How to Bet on Golf

US golfer Tiger Woods watches his put shot. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP)

We’ve reached midsummer, which is notorious for being a sports betting desert. The NBA and NHL are wrapped up as of last month, and football is still a distant glimmer on the horizon. There’s MLB, of course, but even that will be taking a hiatus for the All-Star Break later this month, giving us the only days of the calendar year where there are no major U.S. team sports available on which to wager.

What’s a gambler to do? Well, we can turn our attention to golf. With a tournament occupying the summer calendar every Thursday through Sunday, the golf tours are ripe for action, but first you need to know what you’re doing. Here’s a quick guide on the necessary information in order to start betting the links.

Pick a Winner

The most popular way to bet on a PGA event is to try to pick the winner of this week’s tournament. It’s easy to do—most gambling outlets will have a list of odds for the various golfers competing in a given tourney.

It’s also high-risk, high reward. With more than 100 golfers competing in any given week, even the favorites to win will pay off with 7-to-1 or 8-to-1 odds at the worst. And there will be long shots that promise a five-figure payout.

Of course, placing a To Win bet is a little like putting money on Gonzaga at the start of NCAA Basketball season and then waiting. There’s a profound lack of action involved in this bet, especially if your pick quickly drops out of contention. And, there’s a reason the odds on any golfer are so long—there’s a very strong chance that you’ll lose, even if you put money on a number of golfers.

You can also put money on top finisher in a given round, which at least gives you a chance to put down new money after the tournament has started.

To Place

Betting on a golfer to place instead of win is more likely to keep your rooting interest for deeper into the tournament. Basically, you’re betting on a golfer to finish in the top tier of the tournament. Most big tourneys will have odds for top 5, top 10 and top 20 bets.

There’s a trade-off for this type of bet that’s familiar to anyone that’s been to the horse races. Betting to place gives you a better chance of winning your bet, but the cost is reduced odds. The bigger the “top” tier you’re betting on, the lower the odds.

For instance, the odds of Jon Rahm winning July’s Scottish Open was +1200. That fell to +300 if you bet on a top 5 place, +163 for top 10 and -125 for Top 20.

Group Bets

Golf is an international sport, and you can take advantage of that with group betting. Basically, you’re trying to pick the top player from a variety of nationalities. For instance, you can get odds on the top finisher among Americans, top Brit or top South American. It’s always fun when you’re putting money down on the Top Swede market.

Group betting also extends past nationality. For instance, you can get odds on the top left-hander in a given tournament.

Individual Matchups

Some of the more entertaining bets to watch are head-to-head matchups within a tournament. Rather than worrying about where two golfers finish relative to the field, you’re just betting on which will card the better score—either for the tournament or for a round.

In the later rounds of a tourney, you can also bet the field against a current leader. Whoever is atop the leader board, you’re basically saying that someone is going to catch him.

A fun early round bet is on the make/miss cut market. In most tournaments, the field is cut basically in half after the first two days, with the poorest scoring players being sent home without any share of the prize money, clearing space for the contenders to fight it out over the weekend. You can bet on whether a player will be included in that group or miss the cut.