How To Bet On Golf

Chances are if you play, watch or bet on golf that you are a white male over the age of 40. It’s considered a sport for the elite in society. Obviously, that’s not a hard and fast rule, but that’s generally the demographic in the United States in terms of watching, playing or betting on the sport. 

However, things have somewhat changed since Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996. The following year, Woods won four tournaments and became the youngest golfer to win the Masters. He was also selected as the 1997 PGA Player of the Year and was well on his way to becoming arguably the biggest sports star in the world. Woods helped bring a new group of fans and bettors to the sport. 

Tiger was the top-ranked golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 and again from June 2005 to October 2010. He won 14 major titles, second only to Jack Nicklaus. Alas, Tiger’s career somewhat fell apart due to some off-the-course issues and injuries, although Woods did win the Tour Championship at the end of the 2017-18 season. Television ratings soar when Woods plays, and so does betting handle on PGA Tour events in any he plays. 

One great thing about betting on golf is there are so many options. In the USA, there’s the PGA Tour, which has some sort of tournament just about every week of the year, the LPGA Tour (women) and Champions Tour. There’s also the European Tour. 

The biggest events in golf are the four Grand Slam tournaments, which are played in this order: The Masters (April), PGA Championship (May), U.S. Open (June) and British Open (July). The Masters is considered the most prestigious, the British is the oldest and the U.S. Open is usually the toughest test in golf. The PGA Tour has a wraparound season that begins in October and runs through September of the following year. All tournaments but one run Thursday-Sunday and all but one are stroke-play format. 

The only major team event in golf is the Ryder Cup, which is contested every two years between 12 players from the United States and 12 from Europe. The Ryder Cup has a completely different format than a regular Tour event.

Types Of Bets

All golf bets are via moneyline form. A moneyline wager is simply a bet on a player or team to win. The prices can vary greatly, with the favored side having a minus before the number and the underdog a +. A relative unknown PGA Tour pro could be somewhere around +75000 to win a tournament. That means a $100 wager would return a cool $75,000. 
There will never be a minus-favorite to win a golf tournament as it’s just too hard to do. Most PGA Tour fields are approximately 144 players deep, although the Masters is usually about half that many because it’s a type of “invitational” where only certain players qualify to attend. 

The most popular types of bets ahead of a PGA Tour event are odds to win the tournament, a Top 5, Top 10 and Top 20 finish, first-round leader and will there be a hole in one, or will there be a playoff? There are also head-to-head props between top players. The better events also have odds for top player from the USA, Europe, continental Europe, Asia, England, Great Britain & Ireland, and “rest of the world.” 

In general, the heaviest favorite to win a PGA Tour event will not be priced below +500 and even that’s rare. Usually the favorite is at least +1000. That means $100 to win $1000. Again, these PGA Tour fields are too deep in talent to make a minus-favorite. You are betting one guy against the other 143. There could be tournament long shots as high as +100000. 

Sportsbooks will reset the odds to win a tournament after each of the first three rounds. In Rounds 3 and 4 it’s possible to see a minus-favorite if a player as a huge lead over the rest of the field. Top 5, Top 10 and Top 20 odds also will change. Keep in mind that most PGA Tour events have a cut line after 36 holes, which generally halves the field. The really big events like the Grand Slams will offer odds on top players to simply make the cut or not. 

In betting on a player to finish best among his countrymen, that’s simply which player has the best final score under par among his group. There can be minus-favorites there in smaller countries/groupings. Head-to-head odds are simply which player finishes with the best tournament score. Those odds are usually very evenly matched. Something like Tiger Woods at -125 against Phil Mickelson at -105. It would take a $125 bet on Tiger to win $100.   

The sportsbooks treat the four Grand Slam events (and the Ryder Cup) almost like an NFL conference title game in terms of increasing the number of props offered. 

Betting Strategies

The cream usually rises to the top at the major championships. Since 2013, nearly 75 percent of majors have been won by players who came into the tournament no worse than 15th in the world rankings.

Betting golf is a crapshoot for the most part – it’s honestly not recommended to wager much on a player to win a tournament because even the best players only win a couple of times a season. Much smarter to simply wager on a Top 10 finish or head to head.

There are two simple rules to follow in betting on golf: A player’s current form and his history on a course. If Rory McIlroy enters a tournament on the back of four straight Top 5 finishes that season, he’s obviously feeling strong about his swing and putting well. But, what’s Rory’s history at a certain course? It’s a fact that some courses don’t suit some players because of the type of grass or course layout or weather, etc. Phil Mickelson, for example, despises courses designed by Pete Dye – who has designed more than a few well-known courses.

A “Horse for the Course” is a player with a very strong background on a certain course. It’s important to remember that only the Masters among the four Grand Slam tournaments is played at the same course each year. The other three rotate venues, and if it’s a new course then that makes it tougher to handicap. Most PGA Tour events are played every year at the same course, but that can change for a variety of reasons. Tiger Woods, for example, has won eight times at both Torrey Pines outside San Diego and at Bay Hill outside Orlando. He’s clearly a “Horse for the Course” at those places.

The British Open is the toughest major to handicap for American players because that’s links golf, which most casual U.S. players aren’t familiar with. It’s truly how the game was meant to be played, not on cookie-cutter tracks like in the States. The weather at the British Open is always a factor. 

Notable Numbers

Jack Nicklaus still holds the record with 18 major championships won. It looked like Tiger Woods would break that when he won his 14th at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. However, Tiger hasn’t won a major since and Nicklaus’ record is likely to stand.

The PGA Tour single-round record is a 58 by Jim Furyk in August 2016 during the final round of the Travelers Championship outside Hartford. Furyk hit all 18 greens … yet didn’t win the tournament. The record had been 59, set in in 1977 by Al Geiberger in the Memphis Classic. A handful of players had matched that, including Furyk at the 2013 BMW Championship. The nine-hole PGA Tour record is a 26 by Corey Pavin at the 2006 U.S. Bank Championship.

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