How to bet on golf: Outrights, top finishes, matchups and more
Golf betting has changed since Tiger Woods was in his prime. Photo by David J. Phillip/AP.

Golfing has quickly become one of Ontario’s top recreational activities. Although Canadian weather sidelines many from playing the sport during winter months, golf betting ensures that you can get in on the year-round action. If you're wondering how to bet on golf, you've come to the right place.

There is a multitude of ways to bet on golf — from outright winners to player matchups — which will be run through below.

Golf betting is not limited to a specific tour, as fans can place wagers on the PGA, LPGA and European Tour, among other events throughout the year.

How to bet on golf

When considering how to bet on golf, ask yourself a few questions: Who is in the field? What will the conditions be like? Who does the course favour?

All of these factor into how the odds for the tournament favourites are set by sportsbooks.

Outrights

The most popular way to bet on professional golf is outright betting. In this scenario, you are placing a bet on a player to win the tournament.

Since there are so many players in a golf tournament, the odds of your choice winning will almost always be indicated with a (+) sign, meaning the selection is plus money — even if they are the favourite.

The odds vary drastically depending on who you are betting on. A player like Jon Rahm is far more likely to contend in a tournament than someone such as Smylie Kaufman.

There are many things to take into consideration when placing an outright bet. Does the course favour distance or accuracy? What the weather will be like? Is the player riding a streak of good form?

It's worth noting that these odds can change throughout the week leading up to the first round of the event.

Let’s use the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions as an example. Cameron Smith, who came out victorious, was around +1600 to win the tournament outright (an implied probability of 5.88%). This means a $100 bet would net a profit of $1600.

In the same tournament, Rahm, the runner-up, had the shortest odds going into the event at around +900, which made him the favourite.

During Tiger Woods’ prime, there would be instances where he was favoured at minus (-) odds to win events — yes, he was that good. This meant sportsbooks placed the probability of him winning above 50%.

He was the outright favourite at +150 at the 2005 Masters, meaning there was a 40% implied probability of him winning (he did, of course).

Let’s take a look at how different odds would pay out:

OddsWagerWinImplied Probability
+150$100$15040%
+900$100$90010%
+1600$100$16005.88%
-200$100$5066.67%

It is extremely rare to find an outright bet at (-) odds before a tournament begins, as Woods is no longer in his prime.

Each-way betting (E/W)

Outright bets can be exhilarating, but the downside is they have a slim chance of paying out, especially if you're picking someone who is not favoured. Each-way betting is a good way to give yourself some leeway.

An E/W bet is made up of two parts: win and place. You are placing two equal wagers on a player to win and the player to place top five. Let's say Justin Thomas is +2000 outright, an E/W bet would look like this:

Justin Thomas E/W 1/4 top 5 places +2000

This is stating that you will receive 1/4 of your winnings if he comes top five. A $100 outright bet on Thomas to win would profit $2000 under regular circumstances. Placing a $100 E/W bet on Thomas means you are essentially placing $50 on him outright at +2000 for a $1000 profit, and $50 on him to win at 1/4 of +2000 (+500).

If Thomas won, you win both portions of the bet ($1250 profit). If he came anywhere from second through fifth, you would win $250 profit.

The E/W method is a good way to ensure your heart doesn't get broken if your pick finishes in second place.

Top finishes

Betting top finishes is a great way to find value for players you think will do well in tournaments without having to worry about them winning the event. Typically, sportsbooks offer top 20, top 10 and top-five finishes.  

Let’s use Brooke Henderson as an example. Say she is competing in the U.S Women’s Open where she is +2500 outright. If you think Henderson will be in contention for the trophy but aren’t entirely sold, we'd recommend placing a top finish bet, as the return on investment is still sizeable. The odds for a bet like this would be something along the lines of:

Top-20 finish: +130
Top-10 finish: +250
Top-five finish: +500

If you bet all three of the above examples and Henderson finished seventh, you would win the top 20 and top 10 but would lose the top-five bet.

Brooke Henderson has 12 top-10 finishes in major events. Photo by Steve Nesius/AP

End of round leader

End of round leader (commonly abbreviated to EOR) is another popular bet. The name is quite literal: pick the player who finishes the round at the top of the leaderboard.

Let’s say you bet Abraham Ancer to be the EOR leader at +2000. If the round concluded and he sat atop the leaderboard at 7-under par, you would win. A $100 bet would net $2000.

It basically follows the same rules as outright winners, but with one wrinkle — there can be ties.

For example: If two players finish the round tied atop the leaderboard at -7, the stake of your bet would be reduced by half and a $100 bet at +2000 would now net a profit of $1000 instead of $2000. Similarly, if three players are tied, the stake is reduced by two-thirds, and so on.

End of round odds fluctuate as the round progresses and can be bet on during play, a process known as live betting, which we will go more in-depth on later.

How to bet on golf matchups

There is an old saying in golf that the only person you can play against is yourself. While players are dialled into their own game, bettors can take advantage of head-to-head matchups offered by sportsbooks.

These markets provide predetermined matchups of players similar in skill, where you can wager on who will shoot a lower score on a given day. There is typically a favourite which can vary from -120 all the way to around -200.

There are two main head-to-head matchups available: 72-hole, and 18-hole.

72-hole matchups

Wagers on 72-hole matchups are placed before the tournament begins and run throughout the event, culminating after the final round ends. The golfer with the lowest score wins.

For example, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are both playing in the U.S Open. Before placing a bet, you would have to consider factors such as each player's history at the course, their current form and who the course setup favours more.

Let’s assume Johnson opens as a favourite, the odds would look something like this:

Dustin Johnson (-120) vs. Jordan Spieth (+120)

If the tournament culminates and Spieth finishes 6-under par while Johnson finishes 5-under par, the Spieth ticket cashes. A $100 bet would net a profit of $120.

18-hole matchups

The other option is an 18-hole matchup, which is placed before a specific round begins and the winner is determined by whoever shoots the lower score that day.

Let’s use the Spieth (+120) vs. Johnson (-120) example again with the same odds, but for an 18-hole matchup.

Going into the second round of an event, Spieth is even par on the tournament and Johnson is 1-over par. If Johnson shoots a 3-under round, and Spieth shoots 2-under, they would be tied on the leaderboard. But since Johnson had the lower score over the 18 holes wagered on, he would be the winner of that bet.

Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson during a round at the 2018 Pebble Beach ProAm. Photo by Eric Risberg/AP.

How to bet on golf props

Prop betting is a way to bet on specific events that will occur throughout a tournament.

A variety of props are offered to the bettor depending on the tournament. These can include whether there will be a hole-in-one, the nationality of the winner, or if there will be a playoff, among other options.

Tournament props are tied to the field, not a player. If you are to bet on a hole-in-one during a tournament (+150), it does not matter who gets the ace, it only matters that it occurs.

There are also certain player props available. One popular pick is wagering on whether a golfer will make or miss the cut.

Players like Rahm and Patrick Cantlay have far better odds to make the cut (-500) than they do to miss (+300). Therefore, it wouldn’t be wise to place a bet on Rahm to make the cut, as the return on investment is low. But there can be good value found on lesser-known players to make the cut at plus odds.

How to bet on golf futures

Futures markets are a unique way for bettors to place a wager on an event that will occur at a later date. You can bet on winners of majors, team events, and the FedEx Cup, while also placing future player props.

Let’s say you have a hunch that the USA will retain the Ryder Cup. Although the event occurs in 2023, odds are currently available. Placing a futures bet now ensures you are locked into those odds regardless of roster changes, player performance, or injury.

Futures betting is also available for the outright winners of major tournaments. If you believe a player is going to be on a hot streak come July, you can generally get better odds placing a futures bet in February than you would by placing an outright bet the week of.

For example, Xander Schauffele is around +1800 to win the U.S Open as of February. If he was in great form heading into the tournament, his odds could shorten to around +1350, leaving you with a more valuable ticket. If Schauffele was missing cuts leading into the tournament, you may find his odds lengthened to +3500. This would lower the value of your original bet.

As for player futures, you can bet on player wins or cuts made. Let’s use the LGPA's Nelly Korda as an example. A prop on her could read:

Will Nelly Korda win in 2022: Yes (-250) or No (+300).

If Korda wins a tournament at any time during the 2022 season a bet on "yes" would payout. If she failed to secure a victory, the bet would lose.

Nelly Korda kisses the trophy after winning the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Photo by John Bazemore/AP.

Live betting

Live betting in golf is volatile but provides extreme value if you can sniff out the right player.

For both outright betting and end of round betting, player odds will drastically fluctuate on a hole-to-hole basis. This depends on how they are performing relative to the competition.

If one was to bet Bryson DeChambeau outright at +1500 and he started the tournament with a triple-bogey on the first hole, his live odds would surely rise to around +2200, maybe even higher.  

For an end of round leader bet, you could pick a player who is sitting at +3000 live to lead the round right before a hot streak where they go 5-under par over four holes. That same player's live EOR odds could shift all the way to -150 after that.

These markets stay open throughout the event but are often put on hold right after a big shot is made. Once the sportsbook sets its new live odds, betting is reopened.

There is also an option to live bet player props on certain holes. You would have a list of possible outcomes if Corey Conners was about to play a par five. It could look like this:

Par to hole (-130)
Birdie or better (+150)
Bogey or worse (+250)

If Conners birdied the hole, the +150 bet would cash and the other two props would lose.

NorthStar Bets editorial Insiders have no influence, direct or otherwise, over the setting of odds advertised on our platforms.