Betting on Golf Pays Big

The PGA Tour has embraced sports betting from the beginning of the pandemic, when it aggressively pursued marketing the game. Golf superstar Bryson DeChambeau (l.) has signed a promotional deal with DraftKings. The percentage increase in golf bets year over year has borne out the success of this approach. Look for golf to go big on in-play and prop bets.

After a delay from spring to fall, the Masters Tournament teed off November 12 at Augusta National Golf Club. No fans attended the contest, but what were in attendance were signs of golf’s love affair with sports betting.

One of the favorites to win the green jacked, Bryson DeChambeau, expected to don a golf cap featuring the logo of sportsbook DraftKings. Unfortuntately, DeChambeau imploded in round one and never contended but the co-favorite, Dustin Johnson, pulled away over the weekend and waltzed to a five shot victory.

Betting on golf has spiked in recent months, with DraftKings enjoying a tenfold increase in action compared to last year, according to the Washington Post.

“We saw an explosion of interest in getting content and betting on golf because it was all there was” two months after the March shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, said Patrick Keane, chief executive at Action Network, a media company devoted to sports gaming. “There was only so much Taiwanese baseball and Russian ping-pong that people could follow.”

Credit the PGA Tour itself with the explosion with an aggressive approach to marketing itself to bettors for a game friendly to wagers for years.

“The idea of competing in this manner, it is inherent in the game,” said Norb Gambuzza, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of media and gaming. “It’s not something that we hide from or are reluctant to talk about.”

In a six week time frame that followed the cessation of all sports in March, officials rewrote policy that led to deals with four gambling operators. Players still can’t bet on golf, but they can partner with sportsbooks and networks can talk odds during broadcasts.

“And we did that all very deliberately because of that kind of lack of supply,” Gambuzza said.

Several sportsbooks saw golf betting double and triple from a year ago, making it the largest year over year gain in sport, even though wagers lag behind football, baseball and basketball. The average number of monthly users seeking golf content at Action Network rose almost 300 percent.

“People get confused by the vernacular with respect to betting—what’s plus-120, what’s minus-130, a parlay?—so many different confusing terms,” Keane said. “With golf, it’s easy. You bet a winner, top five, top 20, a head-to-head matchup.”

However, look for complications as the game incorporates in-play betting.

Streaming video and real-time shot-tracker data make it simple to bet on almost every aspect, right down to individual holes and shots, including prop bets such as who will hit the longest drive or get closest to the pin on a par-3. At last week’s Masters, bettors who believed that Tiger Woods would play a bogie-free first round (he did) were awarded with an 8-1 payout.

“When it comes to sports wagering, there probably isn’t a better sport because of pace of play for live betting,” said Ezra Kucharz, chief business officer for DraftKings.

Nothing is bulletproof, Gambuzza said. “There is inherent risk in running a sporting event across 18 holes where you have 100 to 150 guys competing. And so for anybody to sit here in my position and say that, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a foolproof system,’ would be grossly exaggerating at best.”