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The complete guide to betting on golf

Whether you’ve bet on a good walk spoiled forever or for never, here’s how to make a few dollars on the best golfers on the planet.

Ian Poulter of the European Team plays his tee shot on the second hole in his match against Dustin Johnson of the European Team during singles matches of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 30, 2018 in Paris, France. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

Perhaps the most famous scene in golf movie history is when Roy McAvoy and his caddie Romeo come up to the 18th hole at the US Open with a chance to win the tournament. He has a chance to overcome his demons and defeat one-time college teammate David Simms.

If you had bet on McAvoy before or during the tournament, it was a mixed bag. He still finished in the Top 10 to cash out those wagers, but his meltdown cost most everyone that had him that day. And what a terrible break if you had him to birdie 18!

Golf and wagering are so inexorably linked that there’s a section in the Rules of Golf regarding “acceptable forms of gambling,” and there’s plenty of them. But that’s more for the participants. Today, we’ll discuss how to bet on tournaments you can watch on TV from home.

Golf has four majors (The Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open, and the British Open), and for those events you’ll see more props and unusual bets on offer. But there’s also the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup, the four World Golf Championship events (one is match play, the other three are stroke play), the Tour Championship, and a few others. Usually the bigger the event, the more ways you can bet on it.

Here’s our large-but-still-incomplete list of ways to bet on professional golf.

Tournament Winner

Just what it sounds like: Who is going to win the golf tournament in question. There’s only one winner, which means you’ll either want to bet on a few different players, or pick another bet that’s a bit easier to win on occasion. But even if sometimes there’s an obstacle in the way of your player, with a little bit of luck, the championship can be theirs.

Top 5/Top 10

Winning a tournament is hard and requires some luck. But sometimes on talent, form, and course knowledge alone, a good player can force their way towards the first page of the leaderboard. These bets are also exactly as they seem; if your player finishes inside the the top five or top ten, you’re a winner. Call this the Greg Norman bet if you wish. But winning can be really hard, so consider this a bit of a hedge for the guy you think might win in case they fall short. And sometimes you just need the other guy not to be so lucky.

Dead heat rules also apply here, so let’s say two golfers tie for fifth place. Divide your bet by the number of players tied, and that percentage will be refunded to you. Two golfers are tied for fifth, and you’ve got one as part of your Top 5? You’ll get 50% of your bet back, and you’ll be paid winnings for the remaining 50%. Three tied? You’ll get a 66.6% refund, and winnings on 33.3%. And so on.

Over/under score

Usually set per 18 holes, the oddsmakers will pick a number for the total score for the day for several individual golfers. If they beat the posted score, you’ll want to be under. Think they’re going to play bad, take the over.

Roy McAvoy: Over/Under 69.5
Over -105
Under -115

Three ball or head-to-head

Also usually for a single round of golf, the bookmakers will take two or three players, and the lowest round wins. If there’s a tie, you’ll get paid half of what you would have if you won. If there’s a three-way-tie, you’ll be refunded all of your original bet.

Roy McAvoy +110
Carl Spackler +200
Judge Smails +305

Futures

You’ll be able to get action down on the winner of the next Masters the day after the previous one completes. Same for the US Open or any of the other majors. Except for The Masters, the courses changes for the majors each year, so knowing the ins-and-outs of each of the tracks and how they pair with the skills of the players participating is a good way to gain an edge.

And if you think someone is about to hit a stretch of playing well and peaking, get the futures bet down in advance.

Props

Hole specials

The most common example is performance on a given hole. Will McAvoy reach the fairway in regulation? Will he reach the green in regulation? On 18 at the US Open he nailed that first bet, and then collapsed on the second bet. If a hole has a notable water feature, you can also bet on if the golfer will land one in the drink. Given his history of meltdowns, a regular bet on McAvoy landing a ball in the water on a late round hole wouldn’t have been the worst wagering decision.

Miscellaneous

When the NBA Finals lines up with the US Open, you might see “LeBron James points/rebounds/assists +20 vs. Phil Mickelson final round score” or something similar. Maybe it’s “will any player shoot under their age +18?” Because of the numbers with golf, you’ll see plenty of chances to get down some funky action. Have fun with it if you see something you like.

In-game betting

With the new wagering technology available, you’ll often see the ability to bet on a player on the next hole, or the next three holes, or the back nine. Think someone has the eye of the tiger today? Or do they just look like they need a pith helmet instead of a hat to find their ball all over the course? You can bet on a player based on what you’re seeing already with in-game wagering. It’s instant feedback, and can be a lot of fun!

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