Golf may not be as mainstream nowadays in the United States as it was during the heyday of Tiger Woods, but it’s still a hugely popular sport domestically and around the world. Stars like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson have taken the reins and the game is in good hands moving forward.
Betting on golf can certainly be challenging, but it’s rewarding if you play your cards right. There’s a lot that goes into placing a smart bet on this sport, though, so let’s get right into it.
According to Forbes, the game of golf generates nearly $70 billion in economic impact in the United States alone on a yearly basis. It also donates nearly $4 billion to charitable organizations and contributes about two million American jobs alone. While new courses aren’t being built with the kind of regularity we saw during Woods’ prime years, it’s still growing, especially among young people.
Equipment producers like Callaway and TaylorMade are also experiencing growth annually. Golf returned to the summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio after an absence of more than a century. While the Olympics didn’t attract a number of the world’s elite players, that figures to change over the next few cycles.
Golf is also growing in popularity among women. The LGPA girls’ golf program introduced an additional 62,000 young girls to the sport in 2016, which is way up from the 4,500 new players back in 2010. Forbes says that a recent study indicated that 29 percent of non-golf playing women had an interest in learning how to play.
Golf doesn’t generate the kind of television ratings that the NFL, NBA or MLB might, but the four major tournaments still see a healthy amount of viewership. Ratings for the final round of the 2017 Masters were down from where they were in previous years, but that had plenty to do with the relatively drama-free round and the lack of household names at the top of the leaderboard. As is the case with any sport, ratings for golf are always going to be higher if big names like Spieth and McIlroy are in the running toward the end of a tournament.
Still, there’s no reason to believe golf is going to see a serious decline in popularity any time soon. It’s not in the pantheon of the NFL, but it continues going steady as one of the world’s most popular non-team sports.
Considering golf’s scoring system is different from most other sports, it doesn’t necessarily offer the same types of bets. We don’t have a point spread to work with, but there are still similarities. The most common type of golf bet is picking the winner of a given tournament. Bookmakers will list every golfer participating in a tournament along with their odds to win it. Picking a golfer at 4-to-1 to win a tourney would pay $400 back on a bet of $100. Those are pretty low odds for a golfer. Obviously, most golfers are longshots to win large-field tournaments.
Some books offer smaller pools with head-to-head matchups or groups of three. Whichever golfer among these groups winds up with the better score wins the bet. Odds are lower but your chances of picking the correct winner obviously increase immensely.
Books will offer also a wide array of prop opportunities. The four major tournaments (Masters, British Open, US Open, Players Championship) tend to offer the most prop options. Will there be a playoff in the tournament? Will so-and-so finish in the top-five? Top-10? Will the winner be above or below par? Will the winner be an American?
Some books may also offer you to bet on a certain golfer against the field. Odds are obviously better for the field, but if you nail the one golfer then there is massive profit potential.
Let’s not forget about futures. You can bet on whether a certain golfer will win at least one major in a calendar year. Betting on a guy winning zero majors has very little value, as that’s the most likely outcome. However, you can get good value on big names like McIlroy and Spieth in bets such as these.
Obviously, all golf courses are different and present a unique set of challenges. Some courses may have more water hazards than others, while some others have more sand involved. Some courses are longer than others, some contain more par threes, and some present challenges with forest conditions.
Obviously, familiarizing yourself with as many golfers in a field as possible is optimal. The more you know about the participants, the better your chances of accurately picking the winner should be. Course history is also relevant. If a player has played a certain course a number of times and enjoyed decent success in the past, then that can be predictive of future performance. That isn’t always the case in other sports, but with golf certain players have a way of thriving in certain settings.
Sample size is key. It’s easier to predict future performance of golfers that have played a certain course more often in the past. If someone is new to a course, the range of outcomes is far wider and less predictable.
We also need to factor in weather. Most major tournaments take place during the summer months, but that doesn’t mean conditions are always ideal. Some golfers thrive in warmer conditions, while others may be more used to playing at cool temps. Wind and rain are also factors to contemplate. They’ll suspend an event if the rain is too heavy, but wind has a way of throwing everything out of wack. We’ve seen it time and time again in the past. As a bettor, you probably want to target events that won’t be facing weather concerns.
Betting lines also have a way of being more aggressive earlier in a tournament. Because of the uncertainty, books can post more favorable odds earlier in a tournament. Some other books may also offer softer odds early on in an attempt to garner some amateur betting action.
In North America, Bovada reigns supreme with all sports, and that includes the PGA Tour and other golf circuits. Bovada offers matchup betting options, tournament field betting, props and everything else you can imagine. They have one of the better reputations among all gambling operators in the region, and they also offer a wide array of futures bets.
BetOnline and 5Dimes are a couple of other well-respected golf betting outfits.
The betting limits for golf at Bovada are fairly low, however. The maximum bet for a head-to-head bet is $500, as is the case with futures. Prop bets top out at $300. As for BetOnline, you may wager as much as $5,000 on Ryder Cup action. However, the cap drops to $500 on PGA, European and LPGA tour events.
Outfits such as Paddy Power, William Hill and bet365 are some of the more well-known gambling operators that offer favorable golfing bets, as well. All three offer favorable deposit bonuses and a slew of different betting options. Betting limits on golf tend to be higher at these European operators. For example, Paddy Power will allow you to bet up to £500,000 outright on certain golf events.