day. Obviously that selection still must win to cash the ticket, but like any wager, capturing that kind of value is astute. The futures market will also adjust after each day of the tournament. Kind of like "in-game wagering," one can also make a bet on a player to win the tournament even after the event has begun.

Head-To-Head Matchups

Head-to-head matchups are what most professional or experienced golf bettors spend their time on when handicapping tournaments. The sportsbooks will create mythical one-on-one matchups that only exist between the bettor and the book -- not necessarily on the golf course in the tournament. Within the matchup, a favorite and an underdog are determined by the oddsmaker with a price attached to each side. We will use the same players from above to create some sample head-to-head matchups:

Dustin Johnson (-125) vs. Jordan Spieth (+105)

Justin Rose (-130) vs. Rickie Fowler (+110)

Phil Mickelson (-145) vs. Bubba Watson (+125)

Lee Westwood (-135) vs. Ernie Els (+115)

The winner of the matchup is determined by who scores the lowest over the course of the tournament, typically a four-day affair. If one player makes the cut and one player misses the cut, the player who made the cut is the winner before the tournament is complete. If both players miss the cut, the player with the lowest score of the two is the winner. If both players finish with the same score, it is a push.

There are head-to-head matchups for the full tournament and head-to-head matchups for each round of the tournament. The reason most experienced golf bettors opt for playing matchups over futures is that it gives you a direct handicap opportunity (Player A vs. Player B). An NFL example would be the Vikings vs. the Eagles. Break it down and see who you think will win. That's very different from looking at the entire board of NFL teams and picking which one will win The Super Bowl ... or of golfers and picking one winner of a tournament. The payoff is certainly not as lucrative, but your odds of winning a matchup bet are much greater than picking one golfer from the field to win a tournament outright.

Proposition Bets

There probably 100 “other” type bets to consider for a particular golf tournament. Here are some of the more popular prop bets and smaller markets that you will see listed often, and always for the sport's major championships:

Winning Score Under/Over. Oddsmakers will set a number for what is the projected tournament winning score, and the bettor has the choice of betting it will be higher (over) or lower (under). This might be listed as Under/Over 12-under par or Under/Over 276, meaning the winning score will be better or worse than 12-under par for the tournament, or the four-day cumulative score will be better or worse than 276.

Top 5, Top 10, Top 20. Usually you will have two or three different markets of this type for a tournament. Like picking the outright winner, this is simply picking a player to finish in the top five, top 10, or top 20 of a tournament. Justin Rose might be 15-to-1 to win a tournament but a bettor might be able to find him at even-money to finish in the top 10.

Top Finisher by Country. This is another futures-type market where one is picking one player from the field, but in this case the oddsmakers are breaking it down by home country. They might have “Top Englishman” to finish the tournament. The winner here does not necessarily have to win the tournament but just beat the people listed within the market frame, scoring lower than the other players or betting options. For example:

Justin Rose (3-to-1)

Paul Casey (7-to-1)

Tommy Fleetwood (12-to-1)

Tyrrell Hatton (25-to-1)

Matthew Fitzpatrick (40-to-1)

Lee Westwood (50-to-1)

These players are from England, and one bets on who they feel will score the lowest for the tournament.

Three Balls and Three-Way betting. For the first two days, golf tournaments often have players tee off in groups of three. This is referred to as a “Three Ball.” One can make a bet on which of the three players will score the best/lowest in that round only. Three-Way betting is a bit like horse racing where you are betting on a player to win, place and/or show. Also like horse racing, if your golfer does place in the top three spots for a tournament, you are paid more for a win (win), less for runner-up (place), and even less for third place (show). A win cashes all three bets and a place cashes for both the place and the show.

Make or Miss Cut. Another proposition bet often found for the major championships (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship) is a list of players with odds associated to “make” or “miss” the cut. Such as:

Dustin Johnson -1000 to Make The Cut

Dustin Johnson +650 to Miss The Cut

Phil Mickelson -500 to Make The Cut

Phil Mickelson +300 to Miss The Cut

Ernie Els -110 to Make The Cut

Ernie Els -110 to Miss The Cut

As with any sports event, spending some time handicapping it and then placing a wager based upon your research makes things that much more exciting when watching the action unfold. And when your thought process produces a winner ... well, that’s even more fun!

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