Golf is one of the oldest games in the world and is played and wagered on by millions worldwide. Though the golf betting options are fewer than in many sports, if you follow the pro game, there are profitable strategies.
Some versions of the game of golf date back centuries. First-century Romans, 13th-century Persians and 14th-century Chinese all played a game where players hit a ball off of the ground toward a target with variously shaped sticks. But the "modern" game we know originated in the 1400s in Scotland. The Old Course at St. Andrews, a Scottish links course dating to before 1574, is considered the home of golf. In 1764, the standard 18-hole golf course was created at St. Andrews. Betting on golf has been popular for both players and observers, particularly when the first competitive players emerged. While professional golfers toured around for years, the establishment of the Professional Golf Association (PGA) in 1916 laid the groundwork for an official pro tour. However, it wasn't until the 1930s that a "playing pros" organization formed and began keeping money winnings records. That eventually led to the PGA Tour we know today.
The rules of golf are simple in some ways and complex in others. The simplicity is in the goal of continually hitting a ball off the ground and toward a hole until it goes in. The complexity is in that journey. From the size, shape and number of clubs, to the type of ball, to what constitutes a penalty, the "Rules of Golf" book is chock full of intricate regulations. Here are some rules we see applied on the PGA Tour:
OUT OF BOUNDS - Normally a player receives a one-stroke penalty for hitting the ball out of bounds, even if he can play it. Because of crowds, many PGA Tour courses are not always marked with out-of-bounds stakes, so players sometimes even hit the ball onto an adjacent fairway and play it penalty free. This happens often on links courses of the British Open.
WATER HAZARD - When a player who hits a ball into a water hazard, he receives a one-stroke penalty and the choice of dropping near the original place of his shot or the bank near where the ball entered. Jordan Spieth ran into this in the Masters. If the ball is in shallow water, a player may choose to play it without penalty.
GROUNDING A CLUB - A player in a sand trap may not place a club down near the ball before hitting it, because it may change the lie. Dustin Johnson was penalized for this when he mistook a sand trap for sandy terrain in the PGA Championship.
MOVING THE BALL - If a player's club even accidentally touches the ball and it moves, it counts as a stroke. Johnson lost a stroke in the U.S. Open over this.
There are basically two types of bets to make on a golf tournament:
FUTURES - Before a tournament begins there is the option of picking a player to win it. The favorite usually goes up at a money line of around +600. In straight odds, that translates to 6-1, or $6 in winnings for every $1 you bet. Since some players on the odds list go as high as +5000, hitting a longshot can be quite lucrative. For the bigger tournaments, the option of picking a golfer to finish in the top 5 or top 10 is also offered.
HEAD TO HEAD - The oddsmakers often offer head-to-head matchups between players on how they finish. They'll also be accompanied by money lines. For instance, Player A -120 vs. Player B +110.
Here are some tips for betting on golf:
SPREAD YOUR MONEY - Since there are so many good players in a tournament, it's best not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Find three or four players you think will perform well and play them.
MANAGE YOUR MONEY - Set aside an affordable amount of money to bet on golf, and play a percentage of that amount each week. This way, you won't be knocked out of the game early.
FIND VALUE - There's usually a bargain somewhere in each tournament. Study the players, the event and the course before each tournament. Figure your version of the player's worth in the event and compare it to the odds on the board. The difference reveals the value. Then check your top players for matchups, and seek out the winners and their worth in the money line.
Here are some factors to consider when searching for value.
RECENT FORM - How a player has performed in recent tournaments is important. Check his last three or four.
HISTORY AT COURSE/EVENT - Some players like certain golf courses, and some play better in certain events. Check the history of a player at the event and the course.
STATISTICS - There are stats on driving accuracy and distance, greens in regulation and putting average. Also check the stat on scrambling, which is the percentage of times a player gets up-and-down when they've missed the green.
A player's ranking and injury tendencies are other factors to consider. Also, check the weather report. Weather conditions may determine how players perform in wind, rain, or after suspended play.
Here are some commonly used terms in golf:
Par - The score an accomplished player is expected to make on a hole, either a three, four or five. Most 18 hole courses are par 70 to 73
Birdie - One shot below par on a hole.
Bogey - One shot above par on a hole. A double bogey is two above par.
Eagle - Two shots below par on a hole, it usually is scored on a par 5 hole. More rare is a double-eagle, which is possible for particularly long hitter.
Approach - The long shot (30 yards or more) toward the green.
Chip - A short shot from just off the green.
Pitch - A longer shot from near the green.
Break - The amount a putt will curve to the side because of the slope of the green.
Bunker/Sand Trap - A manmade hazard that is a hollow with soft sand.
Draw - A shot that flies slightly from right to left, or into the player's stance.
Hook - Usually a mistaken shot, it flies heavily from right to left.
Fade - A shot that flies slightly from left to right, or away from the player's stance.
Slice - A mistaken shot that flies heavily left to right.
Fat Shot – A shot when the clubhead strikes the turf behind the ball, resulting in poor contact.
Lie - Where the ball has come to rest.
Away - The ball that lies farthest from the hole.