How to bet on golf A golf betting guide

Your guide on how to bet on golf: how to pick a winner, the odds and what to look for. Learn how to select more winners. Not all golfers are created equally.

One of the best books I ever read was a hefty academic tome called ‘Basic Probability Theory‘. After reading it I never looked at another roulette table, or chance-based game ever again. The laws of probability were that persuasive it convinced me golf betting odds aren’t always right. What’s more with a bit of research they are often hedged in the punter’s favour.

In a similar vein, using gambling science*, an altogether different branch of probability theory, I’ve written this guide to golf betting ‘how to bet on golf’ that explains some of the basic golf betting strategies we can use with our online betting accounts. It includes which golfers to back and which to avoid when betting on the PGA and European Tours. Sections include:

  • Bet with your head not your heart
  • Understand a player’s odds
  • Do your research
  • Types of golf betting markets
  • Staking strategy

Following on from this introduction will be a series of blogs explaining and exploring golf betting. We’ll look at spread betting and exchanges, betting in play, specialist markets, finding a 100/1 winner and of course the increasingly popular bookmaker sand-trap of cashing out.

Bet with your head not your heart

If you’re betting with your heart, go ahead and click on Rory McIlroy each week, you won’t win very often, and when you do, it won’t be big either. If you want to make some serious money, and also develop a wider knowledge of the sport, you need to look a bit deeper into the field.

Players at the top of the OWGR like Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy invariably have odds hovering around 9/1 or quite often lower. In a typical field of 144, this doesn’t represent a great deal of value.

No punter won any serious money betting on Tiger Woods in the years 2000-2010, and if they did, they were probably lying.

What’s more, you’ll notice that your favourite top players will start letting you down more and more often – there’s nothing more frustrating than watching your favourite push their tee shot into the water on 17 and lose a tournament, especially if it ends up costing you a few quid as well.

It’s a bit like football betting, my mantra always being: Never bet on your own team.

In fact do the opposite and bet against them, because if they win, you won’t mind losing a few quid (your superstition might make you think you helped them) and if they lose, you can confidently make your way to the bar knowing you can afford a few rounds to console yourself.

In short: To make money golf betting, find winners at bigger odds.

Understand your golf odds

It’s worth talking about golf odds because for every 15/1 winner from the likes of Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott or Hideki Matsuyama there are as many 40/1 and 50/1 shots being landed from the likes of Branden Grace, Zach Johnson, Justin Thomas and Russell Knox.


And for that matter, there are more of these higher odds golfers winning tournaments than the returns you can expect from golfers priced at 6/1, 7/1 or 8/1.

The odds for golf are always swayed, often unfavourably towards the best golfers in the world. Whether one of them has suffered consistent poor performances on a certain golf course or not, their recent form and world ranking will nearly always shift their odds lower than they ought to be. Oh yes, and the bookies know everyone loves backing a short-priced favourite too.

What happens when you bet on the favourite?

If Rory McIlroy enters 22 tournaments worldwide this year and you back him every week at £5 Each Way then you need to win more than £220 on him over the course of the year to not lose any money (£10 x 22 events).

Assuming his odds are 8/1 each week and he wins each tournament then you will win a total of £1,276 in profit. Not bad at all, but that won’t happen and he won’t win every one.

Let’s say he wins 3 and places in the other 19? Then you will be £216 in profit.
Not bad at all, but again this scenario is unrealistic.

Looking at it objectively he will probably do well to win twice this year and then place in another 10 events – still a great season. But will you win any money?

The answer is yes, you will, albeit a grand total of £36, which is nothing to be ashamed about, although meanwhile Rory has strolled off with more than $5,000,000 in winnings for his ‘great’ season and you’ve got a mere £36 to celebrate with.

Understanding that the chances of winning big by betting on golf favourites is limited takes you one step closer to getting more value from your golf picks.

The fact is golf betting odds aren’t always correct and not just the favourites either. Some are vastly off what they should be, and with just a few odds compilers out there, it is often a case of follow the leader when golf betting odds are posted on a Monday and Tuesday.

Case Study

Emiliano GrilloTake Emiliano Grillo’s performance right from the 2016 PGA Tour starting gun at the Open. He’d already posted a runner up spot at the Puerto Rico Open earlier in 2015, had a great 2015 season on the European Tour and just few weeks previously had won the final tournament to qualify for the PGA Tour as a full time member.

The tournament itself doesn’t often attract many of the golfers at the top of the world rankings and is an ideal opportunity for recent graduates to make a name for themselves. Perhaps his 55/1 price really was good value in hindsight.

In short: not all odds are offered equally.

Do your research

Don’t be scared of looking down the list for players at high odds. Players priced at 50/1, 80/1 and even 100/1 win all the time on the PGA and European Tour. So it pays to do some research to identify potential high odds winners.

The first place to start is studying previous tournament results; some players love certain courses and regardless of current form, will raise their game accordingly. Spotting these trends is a must when identifying which players have a realistic chance from week to week.

Case Study

Luk DonaldFor instance recently at the 2016 RBC Heritage you could have picked up odds of 60/1 and higher for Luke Donald, who eventually finished in second place. A quick look at his recent results and some weighted information would highlight the following:

  • The course is not a long hitter’s paradise and Luke Donald is one of the shorter hitters on tour.
  • The greens are small with many bunkers, Luke Donald has one of the best short games and is excellent when recovering from sand.
  • Luke Donald had picked up 5 Top 3s in his previous 7 visits.

This information alone should have had the warning bells ringing and even if his current form was off, he still represented good value. As it happens his form has been solid, if not spectacular, and he had taken three weeks off and missed The Masters for the first time in 12 years.

In short: A bit of research showed Luke Donald was certainly geared to perform that week.

Golf betting markets explained

There are plenty of ways you can lose your money when betting on golf, so you should be careful on what market you choose to bet on.

Outright Winner – You can only win if you pick the winner, 2nd and 3rd place won’t cut it here.

Each Way – This is two separate bets; one of them to win and one on the placing. Most bookies will pay out 1/4 odds for a Top 5 finish, some will pay out on the Top 6 and then you’ll find a few offering Top 7 but be warned, they might also slash the odds by either creating a separate Top 7 market or by only offering 1/5 odds for a place.

Top 5 Finish – Like an Each Way bet but this pays out only on the place and doesn’t include a second To Win bet. So, it’s a cheaper bet but you won’t get paid out on a winner, just the 1/4 odds.

First Round Leader – You win if your man is leading after the completion of the first round.

Group Betting (or 2 Balls & 3 Balls) – Players are grouped in either 2s or 3s on each round of the tournament. This market pits those players against each other.

Match Betting – Each bookmaker will offer a pair of players and you have to pick which player will score better over the course of the entire tournament.

To Make The Cut – Most tournaments (with the exception of the WGC events) have a halfway cut. The field is usually cut in half, to around 70 or so players. This market allows you to predict which players will make the cut – great for accumulators!

Top Australian Player – Which Australian will finish as the leading player from that country? Only Australians count in this field, so Adam Scott can finish 40th and still win if his fellow cabbage patchers, crow-eaters, banana benders or sandgropers all finish worse off (the same rules apply for Top European, Top South African, Top American and Top Rest of The World Player).

In short: Pick your market, research it and stay consistent with it.

Keep to your staking plan

Set yourself a budget, perhaps £5 or £10 per week and concentrate on one tour.

The best tour is probably the PGA Tour for three reasons:

1. It has the most stats available;

2. You can watch it live at night, without it getting in the way of your weekend activities;

3. Most tournaments on the PGA Tour are in America and not spread around the world, meaning travel and course condition varies less.

By maintaining a consistent staking plan, you won’t be tempted to start chasing your losing bets. Like all long term results, winning and losing are relative, you’ll have some winners, but more losers, which makes it important to ensure that you have control over those losses.

Betting on golf takes away the immediacy of chasing a losing bet, for the most part it can take four days to complete (or six if you spend two of them researching!). And keeping a consistent staking plan will encourage you to maintain a disciplined approach (see above, bet with your head!).

Case Study

YSOCCER-jumboThere is nothing worse than chasing a bet, especially if your vice is football betting.

With so many games happening on a certain day it can be tempting to chase that losing Chelsea bet with a big one on Arsenal later in the day.

When that one doesn’t come in either, it means placing an even bigger wager on Barcelona at home, at ridiculously short odds but a sure thing right?

Oops! Time to sell the car!

Or is that just me?

In short: if you can’t stand the thought of losing £10 per week, don’t bet £10 per week!

How to bet on golf – and win!

You can approach golf betting in many ways, the only hard and fast rule is ‘if you are making a profit then you are doing something right’. Always avid the danger of running out of money in your betting bank. You will need to ensure it can cope with the high number of losses you will almost certainly encounter.

Take note of these golf betting tips and start profiting from your golf betting. If you do your research and maintain discipline, you’ll find you’ll experience less losing bets and more higher priced winners, so you enjoy your golf viewing almost as much as you enjoy the benefits that your increased knowledge has on your bank balance.

Keep an eye out for our next blogs in the series where we’ll take a closer look at the types of golf betting markets there are and which golf tipsters to follow.

To keep up to date with our golf betting blog, enter your email in the box on the right and receive advance notice of our betting tips and previews for every PGA and European Tour event.

* not an actual science