The PGA is different from other popular professional sports in one particular way – it is an individual sport rather than a team effort. Like pro tennis or the MMA, betting on golf means wagering on the performance of individual professional athletes. Outside of team events like the Ryder Cup, sports bettors in this niche are laying bets on athletes performing against one another.
Professional golf tournaments occur on a weekly basis from the early spring until the end of the fall. Thanks to expanded television coverage over the past few decades, most golf tournaments (even in less-popular leagues like the LPGA or the Junior tour) are available for public viewing.
Pros & Cons of PGA Betting
Since golf tournaments last for four days (or more in case of an extended playoff), there are many ups and downs over the course of a single bet or set of bets. Lead changes and final-day heroics are a constant presence, making placing bets on this sport particularly chaotic.
The sport’s volatility is exciting to some punters, who see the parity among the best golfers in the world as a challenge to be conquered rather than a weakness to be suffered through.
A clear benefit to pro golf bettors over other sports – the world’s best players face one another head-to-head regularly over the course of a season. Not every pro golfer participates in every tournament, but particularly in the sport’s Major tourneys, it is common to see the sport’s best athletes competing against one another a dozen or more times over the course of a season. This can open up handicapping opportunities for bettors interested in crunching the numbers and comparing player performance one-on-one.
Types of Golf Bets
Because this sport is played by individuals rather than teams, wagering on golf outcomes is different from betting on the NHL or Major League Baseball. Here is a breakdown of the most popular forms of wagers placed on pro golf tournaments.
Odds Betting – Wagering on individual athletes to win a given tournament.
In odds betting, the top performers in the field of a given tournament are assigned different odds by bookmakers to win outright. Reading these odds are simple – players are listed by name and the payout return for a successful wager. For example, Rory McIlroy +150, Sergio Garcia +250, etc.
Head-to-Head Betting – This is a bet on which of two particular athletes will perform better in a tourney.
Instead of betting on an outright winner, gamblers can lay wagers on various head-to-head competitions as defined by various sportsbooks. Selecting which of two golfers will finish ranked higher in the tourney than the other is a simpler proposition than picking the overall winner. This is essentially a moneyline wager, familiar to bettors on other pro sports.
A head-to-head bet in golf looks like this – Phil Mickelson (-180) vs. Adam Scott (+150). The minus symbol indicates that Phil Mickelson is the underdog. The numbers indicate a bettor’s payout for an individual wager. In this example, a $100 wager on Mickelson pays out $180 for a win, while a $100 payout for a bet on Adam Scott requires a $150 investment.
Top-Three Finish Betting – This is a bet on the likelihood of an athlete finishing in the top three.
Since bettors select one player he believes will finish in one of the top three positions, this bet is a bit easier on a bettor’s blood pressure than overall winnings. Because the odds of winning are higher, the payout is naturally a bit lower.
Parlay Betting – Several wagers combined into one.
Similar to the hugely-popular parlay betting option in the NFL, golf parlays combine multiple bets into a single wager. Options for parlays vary from one book to another; generally, bettors can wager on the position of several golfers into a Top Ten finish, parlay a combo of head-to-head match-ups, and other combinations of wagers. In parlay betting, the more bets you combine, the payout increases due to longer odds.
Prop Bets – Wagers on individual propositions among a field of tournament entrants.
Prop bets in the PGA are the same as propositions in other sports – bets on individual performances or occurrences in a given tourney. Prop bets in golf range from generic field props such as “Will any player in the field score a hole-in-one?” to wagers on the performance of individual athletes, like “Will Rory McIlroy record a score of 66 or less on any one day?” Prop bets can be fun to watch play out, but are also a high-risk wager because of the odds involved.
Three Must-Wager Golf Events
National Pro-Am – Held at historic Pebble Beach, the National Pro-Am takes place early in the year, allowing bettors to get a look at the professionals fresh from the off-season. It also features amateur players, some of whom are the pros of the future. Admittedly difficult to handicap, because of its position early in the pro season, it is one of the most exciting professional golf events of the year.
The Majors – This is a collective name for four different prestigious golf tournaments considered the most important of the year. The Majors are made up of the Masters Tournament, The US Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. The best golfers in the world come out to compete head-to-head during the Majors.
The Ryder Cup – A unique event for golf bettors, the Ryder Cup is an international tournament made up of teams of players from the USA and Europe. The two squads battle it out for bragging rights every two years. This event is a must-bet because it is the rare pro golf tournament in which an entire squad must be handicapped rather than just one athlete.
PGA Betting Tips
Some things to consider before laying a wager on professional golf:
Weather – Golf is played exclusively outdoors. That, combined with the fact that tournaments take place over the course of a four-day schedule, means weather has a bigger impact in the PGA and other pro golf leagues than in other sports. Strong wind can impact individual and field performances, while rain can postpone and extend the length of a tournament.
Course Differences – Because of the huge variations between the various courses used on the PGA tour, considering the way a particular golfer will compete against the course is extremely important for handicapping. One athlete may perform better at a longer course (such as Torrey Pines) while another pro may prefer the pressure of a notoriously difficult course (like Muirfield).
Recent Performance – Some bettors have a tendency toward thinking of a player’s golf career numbers rather than the numbers he’s turned in in recent tournaments. Recent performance is generally a better indicator of a golfer’s outlook for the coming event than his historical abilities. This sounds like common sense, but because pro golf takes place over such a long period of time, it is even more important to look at an athlete under a microscope when researching a bet.
Placing bets on professional golf is a true test of a bettor’s patience. Another difficulty – golf gives statistical junkies less information to go on than other statistically-rich sports. For gamblers who don’t mind the ups and downs of a four-day tourney schedule, the sport provides a variety of different types of wagers (compared to other major sports) and a very long season during which to wager.
Doing Your Homework!
Just like all the professional team sports that provide fans with a boat load of statistics, golf does much of the same. The avid fans love looking at golf statistics and figuring out which players are playing best and which are struggling. There are several things to know when looking at these types of numbers:
First, do not get too caught up in ALL of the golf stats that are available. There are a ton of stats that really do not do justice to how the golfer is playing, and how they will do. Find the statistics that really matter for the event you are getting ready to wager on, and then get started.
A few of the common stats that are shown in golf include; Putts per round, Greens hit in regulation, Total Driving Yards, Longest Drives, and Scores averages. There are ton of other statistics, but these are some of the important ones that make a difference in the performance of a golfer.
“PPR” – Putts per round will determine how a golfer is doing on the green. Putting is one of the toughest aspects of golf, and is very important. You can determine how well a player is playing based on their putts per round.
“GIR” – Greens in regulation is also a big stat, because this shows how the golfer has been doing getting the ball close enough to make it in the hole. It’s important as a golfer to get it to the green, and this stat will tell how well they have done getting it there, and how long it takes.
Total Driving Yards – the big hitters will take over this statistic. Of course, this does not mean they are the best golfers, but these are the ones that can hit the ball the farthest. Longest Drive is very similiar, this shows which golfer can drive the ball farthest.
Scoring Average – Lastly, scoring averages is what determines how well the golfer has been playing. Their scores in each round are averaged, and this is the end result.