Everything you need to know ahead of placing your first bet on golf – a sport with a wealth of options and the genuine prospect of landing a winner with a huge price!
Let’s start with the absolute basics.
It is almost always the case that golf tournaments take place over four rounds of golf, making up a total of 72 holes of what is referred to as stroke play (every stroke is counted).
The winner is the golfer whose end-of-tournament total is the lowest. If two or more golfers tie the lead then a playoff will decide the winner.
A tournament will typically have a field of 156 players, although the more elite events have smaller fields. In normal circumstances, the field is “cut” after two rounds, with only the top 65 players (and ties) continuing into the final two rounds (these details can change).
The world of golf competes on what are known as tours. These are organizations that run events throughout the year for their playing members.
The biggest circuit of them all is the PGA Tour which is based in the United States of America (although it plays a few events beyond the borders).
The second biggest is the DP World Tour. Recently re-named, it used to be called the European Tour, although even then it had a wide geographic scope.
The other main tours are the Sunshine Tour (in South Africa), the Asian Tour, the Japanese Tour, the Korean Tour, and the Australasian Tour.
The PGA Tour also has a second-tier called the Korn Ferry Tour and the DP World Tour has a similar venture called the Challenge Tour.
In the women’s game, the LPGA Tour is, like the PGA Tour, the top circuit. Beneath it is the Ladies European Tour, the Korean Tour and the Japanese Tour.
With the exception of the Korean and Japanese Tours all of these circuits are regularly priced up by the books.
The PGA and DP World Tour have the fullest schedules, with tournaments more or less every week of the year other than during the Christmas and New Year break.
In addition to stroke-play golf, there are also a handful of match play events you can bet on.
The most famous is the Ryder Cup, but the Presidents Cup and Solheim Cup are similar – team events that involves a series of matches between the players, often paired with teammates in foursomes or four-ball golf.
In match play, the score on each individual hole counts and the player who wins the most holes is the victor.
There is also an annual World Golf Championship Match Play tournament running with the same rules, but it is individual, rather than a team, in format.
The final, most common, avenue of golf betting is the Champions Tour – a senior circuit run by the PGA Tour.
Pretty much every book now permits betting on golf with the focus on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
Most books also feature the LPGA Tour, the Champions Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour.
bet365 and Caesars Sportsbook are particularly good at covering a wider range of tours. They might price up as many as eight tournaments a week during the summer months (which is peak golfing activity).
It is also important to keep an eye on other distinctions.
Caesars Sportbook tends to offer very good each-way terms (see below), while FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings have very good win and place prices.
Betting on the tournament result is sometimes referred to as “future” or “outright” betting.
It is possible to take one of three options when betting this way. They are:
This is the most straightforward option.
The aim is to predict which player in the field will end the week with the lowest total and lifts the trophy.
Typically the odds available will range from about +500 to as high as +75000.
When Tigers Woods was at his best he started the week a hot favorite, but that is very unusual.
It is also rare that golfers priced +20000 and higher win, but the great attraction of golf is that it does happen and wins at prices ranging from +3300 to +10000 are very common.
Because identifying the winner alone is quite a restrictive option you can also back a player to “place” or to “finish in the places”.
This might be to finish in the top five, the top 10, the top 20, and so on.
The third, and very popular possibility is to back a player “each way”. This sees the stake split: half on the win and half on the place.
Different books offer different rules regarding the place option in each way betting in two regards.
The first is how many places are on offer (usually between five and eight).
The second is what fraction of the win price the place element is (usually it is 1/4 or 1/5).
Typically the win part of the price will be higher if fewer places are on offer.
It is an option that really rewards research. Check which book is offering the best value by comparing price and the number of places on offer.
Most weeks of the year the markets will only appear on a Monday or Tuesday morning (ahead of a Thursday start).
But the four most important tournaments of the year, known as the major championships, can be bet on at any stage.
These markets are known as ante-post.
Because the majors (The Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, and the British Open) are so important they generate an immense amount of interest.
So you can back a player to win or each-way months before the event starts (only these two markets appear).
The upside is that excellent prices can be backed when a punter spots that a player has found form before the books have noticed.
The downside is that the each-way terms are less favorable than in the week of the event itself.
Also, note that during the week of a major championship the books will often try really hard to engage customers.
Each-way terms will sometimes stretch to ten places (and more), while a huge host of side markets are introduced.
What are golf’s side markets?
Again, with so much golf at each tournament, there is plenty of action to get involved in. Here are some of the other options.
This is an increasingly popular market.
It is rather more volatile than the outright because it is decided purely on the first round of activity so big priced winners are a very real possibility.
One note of warning: ties are very common for each way bets in this market.
Every field is made up of a wide variety of nationalities offering yet more options for the hungry punter.
Typically on the PGA Tour, there will be a Top American, Top European, Top Great Britain and Ireland, Top Asian and Top Australasian market.
This can often become even more specific and tends to happen on the DP World Tour and at the four major championships as well.
In that case, there might be Top Swede, Top Spaniard and Top Korean, for example.
This can offer real value for shrewd punters who recognize that one player has an advantage over his rivals from the same part of the world.
This is an interesting one.
Unlike football and tennis, golf has no actual matches every week (unless it is a rare match-play week).
To create the excitement of head-to-head activity each book will pair a series of golfers in match-ups.
These are imaginary matches but easily understood: The winner is the golfer who completes the lowest score.
It is important to note the rules of each match-bet. Sometimes the book will return the stake in the event of a tie, sometimes the tie is an option itself and therefore (unless backed) a losing bet.
It’s a good market for those who really understand the game because different books pair different golfers.
They might put an in-form golfer up against one with a fine course record, or vice versa.
These match-ups are created by the draw.
In each round, the field plays in either twos or threes. It is usually the case that before the cut they play in threes (known as “three-balls”) and after the cut in twos (“two balls”).
Many of these groups will be priced up by the books, creating contests that are a little more real than the match bets.
Other typical options include yes/no options such as “Will there be a hole in one?” or “Will there be a playoff?”
You will also often find betting on the winning margin and nationality of the winner.
Another popular option is group betting in which six players might be pooled together. This narrows the focus, effectively becoming a six-man field. Bear in mind, the distinct possibility of a tied winner.
This is a crucial rule to understand.
When betting on a place (top five, top 10, top 20, etc.) some books will reward you as a winner even if the player finishes in a tie for that position.
But some will not.
The same happens when you back a golfer each way and he or she finishes fifth, for example.
In these circumstances, the place element is rewarded only to the fraction that it wins.
Two examples should help explain.
If a player is backed at +2000, with each way terms of 1/4 odds and five places, the return if he finishes alone in fifth is +500 (one-quarter of the win price).
If he finished tied with one other player in fifth only half his stake (one of two sharing fifth) is rewarded at +500.
And if three players shared fourth, two-thirds of the stake is rewarded (two of those three were fully in the places).
The outright is much more straightforward: the lowest score wins, either after 72 holes or after extra holes if needed.
If you back a golfer and he doesn’t start the tournament you will have your stake refunded.
However, if the player withdraws having hit at least one shot then it will be deemed a losing bet.
There will be exceptions to both of these rules in some circumstances.
Be sure to check that individual books refund players who withdraw before teeing off.
And if the circumstances of a withdrawal are slightly unfortunate it has been known for books to court publicity and offer refunds.
Note that disqualification is also a losing bet.
This can be a common occurrence and has led to some debate and controversy down the years.
Organizers tend to be very keen to have tournaments completed so they will force almost permanent play at the weekend if that is required – and they will also consider lagging into an extra day.
But it is also common for at least one PGA or DP World Tour a year to be reduced to 54 holes – and very occasionally 36 holes.
The latter is rare and very much the last resort, but it does happen.
Good news for some (if your player is leading), bad news if your player was a slow starter.
Books will generally pay out to the official result.
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