Live Golf Betting Guide: Dos and Don’ts Of Wagering On The Course

Written By Danny Lawhon on July 4, 2021

One of the reasons working at PlayMichigan has been so great is that I can drum up an idea like “hey, wouldn’t it be neat to test out odds for a live golf betting guide on the course at a PGA Tour event” and no one bats an eye.

That was it. No real preamble — just a man, his phone and one serious thought experiment.

So I made the trip to Detroit Golf Club for the first round of the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic with the full intention of betting my guts out and only half a plan of how to bolster my bankroll.

I know golf. I’ve done decently betting golf from my couch. Let the spirit guide me, and let’s have some fun.

I had loads of fun Thursday. A blast, in fact. It was so much fun that I’ll never jump in with both feet again. Here’s why, and what you can learn from me.

Live Golf Betting Guide: Plenty Of Options

If you follow the live golf betting scene, or even just bet on golf in general, you’ve probably got a lay of the land.

Futures markets before an event or as a round unfolds. Head-to-head full-round matchups. Groupings of up to a half-dozen golfers where you can pick the winner for the day. Hole-by-hole challenges. The list goes on.

The landscape isn’t quite “dream it, do it,” but it’s darn close in a guide to live golf betting. For this day, I wanted to make my decisions once I was on the grounds and make bets with my eyes as best I could.

Lay Of The Land

By the time I parked at the public mass gathering site at Wayne State University and took the 15-minute shuttle to the course, it was 8:30 a.m. and the first wave of featured groups had already played four holes.

The threesome of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama (who would later withdraw because of a positive COVID-19 test) teed off at 7:55 local time.

While camping out at the 14th green awaiting the group, I placed my first bet of the day through my original DraftKings Sportsbook account from another state. My balance transferred between jurisdictions without any hiccups. I put $10 behind Jason Kokrak to beet Patrick Reed head-to-head at +125 odds.

You’ll start to notice a running theme for the most part. With live golf matchups involving Tour pros, you’re running at a roll of the dice in many situations. So finding the proper value for head-to-head bets is often where I place most of my money.

Registering For Michigan Sportsbooks Still Slick

At around 9 a.m. I started to browse a couple more app choices while I waited. BetMGM Sportsbook’s information wouldn’t transfer from my home base of Iowa, so I re-registered in Michigan as well. The process was simple enough to do on the course in about 5 minutes, and all through cellular data. The turnaround time for the No. 3 Michigan sportsbook in terms of handle was impressive.

The list of markets for this local event, however, were less eye-opening. All the same, I took $10 flyers on either tournament favorite Bryson DeChambeau or former Masters champion Reed to have a bogey-free round at +600 odds. (Both of these were losers before the back nine began.)

At 9:10, the Mickelson-Fowler-Matsuyama group neared the 14th hole, and I was starting the browsing over on PointsBet Sportsbook. Both Phil and Hideki had individual performance props available for each of their remaining holes. However, the markets were being closed down at least a hole ahead of where the group was actually located in the round.

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So the hole-by-hole markets are closing early … no live advantage to be had by cashing in, in other words.

I had this concept confirmed while pulling up a live DraftKings market for the 16th hole in this group. By the time they were on the par-3 15th green, I watched the live market go blank. The sportsbooks are taking no chances.

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FanDuel Sportsbook’s Technology Mixed

The last sort of feeling out on the course involved visiting FanDuel Sportsbook’s snazzy setup hear the 15th hole. The leading sportsbook in Michigan was running group-by-group markets for closest-to-the-pin contests on the short hole. They were being opened and closed by an associate on-site, so there was no way around taking advantage of boots-on-the-ground information here, either.

Despite the glitzy hype, however, the individualized markets were not showing up for iPhone users, despite me alerting FanDuel employees to the tech issue and me checking several times throughout the day. Their loss, in that respect.

However, FanDuel markets for the 15th hole did provide my biggest win of the day. I watched the group of Jason Day, Nick Taylor and Jason Dufner come through, and I placed a $5 bet on each’s score. I had Day to par at -260 (he birdied), Taylor to par at -210 (he did so) and took a +1000 shot on Dufner to score bogey or worse.

The former PGA Championship winner “came through” for me with a 3-putt from 25 feet, giving me a $50 score that bolstered the rest of my day.

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Weathering The Rocket Mortgage Classic Storm

From there, weather started to play cat-and-mouse with spectators and tournament staff. A 10-minute downpour at 12:15 p.m. rendered a sopping course unplayable for a couple of hours as the grounds crew tried to Squeegee the fairways dry. Then, just as the players were about to remain in position, another strong cell appeared headed to the course.

Even though it dissipated before dropping more than a few sprinkles, that storm set play back another hour, and my constant refreshing of the weather radar rendered my phone battery almost on life support. I had to sprint to the centrally located fan zone to find the one working charging station that could get my phone prepared for the resumption of play — and betting.

So let that be a word to the wise: My 2.5-year-old device was just about zapped after 3 hours of betting and weather-checking. Come prepared, or at least be prepared to scramble.

Finding A Golf Betting Groove

Play resumed at 3:30, in time for the afternoon feature groups of Webb Simpson, Reed and Kokrak, and then Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Champ and Kramer Hickok, to make their way around the course.

At this point in the afternoon, I decided I would center most of my remaining bets on these two feature groups. DraftKings was updating their markets speedily and I had good fortune accessing their app, so I stuck with that property as I plopped down on the fifth hole.

I watched 2-3 groups play the uphill par-3 to do my “research” on what kind of score variances we were seeing. I felt comfortable enough to try Simpson at +280 over Reed and Hickok at +300 over DeChambeau on the hole at $5 apiece. If even one of those bets cashed, I would come out with a modest profit.

Simpson sputtered to a bogey after missing the green right, but Hickok drained an 18-foot birdie putt to net me a $15 profit.

I repeated the exercise on two more holes to mixed success. On the par-5 seventh, I chose DeChambeau to beat Hickok because of the former’s prodigious distance off the tee. He birdied the hole, but so did Hickok with another sidewinding birdie putt conversion.

Then on the difficult par-3 ninth, I played both groupings to tie the hole at -105 odds. Simpson and Reed both made pars, but DeChambeau missed an uphill par putt to lose the hole to Hickok. I essentially came away from that experiment losing the juice.

Live Golf Betting Guide: Some Basic Tips

Here are some small takeaways from my day, in which I bet a total of $80 and won $121.73 for a profit of nearly $42.

  • Know your players’ tendencies. I felt comfortable betting against DeChambeau on a par-3 knowing that his wedge game isn’t as strong as when he’s playing the driver. I also liked Matsuyama’s +210 odds on a par-5 against Fowler, whose game has been cold for much of the past 18 months.
  • Watch other groups play the hole you are eventually betting. At the very least, you’ll get a decent idea of how difficult it might be to par or birdie the hole when betting individually, or understanding how likely someone in a group is to post a better (or worse) score than another player. That mental calculus can aid in weighing whether head-to-head hole values are really as profitable as they might seem on the surface.
  • Find underdog bets you’re comfortable with. Golf is more of a crapshoot, especially head-to-head, than individual matchups may let on. You can find value in some of these individual matchups if you’re willing to take a little risk. …
  • … But always stay within your means. I didn’t call these crapshoots for nothing. I figured I would get a bit lucky here and there, but if not for the Dufner 10-to-1 long shot, I would have come out breaking roughly even on the overall bets, and actually losing a little money after the juice. Sports betting is never simple, and you shouldn’t put high percentages of your bankroll on these matchups.

Bet To Your Comfort Level

I love this game, and I also really enjoy live golf betting, so making a little guide was an easy labor of that love. But if I have to be truthful, the betting aspect is better served for me sitting from my couch while at the course.

This experience was a fun diversion, and a worthy experiment, but I can’t imagine throwing more than a handful of small bets out at an event if I were to repeat the experience.

I’d never begrudge anyone putting some skin in the game. I’d just want to make sure I’m looking out at nature, and at world-class players displaying their craft, instead of being glued to my mobile device for yet another day.

Photo by Carlos Osorio/AP
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Written by
Danny Lawhon

Danny has more than a decade of reporting experience in three states, including nearly 10 years with the Des Moines Register. He's covered college and professional sports, the NCAA Tournament and the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tours. Danny is a professional musician in his spare time and plays the piano and pipe organ (seriously). He now covers the online gambling industry in Michigan.

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