Sports Betting 101: How to Bet on Golf


Sports bettors thirsty for action got some much needed good news on Thursday when the PGA Tour announced it would return to play on June 8 with the Charles Schwab Challenge. Fans will not be allowed to attend in person but it will be broadcast live on television and, most importantly, sportsbooks will be accepting bets. 

In terms of popularity, golf betting has grown exponentially in recent years. However, it remains a niche and relatively unknown sport. Here are a few golf betting tips for new bettors looking to get in on the fun. 


Bet Types

Before bettors place a wager on the Charles Schwab Challenge, the Masters or the US Open they need to know the basics of golf betting. This means being aware of which bet types are available to get down on. Unlike the major sports which focus on the spread, moneyline and total, golf revolves around a different set of bets. 

The most popular bet type is outright winners or "to win" bets. This is pretty simple. You are betting on which golfer will come in first place and win the entire tournament. For example, Rory McIlroy is the favorite to win this year's Masters at %plussign% 700. This means that if you bet $100 on McIlroy and he wins the whole thing, you win $700 plus you get the $100 that you risked back. 

Every golfer will have a specific price, with longer shot picks in the %plussign% 5000 to %plussign% 10000 range. While many bettors will focus on the top heavy favorites, there is value on betting longshots, specifically in the mid-tier %plussign% 3000 to %plussign% 5000 range. If they win, you cash a huge payout. Or you just need them to contend into the final round on Sunday and then you can take advantage of a hedging opportunity, meaning you bet on someone else that is also near the lead, all but guaranteeing a profit. 

Another bet type is "place" bets. Instead of betting on a golfer to win the entire tournament, you are instead betting on a golfer to place in the top 5, top 10 or top 20. While the payouts are much smaller, you increase your chances of cashing. A lot of pros target top 20 bets, which pay out even or short plus money.

An easy introduction for new golf bettors is betting "matchups." Here you are betting on specific head-to-head matchups on which golfer will finish higher in the tournament or a specific round. For instance, Tiger Woods might be a -150 favorite against Phil Mickelson who is a %plussign% 150 underdog. Matchups can be a smart bet if you identify an edge on a specific golfer in a one-on-one scenario. Maybe his game is better suited to the course or he's been playing better as of late. 

Another bet type is prop betting. This would include yes/no props on whether or not a golfer will make or miss the cut. You will also have props on specific golfer over/unders in terms of strokes each round. For instance, Jordan Spieth might have an O/U of 68.5. You can then bet on whether he will finish above or below the total. Another favorite prop is whether or not anyone will shoot a hole in one, which is a longshot bet but offers a hefty payout. Another prop is betting on who will be the top golfer for each nationality, with odds on the top American, Englishman, Spaniard, etc. If there are a low number of countrymen, like say, only three golfers from South Africa, these props can provide sneaky value.

Lastly, bettors can target "group" betting. Sportsbooks will group together three or more golfers and then bettors can pick who will come out on top among the group. Futures betting is also popular. An example of a future would be "How many majors will Tiger Woods win this year?" With different odds on one, two, three, four or none. 


No one becomes a golf expert overnight. Like any other sport, it takes time, effort, hard work and experience to turn from rookie to sharp. The first step to success is knowing the field, studying the players and familiarizing yourself with the courses. Different players have different strengths, whether it may accuracy off the tee, a stellar iron game or an ace putter. Try to tailor the golfer to the course and look for "course form."

For instance, golfers who drive the ball further and straighter than their competitors are a smart bet on a long course with big fairways. Shorter courses are more suitable to golfers with strong iron games. It's often said that golfers "drive for show and put for dough." Good putters hold a distinct advantage across almost all courses. Bettors should also consider tee times, the weather and even injuries when betting specific golfers. Also, if a specific golfer has performed well at a course in the past, he might be good bet to repeat in the future. Lastly, lean on golfers who are playing well recently and have a lot of top 20 finishes. 


Bettors are only as good as the data they lean on. One the best sites for golfers looking for advanced metrics is the Official World Golf Ranking. It is considered the most predictive site for golf ratings. It lists all PGA Tour golfers and rates them based on recent performance and who has improved the most over the last two years. Roughly a third of tournament winners have come from players listed in the top 15 OWGR rankings. 

If you're looking for more stats, check out the official PGA Tour website. The Tour website breaks down driving distance, scoring average, putting, approaching the green, around the green and more.