My job as a handicapper is to take advantage of any edge we can find, not just bet on primetime games on my favorite sports. Which is why I love golf, it is a sport that is easy for bettors to turn a profit on. I don’t care if you like watching it or not. I also don’t care if you play every day or have never touched a club in your life. You can easily have an edge over the sportsbooks.
As a professional gambler that’s all I really care about. Where can I make money off the book? Isn’t any sport worth your time and effort if you can bet and make money? I think so. My goal with this article is to have you not only fully prepared to place wagers on upcoming tournaments but to put you in a position to profit on those bets as well.
If you want help with other markets as well, our general guide to sports handicapping has a lot of useful information on how to attack the books.
If you are new to golf betting then I’ll start out with a little tutorial of the different kinds of bets. There are plenty of options, and I’ll tell you which ones to avoid and which ones to spend your time on.
If you are a gambler who has plenty of experience betting on PGA events then feel free to skip the introduction and get down to the meat of things where I talk strategy.
Introduction of How to Bet on Golf Tournaments
Why is Wagering on the PGA so Great?
Let’s just start off with why I think gamblers should be interested in betting the sport. There are several unique aspects that make it one of the better wagering activities in all of sport.
1) It’s easy to profit on
It seems obvious but if a sport is impossible to profit on I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ll get more into how to use golf to build your bankroll later in the article, but this definitely needed to be at the top of the list.
2) It’s cheap entertainment
If after reading this article you aren’t convinced that I know enough about golf to help you win some money then I’m not doing a very good job of explaining things.
But, even if you aren’t interested in buying a premium subscription, joining into a betting partnership with me, or putting time into handicapping on your own I still think you should give golf a look. The reason is you aren’t going to get more value for your gambling entertainment dollar.
Tournament bets are placed before the event starts on Thursday. Worst case one or both of the guys miss the cut and you only get two days of action for your bet. Best case they go down to the wire on Sunday and you are entertained for four days off of a single bet. Even round bets will take 4+ hours from start to finish giving you plenty of time to immerse yourself in your action.
Contrast that to a hand of blackjack which takes all of 15 seconds to complete and you can see why if entertainment is your goal, golf gives you way more bang for your buck.
3) You can shop matchups
I call matchup shopping where you like a certain player and are down on another. With football, it’s not like you can take the Cowboys against the Patriots every week, but on the PGA sometimes you can do just that. Not every site has the same matchups. If you shop around you can often times find your favorite player going against someone you dislike, which makes it a great way to align your rooting interests with your financial incentives.
4) You can easily shop lines
Line shopping is just trying to get the best price on your matchup. Golf is a minor sport so you’ll see a lot more market variance from book to book than you will an hour before kick on an NFL Sunday. Each book is more willing to put up their own lines which helps the bettor who is willing to open up more accounts to shop for the best number. The odds to percentage calculator can help you translate lines across different formats.
How it could be better
To be fair I listed four main reasons why betting on golf is great, but I won’t hide the fact that it isn’t perfect. My biggest pet peeve right now is the television coverage. I think television producers are missing the boat because you might make a bet and never see your player on TV. It’s expected if you are taking guys who barely made the cut and whose rounds will be finished before the network even goes to air but it can also happen when one or two of the guys in your matchup is struggling. They don’t like pounding on players when they are down so TV will just completely ignore the players performing poorly.
PGA Tour Live does a pretty good job of streaming the action, but I think they could take it up a notch by letting you watch any player. Even without commentary, I think fans and bettors would just enjoy grinding out the shots with their guys. If someone takes this plan into action hit me up so I can let you know where to send the royalties =)
Those are the reasons I think you should give golf a try and why I think you’ll love it when you do. Now let’s get started with your education so you know what you are doing.
Beginners Guide to Golf Betting Explained
Dead Heat Rules
Before I get into the many different bet types there is something that you need to know and that’s what “dead heat” rules are. This is what happens to your payout if there is a tie. Most of you are probably used to if there is a tie it’s a push and you get your money back right? Not exactly how it works in golf since it’s not always one versus one.
This is where the dead heat rules come in. Your winnings are calculated by dividing the amount you would have won by how many players tied for that “win”.
An example should make this clear. Let’s say you bet on Rory McIlroy +120 in a group with Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau. Bryson and Rory both shoot 66, Thomas fires a 67.
The sportsbooks aren’t going to pay out full winners on both Rory and Thomas, and they aren’t going to just say you pushed and give you your money back either. What they do is give you half of your winnings. In this case if you bet $100 on Rory to win $120, you’ll get your $100 back plus $60 in winnings (since it’s split two ways for the two winners).
This is something that will come into play with not only 3-ways, but also bets on players to make the top 5, top 10, top 20, etc…. Keep that in mind and if you still don’t quite understand shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to explain it further and update this page.
The Many Bet Types or Ways to Bet On Golf Tournaments
Now, on the actual wagers you can make when you want to gamble.
The number of different ways you can bet on golf is borderline insane. Here is an example from DraftKings.com.
You can bet on the winner, a player to make the top 20, top 30, top 40, the leader after round 1, and a ‘straight forecast’ which, for my horse racing enthusiasts, is essentially an exacta of who finishes 1/2 in the tournament.
That’s not even close to all. How about matchups?
Here you will find round 1 groups, tournament groups, round 1 matchups, tournament matchups (2-ways), and round 1 SixShooters.
The “Groups” are essentially 3 ways. The first couple of rounds of a PGA event the golfers play in groups of 3, so you are just picking who has the best score out of the group for either the round or the tournament.
I don’t see SixShooters often. That’s just a bigger group bet.
“Matchups” are very similar but typically mean just one player versus another. What you want to watch out for here is the tie or draw option. That means if your player ties the opponent you will lose. Most books do not have that tie or draw option. Using the image above (2-Way) means that a push is a push.
Why Is Golf Betting Easier?
When you see lower betting limits that usally mean the betting markets aren’t as efficient. That is why golf lines are softer in general than the major sports. It doesn’t matter if you personally never bet more than $20. The only thing that matters is what the most a person with a significant edge, like myself, can get down on an event. The higher that number, the more time, effort, and resources a professional bettor can afford to invest in building models and a team of experts to help beat the odds.
When you get sophisticated syndicates betting, the markets will become tighter as the bets flow in. The sportsbooks use that info to adjust their lines. This is why by kickoff on an NFL Sunday when a popular book has millions of dollars on each side of a game, that line is pretty tight and nearly impossible to beat.
But, what about the openers? Openers are the first lines posted by a book. These are virgin lines that haven’t been bet into by gamblers. For a sport where the odds makers have a lot of experience like football, they do a decent job (although definitely beatable).
Contrast that to golf. Since it’s a smaller sport they probably don’t have a full-time guy devoted just to golf. Not only that, but think about how the round betting works. Players finish close to dark, then the pairings come out. A few hours after that, they post the lines for the matchups the next day.
So you have a bookmaker without much experience in a sport, on a time crunch, posting numbers either very late at night, the middle of the night, or early in the morning on a lot of matchups, he doesn’t know a lot about. If you are telling me a handicapper can’t beat a book in that tough of a situation then you don’t think anyone can win.
How to Handicap Golf & Make Predictions
I’ll go over a few different ways to actually source your picks here. This goes from the lowest value predictions to the highest.
1) Pick your favorite guys
You aren’t going to be a long term winner doing this but you might have some fun. You won’t even get killed if you shop around and make sure you get the best number. Just know that if your favorite guy is the same as everyone else’s the books might be adjusting a little bit to make up for that entertainment action.
2) Handicap your own matchups
The methods that you use to come up with your own predictions can vary widely. You might just watch and see who is playing better. Or you might listen to the talking heads tell you who sets up well for a certain course and who has been playing well.
The problem with watching golf channel or other coverage is they are paid to entertain and come up with stories. Those narratives don’t give you a lot of advice on who actually has the best chance of winning.
If you really want to go next level you’ll build a model. I won’t give my exact model away but I’ll give you some secrets on what to factor in below.
3) Follow free picks
The downside is that if you don’t have the book I’m posting at you might not have a free pick for that day. And don’t take anything that is 10 cents off of the number I posted because the value is likely gone.
4) Buy a premium subscription
I’ll post all my BEST BETS for members of my premium service. The good news is there will be a lot of volume so you’ll get plenty of action. The bad news is that I’m sourcing from 10 books so you’ll get some of the lines and won’t be able to get down on others (unless you go through the work of opening up accounts everywhere).
If you are interested in a subscription you can find a variety of options here.
5) Enter into a betting partnership with me
The easiest and most profitable for you would be to let me do all of the work. If you have a local book with a site I can login and make all the bets for us and we split the wins and losses (or you can have a freeroll/net win deal for a lower rate). You won’t have to make the decisions on if there is any value in the odds you have available and there might even be more bets we can make than I post for premium subscribers. I won’t know until I see them for myself.
How I Approach PGA Tour Handicapping
You might be wondering what makes me so good at this anyway. To start. I played college golf and am a “plus” handicap so I know a little about the game. But even if I didn’t have that knowledge I could win. I build predictive models using machine learning models with python and sklearn.
What does a machine learning model do? The short story is it allows me to take all of the stats for the last 10 years, feed them to the machine learning algorithm, let it crunch those numbers and spit out the percentage chance of a player beating another, winning a tournament, or whatever else I set it up for.
I use as much information as possible. The stats I look at are pretty granular. I don’t just want to know scores, but I want to know how players did putting, in the short game, with approach shots, and off the tee.
I look at the course history and see what types of players have had success at that setup. For instance, is length important or how well a player does with 150-175 yard approach shots? Is putting a premium? What type of grass is it?
What were the weather conditions for the previous rounds? What’s the forecast for this weekend?
When you hear analysts talk about recent form or how a player has been playing what does that mean? One round is a small sample size but going back approximately 50 rounds I weigh each round by how indicative that round is on the next round they play. Those weights are formed by linear regressions and not by me using anything subjective like gut feel.
I think you get the picture that a lot of what I do comes from statistics. I do use a little bit of subjective handicapping. I think adding some additional knowledge like if a player looks hurt, if he’s talking swing change, or any other nugget can get me off players that the math says should have an edge.
I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and say I have caddies or tournament officials sending me inside information. But, if you know how to use twitter you’ll get plenty of it. For example, a fan posted a pic of Spieth on the range 20 minutes before his tee time, banging drivers with training aids. It doesn’t take a genius to realize he’s hitting it like shit and won’t be brimming with confidence to start the day.
Putting together all of this information takes a lot of time. I work a lot. That work is updating models, grabbing stats, and scouring for news. It isn’t watching the events to see how guys are playing. If I did that I wouldn’t have time to hang out with my kids or play golf myself. I don’t think I’d learn anything from watching anyway but maybe other handicappers need to do that and it helps them.
If you have time, some programming knowledge (or desire to learn), and a propensity for statistics and math you can win without me. There’s no question about that. But if you want the easy road then signing up for a subscription or joining up with me in a partnership is your shortcut to success.