For those of a certain vintage there are moments in golf which stick out in the mind. Remember Doug Sanders missing a two foot putt for the Open in 1970, and Scott Hoch from a similar distance for the Masters in 1989 thus earning himself the soubriquet ‘Hoch, the Choke.’ How backers of both men must have cursed.
Arnold Palmer blew a seven stroke lead at the 1966 US Open with nine to play and who can forget Greg Norman’s back nine collapse at Augusta in 1996 from which Nick Faldo took full advantage? And probably the saddest of all was Jean van der Velde committing his very own public version of hari kari at the last in the 1999 Open. He could have afforded a double bogey, but instead suffered a total meltdown. And that after taking his shoes and socks off to try to play from the stream.
There are more recent examples of major blowouts too. In 2016 Jordan Spieth turned for home and an historic back to back Masters at his mercy with a five stroke lead. But at Rae’s Creek he twice went into the water for a quadruple bogey, gifting the tournament to Danny Willett.
The odds on any of the above happening are remote. But happen they did and such examples and numerous others have helped to boost the appeal of golf as a betting medium. After football and racing it is probably now the third most popular for the armchair punter. And for good reason.
The range of bets and options are numerous. Golf betting has increased significantly in popularity in recent years. This is partly down to the interest generated by emerging young talents but also the potential value it offers bettors. Know here to look and there’s some great value to be found.
Fifty years ago when Sanders imploded the market was restricted really to win or each way. Now there’s a blizzard of bets to choose from and a welter of data to help the decision making process.
Bookies love it because it appeals to an ABC1 audience, there’s a tournament somewhere in the world most weekends, it gets wall to wall coverage and the audience is captive for six hours at a time for the real aficionado. Tournaments reach their denouement over a weekend when people have time to relax and want to engage.
Understanding how to bet on golf is a lot easier than many people think. The most common form of golf is stroke play but there is also match play – this is when two or more golfers score each hole individually and the game is decided by winning the most holes.
In terms of golf betting, the main competitions of interest are the four yearly majors (The Masters, US Open, The Open and PGA Championship), as well as PGA Tour events, European Tour events and the Ryder Cup.
Knowledge of the sport is merely a starting point when learning how to bet on golf. The next step is to understand the type of markets available and how to find valuable betting opportunities. Study general form, course form, the stats and avoid inexperienced players.
Accumulating knowledge of how certain players play and the course layout for a particular tournament is essential. Different players are better suited to particular courses depending on their strengths and weaknesses and will, therefore, perform better in different tournaments.
For instance the big hitting Bubba Watson and the aforementioned Spieth suit the longer courses such as Augusta and Quail Hollow as they are longer with their driver. In contrast, players like Phil Mickelson with a hot as mustard short game suit courses like Pebble Beach which require a better mastery of irons and wedges.
Look at statistics like scoring average and driving accuracy as these are good indicators of performance. However for a more advanced approach to golf betting, strokes gained statistics, greens in regulation and fairways in regulation are much more useful.
Additionally, scrambling percentage – missing greens in regulation but making a par or better highlights a player’s ability to recover after an error. Top 10 finishes can be used to gauge consistency.
Betting on an outright winner is without doubt the most popular market when someone is looking to bet on golf online. Sometimes backing a favourite outright is simply just the way to go in any sport, even in golf.
But when tournament fields are made upwards of 140 players, it often makes sense to back a golfer in the each way market. It can certainly offer great value especially with bookmakers paying 1/5 the odds down to seven places.
Take the winners of the 2019 Majors: Shane Lowry 100-1 at the Open, Gary Woodland 80-1 US Open, Tiger Woods 14-1 for the Masters and Brooks Koepka 10-1 to win US PGA. Some people made a tidy profit.
Away from the ‘mainstream’ there are the top 10 and top 20 markets. This is a useful section to back golfers who are steady but who rarely threaten the top of the leaderboard.
Another way to make money betting on golf is to focus on match bets. People might think they can find a certainty albeit at short prices in a three ball. It could be the players are on offer at 4/6, 5/4 and 11/4. Even 4/6 could offer value to a big punter. There is huge market for that.
How about top nationality betting? Or holes-in-one which seem to be getting more frequent as players are getting more and more accurate and aggressive as equipment improves and standards get higher.
The final statistic that is always a must – a player’s putting ability. As the old adage goes, ‘driving for show, putting for dough’. If a golfer struggles to putt due to a poor technique or suffers previous mental scarring or the yips under the Sunday afternoon pressure, then he isn’t going to win you money.
Then there’s in-play betting – appealing to the male City type who loves the adrenaline rush of deals. It’s great fun, you can bet golf live and the results can be highly profitable. This sector is growing. The amounts matched on the Open are thought to be as much as £30m. One expert described it as like a stock market based on a moving golf tournament. Effectively there’s a market on every stroke in golf a way of betting on every shot of the ball.
Let’s imagine in a non-Corona virus era the Masters was taking place next month. Where and what should we look for? Past form used to be a more reliable guide to a player’s chances. Jack Nicklaus won it eight times, Tiger Woods four times including last year’s heart-warming comeback victory, and Arnold Palmer four times in eight years way back when. Mickleson, Nick Faldo and Gary Player each have three Green Jackets.
But if you take the results from the past decade or so, attempting to find the winner of the Masters is more problematic. That is why the bookmakers love it and why golf has become such a popular betting platform.
So where would be start? Maybe with Rory McIlroy who some believe really is getting better with age? Some though would put a line through his chances if he’d started as expected as 6/1 favourite. Why though back a player who hasn’t won a Major for six years and needs a Green Jacket to complete a Grand Slam which in itself lends huge added pressure. There’s therefore no value in backing McIlroy.
But there might be in him to be first round leader at say 20-1. He has form there so it provides value and is an increasingly popular type of betting. He could make a fast start due to an early morning tee off when weather permitting he will get the best of conditions and low winds, fresh greens and no leaderboard pressure.
Next step? Start looking for value for players who are in form but you’d do better to rule out players who have been injured; this year such as Koepka and Dustin Johnson. Tommy Fleetwood might be 20-1 but ask yourself why would back him when he has only won one tournament in three years and never a major.
Better surely someone like John Rahm? He is a multiple winner and consistent. So is Justin Thomas. This is key. Jack Nicklaus once said: ‘When you are playing golf you must win regularly to give yourself the confidence to win Majors. “ Then look at up and coming players and who could win and are therefore are at a more fancied price. Into that category would come Zander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau.
Finally we should not forget the big Daddy of them all, the Ryder Cup. It’s another serious attraction. Europe has still got the strength in depth and ability to win it more often. If looking today at the 2020 event you can get 6/4 on Europe winning the next iteration while America are 8/11 and albeit the USA had home advantage. In a two horse race and on past form Europe’s odds look fairly generous to some punters.