How to Bet on Golf
Golf is a highly popular sport to bet on and there are tournaments played somewhere in the world for 50 weeks of the year. There are several Tours around the world and time differences between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres mean even over the winter months in Britain the Asian and Sunshine Tours schedule tournaments.
One of the reasons for the popularity of golf betting is extensive live television coverage. Sky Sports show live golf from the US PGA and European Tours during the regular season. The World Golf Championship events and majors also receive extensive coverage, in addition to the Ryder Cup.
Most stroke play tournaments consist of 72 holes over four days. That means a bettor can have an interest for four days, especially if the selected players contend. Sundays in particular are favourite days for golf bettors as this is when the final round of most tournaments is played.
Before the emergence of dedicated sports channels golf was extensively covered on terrestrial TV. Both main channels had a full quota of live events, especially those staged in Britain. The British Open is now the only major championship that is shown live on free to view channels.
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Main Golfing Events
The two main Tours are the US PGA Tour and the European Tour. The US Tour begins in the first week of the year with the Tournament of Champions. This is a limited field event with only tournament winners from the previous season eligible to play. The regular season finale is the Tour Championship in September.
The Tour Championship is the last event of the Play-Off series. This consists of four lucrative tournaments which determine who wins the FedEx Cup. The player who amasses most money during the season receives a 10 million dollar bonus.
The European Tour is more of a global tour. It includes co-sanctioned events with the Asian, Australasian and South African Tours. Strangly the first event on the 2013 schedule took place at the end of the previous year.
At the end of the season in Europe and the States the money list shows who has won most cash. Luke Donald became the first player to win both titles in 2011 and Rory McIlroy emulated that feat a year later.
There are four major championships during the golf season. These are the most lucrative events and define a player’s status in the history of the game. Only five players have won each at least once and only an additional ten players have won three.
Jack Nicklaus has won 18 major championships and won each at least three times. Tiger Woods' objective almost from the time he won his first major in 1997 was to surpass Nicklaus’s total. His tally at the end of 2019 was 15.
The US Masters is the first major of the season and it is staged in the first week of April. The tournament is always played at Augusta National and is the only major that is played on the same course every year. The winner receives a Green Jacket which is a ceremonial award that can be worn for official functions. Augusta is characterised by wide fairways but slick and undulating greens.
The US PGA Championship used to be the fourth and final major of the year but 2019 saw changes to the calendar. It is now scheduled to be the second event, due to take place in mid-May. The tournament is the flagship event of the golf profession in the States and as such several regular golf professionals qualify to play. There is no strict rota of courses but each year the host course is set up to reward a decent all-round game with no major weaknesses.
The US Open is now the third major of the year and is always played in the middle of June. It is played on a different course every year but Pebble Beach is a regular venue as it is considered to be one of the best courses in the States. US Open courses are always set up in the same way with narrow fairways and penal rough. Par is a good score on any hole and the winner often does not beat par in total over 72 holes.
The ‘Open’ is the final major of the season and is played in the third week of July. The winner is declared the champion golfer of the year as the qualifying criteria make the tournament the unofficial world championship of golf. There is a rota of eight host courses but they are all links courses, that is courses by the coast. St Andrews hosts the Open every five years as this course is the most historic and renowned in the world.
Every two year the leading golfers from Europe and the United States meet in the Ryder Cup. The event alternates between courses in both parts of the world. Each side has twelve playing members who qualify through results over the previous year or as captain wildcard picks. There are 28 points to play for in the Ryder Cup, made up of foursomes and four balls on the first two days and singles on the third and final day.
Most Popular Golf Markets
The most popular betting market involves betting on which player will win the tournament. The usual number of entrants for a regular tournament is 156 so identifying one player that will return the lowest score over four days is a difficult task. However, the open nature of most golf tournaments is reflected in the betting market.
There are usually no more than a couple of players who get a single figure quote. That applies to dominant players such as Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. If there is no obvious favourite in the field the shortest priced player could be at least 20/1 and only the first ten in the betting can be backed at less than 50/1.
As it takes four days for an outright golf bet to reach expiry bookmakers offer markets on a daily basis. These are generally 18 hole match bets, consisting of three players over the first two days of a tournament and two players over the second 36 holes. Tournament matchbets over 72 holes are also popular.
Best Golf Betting Markets
Golf is a popular betting sport because of the range and diversity of markets that are made available over four days. A football bet generally lasts 90 minutes and a racing bet much less. However, a golf bet on the winner of a tournament takes four days to reach expiry. Over the course of a tournament different types of betting options are offered by the bookmakers, with some offering better value and greater potential winnings than others.
Betting on a player to finish inside the top 10 of a tournament is basically a place only bet. If the selected player wins the tournament the returns to not include a winning element. Players may be suited to a course and play well but not have the experience or temperament to win the tournament. The odds offered are generally a tenth of the price of a player in the outright market. The bet offers security if a player does well but several other players return a better score over four rounds.
This is a similar market but includes the top 20 players on the leaderboard at the end of a tournament. Bets are settled at one twentieth the outright winner odds.
72 hole matchbets
This market involves predicting which of two players will have the lowest score over 72 holes. This is a three way market as it is possible to bet on the tie. Evenly matched players are paired with reference to relative prices in the outright market. If one player misses the cut the other player who makes the cut is settled as the winner.
Make The Cut/Miss The Cut
After the first two rounds of regular golf tournaments a cut is made. A pre-determined number of players qualify to play over the weekend and it is possible to bet on players to make or miss the cut. Players who miss the cut do not receive any prize money so the cut is a significant element of professional golf.
Most golf tournaments are won by between one and three shots. However, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have both won major championships by eight shots or more. The winning margin can be influenced by the nature of the course and playing and weather conditions throughout the tournament. There is an option in this market to back a play-off which comes about when two players or more are tied after 72 holes.
Easy courses lead to low scoring and a winning score that is substantially below par. Bookmakers generally offer three bands of scoring and the market is a three-way. However, it is also possible to bet on a score being above or below a certain number and this market has just two options. The number quoted consists of half strokes to avoid a tie and returned stakes.
Worst Golf Betting Markets
Some golf markets offer poor value in terms of profit margins and the degree of difficulty in getting a projection right. These are very popular betting markets due to the potential returns but offer least value for anyone trying to win betting on golf.
The outright market is a 156 runner field in which one short missed putt or wayward drive can be the determine the end result. There can only be one winner which means that the majority of bets struck in this market are losers.
18 hole matchbets
Over one round of golf the relative ability of each of three players is less likely to be reflected in scores than over the full length of a tournament. These bets involve three players and if there are any ties dead heat rules apply. You cannot bet on two or more of the players returning the same score.
In the bigger tournaments it is possible to bet on the player to return the best score from groups of players with the same nationality. For example, in the major championships odds for top US player, top British player, top Scandinavian player and others are offered. American born players account for half or more of the contenders in the majors so this is the most difficult market to predict correctly.
First Round Leader
It is rare that the first round leader of a tournament goes on to win the tournament. It does happen but a relatively small number of tournaments result in wire-to-wire wins. The odds in this market seem generous but there are so many factors and possibilities that make this a difficult bet.
Ryder Cup Top Points Sorer
Tiger Woods was the favourite to win most points overall and most points for the United States in the 2012 Ryder Cup. He actually scored just one half of a point and came last in the top US points sorer. A player must be assured of appearing in each session to win this market. It is susceptible to the vagaries of team selection and current form and as such is a difficult area in which to profit.
There are three main areas that determine the relative price of each player in an outright betting market. Current form, course form and key skills are considered when these betting markets are formed. The term ‘a winner about to happen’ is relevant in this area. Many times a player who has made the cut and finished well in a tournament goes on to win the following week or tournament.
Courses are set up in different ways and have differnt features. Generally a course can be long with generous fairways or short with narrow fairways. Tour statistics reveal players that excel in distance or accuracy and these skills influence the odds. Some courses have fast and undulating greens with run-off areas and these favour players who have a good short game which is reflected in their quoted odds.
Golf lends itself to betting in running as the events take four days to complete and over that time there can be significant fluctuations in scoring and, therefore, the odds. Traditional bookmakers update their prices until the last putt is holed and will also offer prices if there is a play-off. Exchange betting has seen an increase in betting turnover on golf tournaments as the event unfolds. Odds are updated after reach round and after any significant shot during the play.
Golf Player Statistics
The US and European Tour websites include detailed statistics for every eligible player. The American version is more comprehensive and focuses on just about every aspect of the game. World rankings and money list positions are also included in this part of the relevant websites. There are four main statistical areas which reflect the different skills required to play golf well.
The main accuracy areas are driving accuracy and greens in regulation. A drive is considered to be accurate if it lands on the fairway but any ball that finishes in the semi or full rough is marked down as inaccurate. Each golf hole has a regulation number of shots in which to reach the green. Par fours count as two shots and if the green is reached in that number or less it is recorded as being a green hit in regulation.
In tournament play the distance a player hits a drive is recorded on two key holes. Over the course of a season an average distance figure is built up and this reflects whether a player is seen as a relatively long or short hitter.
This is a key area of the game and players need a good short game to contend in any tournament. Chipping, putting, bunker play and scrambling are the important areas. A player who drives poorly can still be a factor in tournaments with an excellent short game.
All Round Rank
This is a measure of a player’s complete ability and is calculated using combined figures from the key areas of driving, approach play and competence on and around the greens.