Anyone who has played golf will tell you it's a fickle sport. Betting is no different — anything can happen on any given day.
Without the proper knowledge, it can be tough to get a handle on how to bet on golf. Going into a tournament and betting blindly isn't the way to go. Simply picking your favourite golfers isn't the smartest way to wager, either.
Luckily, there are strategies that you can follow to make better golf bets. Let's take a look.
Golf betting strategies
Every golf event has a number of markets that are available to bet on. Each will be influenced by several factors that include weather, player form and course fit, among other things. Identifying the significance of these factors is important when deciding the best way to place your wager.
We already established our basics of how to bet on golf, now let's move on to some more intricate strategies and statistics, starting with strokes gained.
What is strokes gained?
Strokes gained is a way of analyzing how a golfer is playing relative to the rest of the field.
A player’s total SG is a combination of five categories: putting, around the green, approach, off the tee, and tee to green. When looking at strokes gained, it's always framed within a certain data set.
You can analyze strokes gained at a particular course or over a certain period of time, but it's always relative to the golfer’s competition.
Throughout this piece, we will be referencing SG stats provided by Data Golf.
Ride the hot hand
A player's swing can come and go at any given moment. Riding the hot hand is imperative in golf betting and is perhaps the most important factor when wagering on any market. A player can be a perfect fit for a course, but if they have the yips it doesn’t matter.
Let’s use Jordan Spieth as an example. The Texas native stormed onto the PGA Tour in 2013, winning 11 tournaments in four years, including four majors. He had 47 top-five finishes in 152 starts (30.92%) and then went ice cold.
Spieth only had one top-five finish in 41 starts (2.43%) during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
In 2021, Spieth found his game. He had seven top-five finishes in 28 starts and a victory at the Valero Texas Open (his first win since 2017).
Finding players who are running hot is essential to success. A one-off poor performance can be discarded, but check on how a player has performed over their last 10 events or so.
Each-way (E/W) betting is a way to pick a player to win outright, while also getting a strong return if they finish in the top five. This is a great way to uncover value when you find a golfer who's on a hot streak.
An each-way ticket would look like this:
Jordan Spieth E/W 1/4 5 places +2,000.
Those odds tell us that Spieth is +2,000, meaning a $100 outright bet would net $2,000 profit if he won. He only won once in 2021 while recording seven top-five finishes. That's why each way has you covered. A $100 E/W stake is essentially two $50 bets — one at +2,000 and one at +500 (1/4 of +2,000).
If Spieth won the event, both portions of the E/W bet would cash, netting you $1,250 profit ($1,000 from the outright bet at +2,000 and $250 from the top-five finish at +500). If he came third, you would only win the top-five portion of the bet ($50 at +500 for $250 profit).
The same concept applies to top finishes. Top 20 is a common betting market that often provides odds with a reasonable ROI even for top-end talent. Sticking with Spieth, he finished in the top 20, from 2017-19, 73.9% of the time. That number dropped to just 26% from 2019-20.
Who's hot and cold is constantly evolving, so keep an eye on all players to find undervalued golfers who can provide a great return on an E/W or top-20 bet.
There are opportunities to find under-the-radar players sitting around +7,500 odds. For players with longer odds, you don't necessarily have to bet on an E/W finish. Top 10 and top-20 finishes would still provide great ROIs and are a safer alternative.
One of the most beautiful things about golf is that every course is different. Each venue presents its own quirks and challenges — it’s the job of the golfer to figure out how to analyze and dissect these nuances. It’s the job of the bettor to find who does that best.
When looking to bet on golf outrights, top finishes, matchups and so on, it's imperative to pick a golfer that performs well at the course. Tiger Woods won eight times each at Firestone, Torrey Pines and Bay Hill.
Data golf has a comprehensive course history tool that indicates a player's SG at any given course and the number of rounds they played.
For example, at Bay Hill, Tiger played 40 rounds with an SG of +2.72, meaning every round he was gaining an average of 2.72 strokes on the field.
Another example is Jon Rahm at Torrey Pines, where he boasts an average +2.46 SG in 22 rounds played. He has finished top 10 in his last five starts with one win (2021 U.S. Open).
Knowing Rahm’s course history, he would be a solid choice whenever an event is held there.
Golf betting strategies: Course fit
Course history is important, but sometimes there isn’t a sufficient data set to back up your prediction. Maybe a player you’re keen on betting is a rookie. The course could be a new addition to the tour or perhaps it’s an uncommon major venue.
Search up the course and see how it’s composed. What’s the yardage? How many par-5s are there? Can you drive without care or are there a lot of hazards? These are all important questions to ask. Familiarize yourself with the course and try to pick players you envision succeeding there.
If the course is 7,900 yards long with little danger, someone like Bryson DeChambeau could be a good choice. If the course requires precision accuracy from tee to green, on the other hand, then a pure ball-striker like Collin Morikawa may be a solid decision.
You can use course stats to weed out players as well. Joel Dahmen was 173rd in par-5 scoring in 2021 — if the course has an abundance of par 5s, try and avoid players like him.
Weather and live betting
Golf conditions get crazy sometimes, which allows bettors to capitalize on an opportunity.
Let's say the course is wet following a rain delay. Drives don't go as far, approach shots stay closer to where they land, and it's far easier to putt. These kinds of conditions would favour ball strikers who are extremely accurate.
Look at Hideki Matsuyama's 2021 Masters win — specifically, his moving day performance.
After a 77-minute weather delay, Matsuyama was two strokes off the lead through 10 holes while being -1 on the day. The course was soaked and he was one of the last groups out there.
Over the past two years, Matsuyama has the eighth-best SG approach (+0.80) while being 139th in SG putting (-0.33). These conditions favoured his game. He went -6 through the final eight holes and ended the day with a four-shot lead, going on to win the tournament.
When inclement weather disrupts a tournament, try to analyze who this would benefit and see if there is any value on outright winners or end-of-round leaders.
Golf betting strategies: Majors
The PGA season revolves around four main events: The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Open Championship. This is also where fans will find the most betting action.
Some players rise to the occasion, while others collapse. Someone who succeeds at regular tour events could develop struggles at majors.
Justin Thomas has picked up nine tour wins since winning the 2017 PGA Championship, but his major record has been less than stellar. He has three top 10s, one top-five finish and three missed cuts. In 2021, his best finish was T-19 at the U.S. Open.
While he may be considered a favourite to win at a major, there isn't much value due to his recent form at the big events.
Brooks Koepka, on the other hand, is notorious for showing up at majors. He has won four times since 2017 while finishing top five in 53% of those tournaments.
Louis Oosthuizen has four top-five finishes in his last seven major starts (3rd, T2, 2nd, T3). He hasn't missed a cut since the 2017 Open Championship.
Finding players like Koepka and Oosthuizen, who provide consistent results, is a key golf betting strategy when wagering on majors.