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Post Series: Betting on Golf

Anyone can win money from a single bet on golf. Whether it’s picking the winner of event through your knowledge of the sport or pot luck, there’s no doubt that it is possible to land a winner without any real strategy. Unfortunately, profiting over a sustained period requires more than luck and gut instincts; nailing the pre-tournament research will work the odds in your favour.

After all, a lot of golf is played over the course of the year. Without a strategy, you are essentially handing the advantage back to the bookies before you’ve even placed a wager. Here’s how to prevent it.

What Is Value?

Any successful punter will confirm that there are several elements to master in your pursuit of profit. These factors range from establishing a strong staking plan to avoid bad habits while betting on your chosen sport. With regards to actually picking the right selections, however, the word ‘value’ is one that deserves your undivided attention.

As an inexperienced punter, you may think that the difference between a good bet and a bad bet is determined exclusively by whether the selection wins or loses. This is especially true when looking at golf markets where the odds mean that the returns on any winner are likely to raise a smile. Again, this might work out fine for infrequent bettors. If you’re planning to see healthy returns from golf betting over the long haul, though, you need to find the value.

Value is ultimately determined by weighing up the likelihood of an outcome happening against the odds being offered by the bookmaker. Essentially, if you continue to back selections where the odds are too big for the probability of the event occurring, you should see profits over the long run. Conversely, placing bets where the odds are too low will lead to losses, even if your win ratios are a little higher.

The following hypothetical examples, which are simplified and exaggerated for easier understanding, should provide clarity:

Rory McIlroy is priced 6/1 to win each of 20 tournaments, and wins 3.
Justin Rose is priced 25/1 to win each of 20 tournaments, and wins 1.

Placing a £10 bet on McIlroy would mean 3 wins at 6/1 (3x£70 including stake) and 17 losses. This would give you a return of £210 from £200 worth of bets for £10 (5% ROI) profit.

Placing £10 on Rose would mean 1 win at 25/1 (£260 including stake) and 19 losses. This would give you a return of £260 fro £200 worth of stakes for £60 (30% ROI) profit.

So, even though McIlroy had the better chance of winning (3 in 20 or 15%) compared to Rose’s 1 in 20 (5%), the value in this situation would be to back Rose.

While the example is exaggerated, it shows just how crucial it is to find the value. Over the course of an entire golf season, this reduces the need for luck – although it’s always welcome – and transform your betting strategy into a science.

When you put the simple maths behind your bets, you can also build a staking strategy to aid your cause further. Just remember to avoid chasing loses and falling into other poor habits.

How To Gain Even Better Value Than Normal

Now that you understanding and appreciate the importance of value, finding ways to increase it before you’ve even made your selection should be top of the agenda. Here are three simple ways to do just that.

  1. Always check the odds at different bookmakers. The odds will fluctuate from one firm to another and the extra 2 points of profit gained from backing a 14/1 shot that was 12/1 elsewhere should not be ignored.
  2. Know the rules regarding each-way settlements. Taking a 25/1 shot with 1/3 each-way terms may make more sense than a 28/1 with 1/5 each-way terms.
  3. Look for special promotions, such as paying out on extended places. Even if it extends a five-place payout to a six-place payout, you’ve statistically increased your chances of winning by 20%.

These simple steps may seem like minor adjustments, but if they can improve your annual winnings by even 5% it surely has to be worth putting in the extra effort.

So, How Can You Find That Value?

By now, you should understand why it’s important to seek the value. However, actively spotting it is another challenge altogether. It is ultimately a subjective matter as one person may think Jordan Spieth has a 10% chance of winning an event while another may think he has a 15% chance.
Despite the fact that gut instincts will play a role, research will help you make more calculated decisions tie and time again.

Here are six areas where your analysis can actively boost the success of your selections.

#1. Know Player Form

As is the case with most individual sports, players go through bouts of good form and bad form. While that shouldn’t mean that the winner of a major should be the favourite for the next (look at how rare it is to win two on the bounce for confirmation), a player that has performed well throughout the season should continue that form. Conversely, injured players need time to rediscover their form.

#2. Check Course History

Most of the elite courses are used each year, or at least on a semi-frequent basis. As such, a little research can quickly show whether a player has a fondness of a particular course. Different courses require varying skills, such as accurate tee-play, and you may find that some players prefer course types rather than just a specific venue. Do not underestimate how this can impact their performance.

#3. Check The Conditions

Golf is a sport that has arguably more variables than any other, and the weather is one that can completely alter the day’s play. Some players, especially experienced ones, are better suited to testing conditions than others. Conversely, good weather conditions may level certain areas of the field, although it is one less obstacle for the elite players to fear.

#4. Accept Regressions To The Mean

Whether you like it or not, luck can play a role in a player’s daily score. Over the course of four days, though, they should regress to the mean. So a player that performed well and had luck on day one can expect to play well on days 2, 3, and 4. However, the good routine is unlikely to continue, which could see their scores get slightly worse.

#5. Putting Percentages

The internet provides instant access to a plethora of data and metrics, which can be found at websites like GolfStats.com and Fox Sports Golf. Depending on the course, you may wish to analyse various aspects of play. Nonetheless, putting will be crucial for any golf tournament. Check the GIR stat rather than the putts per round stat, though, as the ability to hit a ‘green in regulation’ will naturally influence the putting play, particularly regarding distances.

#6. Know Player Situations

Checking the golf news sites for injuries etc. is a great starting point. However, you may want to think about other issues such as becoming a parent or having a change of relationship status. Moreover, if a player narrowly missed out on a trophy (on a playoff or at the 18th) you may want to check the archives to see if there is any evidence of how they are likely to respond.

All of these factors can help you calculate the probability of whether a player will perform good or bad at any given event. While there will always be shocks along the way, those more accurate predictions should serve you well.

And it never hurts to read the opinions of the experts either.

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