Golf has an illustrious history, dating back to Scotland’s Kingdom of Fife in the 15th century. It has been a popular pastime ever since, gradually spreading to every continent—even Antarctica. But there can be no question that golf truly came into its own worldwide when television brought the outdoor sport indoors. It introduced audiences to players whose surnames alone will forever evoke images of long grassy fairways and manicured greens: Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, and Faldo, among others.
Now, the Internet is doing for golf betting what TV did for golf awareness. It is bringing this popular activity home, making it convenient and easy to wager on a potential winner, a final score, a player’s result on a specific hole, or even the outcome of a single putt. In fact, there are now more ways to wager on golf than virtually any other sport, and organizations put up more tournaments than any bettor could possibly follow.
Established in 1916, the Professional Golf Association (PGA) conducts four major tournaments a year, in addition to a schedule of 40 events held in the United States alone. The season’s first Major is the Masters at Augusta National held each spring; Phil Mickelson narrowly defeated England's Lee Westwood there in 2010. Then in June, the U.S. Open Championship is played at Pebble Beach, most recently won by Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland.
The scene shifts in July to St. Andrews for The Open Championship, also known as the British Open, led in 2010 by South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen. The final Major of the year is the U.S. PGA Championship in August, freshly claimed by Martin Kaymer of Germany. Meanwhile, the PGA European Tour travels all around the world hosting tournaments, too, with a season starting in January and running through November.
There are also four World Golf Championships conducted each year, including the Accenture Matchplay, the WGC-CA Championship, the Bridgestone Invitational, and the HSBC Champions, which was newly added in 2009. And then there are all of the women’s golf tournaments of the LPGA, the events of the Asian Tour, South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, and the PGA Tour of Australasia. And don’t forget the Ryder Cup, matching a U.S. team against the best of Europe. Clearly, there are opportunities to wager and win on golf every weekend throughout the year.
By far the most prevalent form of golf betting is Ante Post Wagering, taking a stake in the outright winner of a tournament as much as months in advance of the biggest golf events. High odds are the main attraction, but they tend to contract as the first day of play draws near. To those confident of making an accurate prediction, the earlier the bet is placed the greater the potential winnings. Ante post bets may also be placed on Top European in a tournament or who will fail to make the cut.
Another popular form of golf betting is “player match betting.” Bookmakers pair up two players in a hypothetical 72-hole contest and offer the opportunity to wager on which one will fare better. Odds on a draw are also available, and this form of betting is sometimes offered on “tournament groups,” matching up groups of players in a virtual “sub-tournament.” Some care is needed in selection, however, as not every player makes the cut and winnings are only awarded for those who complete all 72 holes.
Unique to golf is a wager known as “ball betting.” Tournaments typically last four days with an 18-hole round played each day. In “three ball betting” on the first or second day, three golfers are grouped together for a round and bets are placed on which member of the trio will turn in the lowest score that day. Similarly “two ball betting” on the last two days of the tournament pairs up golfers to see who will card the best round.
An additional form of golf betting is in-running or live betting, which allows wagers on just about every aspect of the game, from whether or not a given putt will be made to how far from the pin a drive will land on a par-3 hole. Major sportsbooks and betting exchanges accommodate almost all of there golf betting variations, and many offer “free bets” of £10~£50 or more to get new bettors to sign up.