Golf Betting Strategies

With professional golf tournaments typically running for four days and with fields in excess of a hundred runners, bettors are presented with different challenges & opportunities to most other sports.

In this article, I describe some of the betting strategies that can be readily applied to golf betting on Betfair.

First up, intelligent bettors must be honest with themselves. Do you really have an opinion on the golf event? By this I mean can you form your own view of price (probability) for the main contenders?

Most bettors can’t, and this is true across all sports not just golf. Don’t worry if you can’t price up a full-field professional event, it doesn’t mean that you can’t win. Rather it means you need to apply strategies that don’t depend solely on the identification of value, for example by taking on the role of bookmaker (discussed below).


Back One Guy and Hope

The traditional approach to betting that is prominent at racetracks and clubs throughout the country

Identifying one possible winner and following him for (hopefully) the four days of the tournament is a tough way to grind out a profit betting golf. The shortest price full-field golfer I can remember pre-event is Tiger Woods in his heyday in Dubai, where he went off at $2 on Betfair [1]. In most tournaments today, the favourite is nearer $11 than $2. Sure, you are getting a larger price when compared to other sports, but the losing runs will likely be long and painful. Even if you only bet golf for an interest during the majors, it is still hard recommend this approach. To enjoy the tournament and remain in the game long enough to hit an occasional winner(s), you really should pick a stable of players…


Back a Stable of Players

Referred to as ‘dutching’, selecting a stable of players is all about spreading your stake across multiple runners

Arguably it’s a sensible approach to betting any large field market, and in golf, if you purely want to back and cheer your selection on, it is a strategy you should consider. How you go about selecting your stable depends greatly on whether or not you have an opinion on price (see above). If you can form an opinion and price up the field, which I discuss in article 3, you should be pooling together the players you believe the market has underestimated.

If you don’t have your own opinion of price, and the vast majority of those you are betting against on the exchange don’t either, you can still pull together an intelligent stable of choices. Plus, you don’t have to spend hours researching the course set-up, the players, their travel schedules etc. Whilst the market does not know everything, it is fair and reasonable to assume that readily available data such as course setup and whether it ‘should suit long-hitters’ is factored into a player’s price come Thursday. As an aside, I can’t once remember hearing a pundit state that ‘this course will suit the short-hitters’. Most ‘experts’ have little more genuine insight than you can readily derive yourself from publicly available information. You will learn far more about golf betting (and betting in general) picking your own bets than blindly following tipsters.


By applying prudent and well-documented portfolio management techniques, it is possible to pull together a stable of golfers that will give you a good chance of being in contention on Sunday. Whilst not exhaustive, here are some ideas to help you spread risk when selecting your stable of players:

  1. Think of players as a percentage chance of winning – a $5 shot is 20% and a $101 is 1%. You might be better placed having 20 * $101 runners in your stable rather than a solitary $5 favourite
  2. Mix up stats based selections – if you do pick players based on their stats, such as ‘driving distance’, don’t pick them all on the same metric. It’s quite possible that metric isn’t the right one this week.  So, throw in some ‘good putter’, ‘good scrambler’, ‘good fairways in regulation’ types too
  3. Consider overseas and unfashionable players – Asians, Aussies and up and coming Europeans are often hugely undervalued on the PGA Tour, keep a couple on side at tasty prices
  4. Pick players in different halves of the draw – have some morning tee times and some afternoon times, in case the course plays significantly differently at times over the first two days
  5. Check the weather forecast – if there are clearly favourable conditions forecast at certain times on Thursday or Friday, consider overweighting that part of the draw
  6. Spread bets across markets – use the derivative markets (discussed in article four) as well as the win market. Hedge your main selection to miss the cut, back your wild cards to make a top ten, or top Asian perhaps…

Be the Bookie (Price up the Entire Field)

You don’t have to form your own unique opinion of price to run an exchange book on golf. Any advantage that handicappers, experts, insiders etc. claim to have is suitably negated by the field size and event duration.

Unlike racing where a horse may get backed in from, say $10 to $5 right at the off and leave you exposed, the same is not true in golf where pre-event moves are limited. Even if you get stuck heavily against one or two golfers, you have four whole days to adjust your position [2]. And then, should you not get out of your position, you have 150 odd of the world’s best golfers on your side.  Running a book on golf is not at all like running a book on racing.

So how do you run a book without your own opinion on price? The answer is to take market opinion, whether that’s bookmakers’, Betfair or a combination of both, and apply a margin/over-round to it.  With so many runners it is possible to run an over-round of circa 140% and still get matched on some players. How to calculate the odds at a given over-round is discussed in article 3.



Trade – Buy and Sell Players Throughout the Event

The advantage of trading golf over other sports is the duration and sedate pace. This allows more time for considered trades and reduces the edge of the ‘fast fingers’ traders that can dominate other sports.

On the downside is the relative lack of liquidity (outside of the majors) and the fact that it can be very time-consuming.

If trading in-play (through legal channels) you need to consider the timeliness of video and data. Years ago, it was believed that Canadian’s had a clear vision advantage over European traders for PGA Tour pictures, I’m unsure as to where that leaves us in Australia but it’s unlikely we have the fastest pictures.

The tools of the trade remain the same, see https://apps.betfair.com/, but you also need to consider the field size which results in many runners not being visible on-screen at one time.  Liquidity in the derivative markets is unlikely to support trading even during the majors, so your focus is likely to be the win market only.


The Cut

Finally, The Cut deserves a special mention. Whilst not a strategy in itself, The Cut is quite unique in that roughly half of the field is removed at half-time. It is possible to focus any of the above strategies around the cut, either before or after it, and to be profitable. If you only have the weekend available to focus on golf, The Cut also comes at a good time for us (Saturday morning) on both tours.


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