PGA Tour at the Bookmakers: The Future of Wagering on Golf

Erik Barns. Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images/AFP

On May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal law that prohibits gambling on football, basketball, baseball, and the majority of sporting events. This saw a nationwide shift when the legalization of sports betting arrived online and at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.  

Four years have surpassed since the aforementioned court decision, and one sport that’s reaped the benefits of legalized sports betting is professional golf.  

The PGA Tour official betting operators have witnessed a considerable surge in the money wagered, and between 2020 to 2021, it rose 50%, with total wagers increasing 40%. The trajectory of this growth is heading in one direction but guaranteeing this projected uptrend; golf betting needs to evolve. The PGA Tour will be imperative in assisting this evolution.  

Scott Warfield is the PGA Tour’s vice president of gaming. In a recent discussion with Golf.com, he highlighted multiple factors where operators and the Tour are working together to generate a positive, more enjoyable betting experience for golf betting enthusiasts.  

PGA Tour Official Betting Operators  

When asked what role the current betting operators have with the Tour and what they contribute beyond bets, Scott Warfield said: “FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, PointsBet – those operators are the mouthpiece to sports fans, to sports bettors. Having partnerships with these market leaders helps because since they’re in the business with us, they’re helping promote our events.  

“On days when there’s an NFL game on, you’re still getting promotion of PGA Tour events. Or in the spring, when the Tour is up against the NBA playoff games, they’re still promoting the Tour and talking about it.  

“We’re trying almost to create a market. Traditionally, this has just been ‘try and predict the outright winner of a golf tournament.’ We want to get to a place where it’s much more in-play and live and microtransactions. Part of that evolution is educating sports fans – that if you didn’t bet on the outright winner by Thursday morning, it’s OK. That market remains open, and it moves throughout the event as players bogey or par or birdie. It’s education and entertainment –where the operators play a disproportionately important role for us because they’re doing a lot of that work.”  

Some of the highlight mentions made by Warfield were the introduction of new betting markets that operators will focus on in the near future. Some of which include in-play betting (live betting), where proposition markets on each hole will provide bettors with a broader choice and greater selection when wagering on the PGA Tour.  

In-Play Betting Revolution

Warfield referred to the European betting market as a great example of how in-play betting can revolutionize the industry. These microtransactions represent 70 to 80% of all bets placed in the European market, instead of the typical over/under, moneyline, or spread bets that are often wagered on in the United States.  

Currently, just 30% of bets placed in the United States are made in-play – a steady rise is underway, but in comparison to European markets, there is no comparing. The American betting culture has often stemmed from betting with a friend or a bookie, and these regularly involve money line or spread bets.

However, in five years, the number of in-game wagering will continue to rise, and two of the most prominent sports entities that will capitalize on this trajectory will be baseball and golf. Due to the high level of content in the PGA Tour and the MLB, in unison with the leisurely pace of play, the live betting approach works perfectly with these sports.  

Professional Golf and Sports Betting in the Future  

In a closing statement, Warfield gave his thoughts on the future of the PGA Tour and sports wagering:  

“For us, this whole space is about engagement. The Supreme Court made a decision in 2018 that allowed the states to regulate sports betting if they so choose. We’ve been trying to operate within that framework, continue to maintain and ensure absolute integrity with our product, and leverage the opportunity to engage the core fans and grow our audience”.  

“Yes, there will be a commercial benefit to all the stakeholders in all the sports. But first and foremost, we look at it as a way in this fragmented media landscape to get a fan to watch an extra three holes each weekend or attend two more events every year, to get a 25-year-old who’s never thought about PGA Tour golf and view it or attending it as something they should consider”.  

“There’s not a lot of new ways into sports fandom. Social media, e-sports, sports betting, the metaverse. Those are all new areas where we can engage that critical 21-to-35year-old fanbase and do it responsibly and appropriately. For us, it’s continuing to find those partners who do it the right way and creatively – and look at what this might look like 7-10 years from now, not necessarily what it looks like today”.