How to bet on... GolfDon’t rely purely on your hunches when betting on golf, when there’s so much more you can do to make informed decisions. Russ Wiseman explains
Golf is heavily affected by developments in science. Shots have been lost over the years thanks to improvements in technology which have led to lighter and larger driver heads and better ball construction and dimple patterns. Science has had an equally large impact on golf betting. Statistics on every factor governing a player’s performance are readily available meaning odds are extremely uniformed and compilers will take into account everything from form and course to the current mental state of a player.
The only way of gaining an edge is to employ the same scientific approach as the traders, whilst making use of the variety of alternative golf markets available, plus relatively new developments like exchange trading and following in-running markets.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
As with all odds compilers, the golf experts live and breathe their sport. A good golf punter needs to be just as informed and luckily there are an increasing number of ways to become so. Stats on individual players are numerous and sites like PGAtour.com and Europeantour.com, which show driving distances, GIR (Green in Regulation) figures and putts per round among numerous others, along with specialist analyst sites like Bettorlogic.com, who will dissect the information and draw conclusions for you, are all great ways of finding out years of historical trends and player data and can help to eliminate the worst value bets and highlight the best.
Golf is unusual in the number of changeable factors that can affect performance over the course of a single event. Horses all run on the same going, sailors sail under similar winds. A golfer teeing off in the wind and rain at 7.18am can have their first round ruined, while newly clear skies can massively aid their competitor at the 1st at 2.30pm. It is therefore essential to know tee-off times and weather forecasts, particularly on links courses where wind speed and direction can change more frequently than on Wii Golf.
The phrase ‘horses for courses’ is particularly applicable in golf. If a player has no form at a particular course there’s usually a reason. It’s not really important whether a player doesn’t get on because of the quick greens or narrow fairways, but if you know a player’s attributes aren’t suited you will want to cross him out. Former Open winner Mike Weir is a great golfer, no question, but he’s certainly not renowned for his big hitting, ranked 172 for his average driving distance of 279.4yds, compared to a 288yd average on the PGA tour. If he’s got three 600yd par 5s to contend with he’s not likely to be hanging around on Sunday afternoon. Such was the case at the recent PGA Championship, hosted at 7,674yd Hazeltine National, the longest major course ever. The top five finishers all drive significantly further than the PGA tour average, while Weir missed the cut.
There are, of course, always exceptions. But successful betting is all about opening yourself up to the best value, which brings in another important issue to consider: The Tiger Factor. Tiger is invariably favourite, barring injury, for every tournament he enters. It’s strange to think that in such a big field any player can tee-off at odds of 2/1 or shorter, although Woods regularly does. I can’t speak accurately for other bookmakers but on Betdaq he typically accounts for around 30 percent of the market, which massively increases value about the rest of the field.
TRADITIONAL BETTING METHODS
Outright betting is the most popular way to bet on golf – which is fine – but there are a few basic rules that will help to maximise your chances of a return on your wagers. Don’t be too scared of looking down the list. Winners at odds of 80/1 are not unusual in golf, but because of the fields of 100-plus, you’re not likely to pick the right guy every time.
It all comes down to dependable research, but it pays to pick a few players who will be in with a shout on day four, according to the attributes you’ve identified, and one from each separate price bracket. For example: one of the favourites, a 25/1 shot, a 40/1 shot and a 66/1 shot. However, you should be wary of looking too far down, generally beyond the 100/1 shots as a loose guide. Professional golf is not short of journeymen - those that play well enough to remain on the tour and make enough cuts to earn a decent living despite lacking the belief or desire of a winner.
It’s also important to trust yourself and the quality of your research. It can be a good idea to pick one or two ‘season picks’ – dependable golfers who make more cuts than they miss and always give themselves the best opportunity of being there or thereabouts when the final few holes are played out. A very good golfer could win just one tournament throughout their season and you will want to make sure you’ve backed them when their time comes and not just for their top 10 finish the previous week.
The 72-hole match bet is another common market offered on golf tournaments and can prove a much easier way to a profitable punt. Effectively narrowing the field to just two, rather than backing a player to have a good tournament and beat a field of 100 competitors, you’re given the opportunity to back a player to have a good tournament and beat just one other player. Despite the much shorter odds available, a few well-researched match bets can be significantly more profitable than a few well-researched outright bets.
EXCHANGE BETS AND IN-RUNNING TRADING
It’s incredible how many regular punters are still scared by the exchanges. But they really are useful when it comes to gaining an edge in sports betting; particularly golf, not least because odds are often bigger than with traditional bookies. In short, if you’re not already au fait, learn to play the exchanges.
In-running punting is huge business now and it really comes into its own with the ability to both back and lay at any given time during the action and it provides greater potential for profit for the smart punter. Golf is well suited to in-running exchange trading because leaders and leaderboard positions can and do change frequently over 72 holes of competition and the leisurely pace of the sport gives you time enough to get on or get rid. It does beckon another few factors for consideration though, including course layout. You should be aware of where the easiest and hardest holes are on the course. Laying the favourite just as they’re teeing up a reachable par-5 is rarely a sensible move and it’s far better to wait until they’re about to play a tough stretch.
The infamous Amen Corner at Augusta National is a classic example of a section that has proved the scourge of many a Masters leader and there is a much higher propensity for bogeys than birdies on these three holes. The risk/reward nature of the 13th in particular holds many memories of titles slipping through fingers, notably Curtis Strange handing the Green Jacket to Bernhard Langer after hitting into the water.
Another reason to hold off on backing or laying before a tough or an easy stretch is that trading on exchanges causes major overreactions to birdies and bogeys leading to excessive price movements. Shrewder punters can capitalise on these by pre-empting large movements after difficult or straightforward holes, especially if they also know that pin position is particularly tricky or there are swirling winds over the green.
Again, standard sensible in-running rules should be adhered to, including sticking to a consistent staking plan and always wagering only what you can afford. It’s never a bad idea to predetermine target prices to lay at and stick to them. Each scenario may affect your price limit slightly – for instance, Tiger rarely loses when carrying a lead into the last round (2009 PGA Championship being one exception) – but the key is to decide early. It also makes it easier to swallow if you’re ever wrong.