Golf betting, once the purview of Vegas or managed as a private affair among golfers on the links, has come to the USA in a big way thanks to a favorable Supreme Court ruling sent down in May 2018.
As a result of that decision, PGA betting is officially legal and underway in multiple states with more states slated to join the party over coming months and years. The PGA Tour has stated it supports a regulated sports betting environment and has in fact lobbied for specific regulations to be added to legislation.
Best PGA Betting Sites
In some states, online golf betting is underway as well. New Jersey was the first state to legalize and implement online golf betting, with Pennsylvania and West Virginia in close pursuit.
Additional states have since moved to legalize online betting, but a widespread rollout of legal online betting will likely take place over a course of years as sports betting legislation is decided at the state level.
The PGA Tour stands unique among major sports leagues in that it never formally opposed sports betting legislation. While the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA all joined forces to sue the state of New Jersey over its plans to legalize sports betting, the PGA Tour remained on the sidelines and apparently content to simply observe the proceedings.
States with Legal Golf Betting
In May of 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the federal sports betting prohibition unconstitutional. This ruling did not immediately make sports betting legal in the USA, but rather it gave individual states the authority to legalize and regulate sports betting as they see fit.
In other words, in-person and online sports betting is being rolled out one state at a time. Some states may choose to never legalize sports betting, but most are expected to pass laws regulating the activity sooner or later.
The following map shows where you can legally bet on the PGA online and in-person today. Blue states show where online, mobile and in-person sports betting is legal. Green states show where in-person betting only is legal. If you see any orange states on the map, that means some laws have been passed, but additional action is needed before sportsbooks are given the green light to begin accepting wagers.
States with legal sports betting
How Legal Sports Betting Impacts the PGA
The legalization of sports betting has major economic implications for the PGA Tour in two key regards.
First, survey after survey has found that people who bet on sports tend to spend significantly more time consuming sports media. This means people who bet on golf are more likely to tune in to PGA Tour broadcasts, check the PGA website for results and interact with PGA social media accounts.
This increased engagement results in an indirect benefit to the PGA Tour as more viewers results in better advertising contracts for the PGA. If people are tuning in, the PGA Tour can demand bigger broadcasting and advertising fees.
Although illegal sports betting has been widespread for decades, that is already baked into current viewership numbers. Legal sports betting stands to provide a new bump in fan engagement as the betting industry shakes off its shadowy reputation to become much more accessible and acceptable to casual fans.
Second, the PGA Tour stands to benefit from direct investments from the gaming industry. This includes sports betting companies paying money straight to the PGA Tour for sponsorships and advertising as well as for data rights.
When it comes to data in particular, the nation’s major sports leagues are well-positioned to sell the data generated by their competitions to sports betting operators. For instance, consider the PGA Tour’s ShotLink Intelligence technology.
Using an array of high resolution cameras and lasers, ShotLink Intelligence collects tens of thousands of data points for every PGA Tour event relating to driving distance, shot speed, spin, hang time and much more.
While this information was at first used as a means to provide color commentary, assist course designers and so on, it provides new opportunities for the PGA in the age of legal betting. In late 2018, the PGA Tour reached a multi-year agreement with sports betting services provider IMG Arena to share official PGA Tour data and video with sports betting operators around the world.
Now that sports betting is legal in the United States, the PGA Tour has a whole new market for its unique data. Other leagues have already started down this path as they form their own partnerships with major gaming companies. Look for the PGA Tour to reach similar deals in the near future.
PGA Position on Sports Wagering
Unlike the other major US sports leagues, the PGA Tour did not strongly oppose sports betting prior to the Supreme Court ruling PASPA unconstitutional. Even as the NFL and other leagues filed lawsuits to stop New Jersey from implementing sports betting, the PGA Tour had little to say on the matter.
Going back as far as January 2017, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan indicated he would keep an “open mind” regarding the issue. The PGA Tour opted not to issue a formal statement at the time, but Monahan did note that legal sports betting could potentially unlock “a lot of opportunity” for pro golf.
The league further clarified its stance once it became clear the Supreme Court seemed to be siding in favor of New Jersey and legal sports betting. Roughly a month prior to the ruling, Commissioner Monahan spoke with USA Today in a wide-ranging interview and revealed that the PGA Tour had already been studying the issue of sports betting for “several years” at that point.
After the ruling that May, the PGA Tour finally issued a formal statement on sports betting:
“Following the Supreme Court’s ruling today, the PGA Tour reiterates its support of the regulation of sports betting in a safe and responsible manner. We believe that regulation is the most effective way of ensuring integrity in competition, protecting consumers, engaging fans and generating revenue for government, operators and league.”
PGA Tour Also Supports Federal Regulation, Integrity Fee and Data Rights
The PGA Tour’s initial response to the Supreme Court ruling was just part of the story. While the PGA welcomes regulation, it also holds three controversial positions regarding federal regulation, integrity fees and data rights.
Within weeks of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Senators Orrin Hatch and Chuck Schumer both announced they would be pursuing a national regulatory scheme to bring sports betting under federal control.
While Orrin Hatch left his proposal somewhat vague, the Chuck Schumer plan provided numerous details such as establishing a minimum age for sports betting and requiring sportsbooks to rely on official data provided by the leagues.
The PGA Tour, MLB and NBA quickly responded with a joint statement supporting Chuck Schumer’s vision:
“As legalized sports betting spreads across the states, there is a need for consistent, nationwide integrity standards to safeguard the sports millions of fans love. We strongly support the legislative framework outlined by Senator Schumer and we encourage Congress to adopt it.”
Not coincidentally, those three leagues are also the ones that have pushed the hardest for integrity fees and data rights – both of which have proven quite controversial at the state level. Schumer’s plan did not mention integrity fees, but it did specifically mention data rights.
In short, data rights would require all sports betting operators to purchase data from the leagues in order to settle wagers and to provide in-play betting markets. The American Gaming Association, which is one of the most visible opponents of data rights, responded with a statement of its own arguing that sportsbooks should be free to purchase data on the free market.
Regarding integrity fees, the PGA has also joined the NBA and MLB in lobbying for legislation (both state-level and federal) that would require sportsbooks to pay as much as 1% of total betting handle directly to the leagues.
The leagues originally argued that the so-called integrity fee was necessary to help offset the increased costs of protecting their games from corruption in light of legal sports wagering. When that didn’t work, the leagues turned to pitching integrity fees as a sort of royalty fee owed to them for running the competitions on which sportsbooks accept wagers.
Lawmakers at the state level pushed back as they noted that the leagues already have integrity monitoring programs in place due to sports betting already being legal in Nevada and other parts of the world for years – not to mention the integrity issues that have long been posed by illegal sports betting. The leagues’ attempt to rebrand integrity fees as royalty fees have predictably failed to change many minds on that issue.
With the leagues having little success pushing these measures at the state level, the next best option is to convince lawmakers at the federal level to craft legislation containing integrity fees and/or data rights provisions. The odds of Congress stepping in with a federal solution drop with every additional state that legalizes sports betting on its own, but Congress does have that power if it can get the votes.
Best Golf Betting Sites
One of the best outcomes of sports betting finally becoming a licensed and regulated industry in the USA is a sharp increase in the quality of online sportsbooks. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, the only online sportsbooks were offshore betting sites that operated contrary to US law.
Finding a quality betting site has become significantly easier just for the simple fact that we now have licensed and regulated options right here at home. US gaming regulators have always been among the strictest in the world, and that holds true with online sports betting in the modern age.
You Can’t Go Wrong with Licensed Sportsbooks
So, the first thing to know right up front is that it is hard to get it very wrong as long as you stick exclusively with licensed golf betting sites. You’ll still find minor differences in things like bonus options and the number of wagers offered, but safety and security are not an issue with licensed operators.
Figuring out which sites are licensed can still be a chore, however, due to a preponderance of outdated and misleading websites that still pitch offshore sportsbooks as legal options to this day.
The simplest way to find out where to play is to consider our recommendations here at BettingUSA.com. Our policy from day one has been to list and recommend legal online sportsbooks only. If you see an online sportsbook recommended on any page here, it is a safe place to bet on golf legally.
Another option is to check the website of your state’s gaming regulator. The states that have legalized online sports betting to date maintain publicly-viewable lists of all licensed operators. For example, the NJDGE provides just such a list on this page showing all legal betting sites in New Jersey.
Consider Online Sportsbooks That Partner with the PGA
Moving beyond the basics of safety and legality, something else to consider is looking for betting sites in your state that are partnered with the PGA for data sharing and promotional purposes. A trend that emerged fairly quickly after sports betting was legalized in the United States was for the major sports leagues to form advertising and data sharing partnerships with major gaming companies.
Sportsbooks that have access to exclusive data straight from the PGA Tour have the advantage when it comes to offering in-play betting and unique types of wagers compared to sportsbooks that rely on data from unofficial sources.
Consider again the PGA Tour’s ShotLink Intelligence platform that can track thousands of data points during golf events. Sportsbooks with access to that sort of data can offer real-time markets that are more accurate, faster and more varied than sportsbooks that are limited to observing the event from afar.
Additionally, such partnerships will likely result in your sportsbook being able to run exclusive promotions that give customers a chance to win official PGA merchandise, trips to attend PGA Tour events in real time and more. If any of your state’s betting sites has such a deal with the PGA, those sites should be on your shortlist.
How to Bet on the PGA Online
Golf lends itself to a surprisingly diverse range of betting options considering the tournament format of golf competition. The types of wagers you can place on golf extend well beyond simply betting on who will win any given tournament. Over the years, golf oddsmakers have come up with a wide array of wagering options as described below.
The Outright Wager
The outright golf wager is the simplest type of golf bet there is: you’re predicting who will win the tournament. You choose your player, place your wager and then hope your pick comes through for the win.
Outrights tend to pay well due to the difficulty associated with picking a single player to win a specific tournament. It is not uncommon for even the tournament favorite to be priced as high as +1,000 (where a $100 bet would return $1,000 in net profit) and for longer shot players to be priced at +10,000 or more (where a $100 bet would return $10,000 in net profit).
To Finish in the Top 3, 5, 10 or 20
Top finishes work similarly to outrights except you get paid if your pick finishes anywhere in the top 3, 5, 10 or 20 places as specified in the wager. For example, a Top 5 finish bet on Jordan Spieth would pay if Spieth finishes the tournament anywhere in the top five places. Likewise, a Top 10 finish wager on Tiger Woods would pay if he paces anywhere in the top ten.
Head-to-head matchups serve as a nice alternative to outrights because they narrow down the options to just two players. Rather than betting on who will win the entire tournament, you are simply picking which of two named players will have a better finish out of the two.
For instance, a head-to-head wager between Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth would provide odds on each player and then you would pick one of the two. If your pick finishes higher than the other player named in the matchup, your wager is a winner.
A typical matchup wager is listed something like this:
- Tiger Woods: -135
- Jordan Spieth: +115
If this reminds you of betting on the winning team in any other sport, that’s because that’s exactly the type of wager this one is modeled after. The key thing to keep in mind here is that what happens in the rest of the tournament does not matter for the purposes of this wager; you are only betting on whether Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth will finish higher in the tournament.
In this example, Tiger Woods is priced as the favorite over Jordan Spieth with odds of -135. That means for every $135 you wager on Woods, you stand to win $100 in net profit. Or, you could also say that for every $1.35 you wager on Woods, you stand to win $1.00 in net profit.
Jordan Spieth in this example is priced as the slight underdog at odds of +115. This means for every $100 you wager on Spieth, you stand to win $115 in net profit. Alternatively, you could say for every $1.00 you wager on Spieth, you’re looking at $1.15 in winnings if he ends up with a better finish than Woods.
A 3-ball golf bet is structured similarly to a head-to-head matchup except it involves picking who will finish with the best score out of a group of three players. Also, 3-ball bets tend to only run for the 1st or 2nd round of the tournament, which means your wager is settled based on who has the best score for that round.
3-ball wagers offer a better return than head-to-head wagers due to the addition of one more player but are still significantly easier to win than outrights.
First Round Leader
This is a sort of outright wager that is based on the first round of play only. If you have a player in mind who tends to get off to a strong start but who doesn’t necessarily have finishing power, the first-round leader bet is for you. Your bet wins instantly if your player is leading after the first round of play is complete. What happens in the rest of the tournament has no bearing on your wager.
Each Way Golf Bets
Each-way golf bets are a combination of the outright wager and a near-the-top finish. In this wager, your bet is placed on a player to win outright and an equal amount is placed on your player to finish near the top at reduced odds.
Depending on your sportsbook, “near the top” may be classified as finishing anywhere in top 4, 5 or 6 places of the tournament.
For example, let’s say your betting site is offering a +1200 each-way bet on Jordan Spieth at ¼ odds for a top-5 finish and you have $20 to spend.
In this case, you could place a $10 each-way bet on Spieth. This would mean you have $10 on Spieth at +1200 to win the tournament plus another $10 on Spieth to finish anywhere in the top 5 at odds of +300 (which are ¼ of +1200).
Basically, this bet would give you an outright wager on Spieth to win plus a backup option that still pays at reduced odds if he plays well but doesn’t quite get the win.
If Spieth wins the tournament outright, both halves of your bet would be paid. The first $10 portion of your wager would pay at +1200 to give you $120 in winnings. The second $10 portion of your winner would also pay at +300 since he still finished in the top five for an additional $30 in winnings. Your total return would be $170 for a net profit of $150 in this outcome.
Now, let’s look at what happens if Spieth finishes in 3rd place in this example. The outright portion of your wager would be lost because Spieth failed to win the tournament. However, the other $10 portion of your wager would still pay at +300 because he achieved a top-5 finish.
Your total return on this wager would be $40 for a net profit of $20 after all is said and done. It’s a much smaller profit than if Spieth had won, but at least you still have something to show for your money.
One Player vs. the Field
Occasionally, you’ll see bets that pit one player against “the field.” These wagers tend to pop up during the later rounds of a tournament as one player pulls away from the pack and starts looking like an increasingly likely winner. The odds on that player shorten dramatically while the odds on everyone else lengthen to such a degree that it’s tough to find any value placing an outright on the winner or anyone else.
This is when you’ll start to see one player vs. the field. For example, let’s say Dustin Johnson has pulled way ahead while everyone is behind a significant number of strokes. In that case, your betting site may give you a “Dustin Johnson vs. the field” option which is basically this: you can either bet on Johnson to win the tournament or you can bet that literally anyone else will win.
The idea here is to keep the betting markets attractive even when one player has pulled way ahead. If you want to back the winner and still get decent odds, you can back him against the entire field. Or, if you want to take a shot at an upset, you can back the entire field and still have a realistic shot at booking a winning wager.
Golf props (short for “proposition”) cover a wide range of topics not directly related to who will win the tournament. One of the most common golf props is the wager on whether or not a hole-in-one will occur at any time during the tournament or even during a single round of play.
Other types of golf props may cover subjects such as whether or not there will be a playoff, who will achieve the lowest round, the nationality of the winner and much more. Truly, the sky is the limit when it comes to prop bets. Oddsmakers can be endlessly creative when coming up with props – especially in the run-up to major events.
Some props are based entirely on luck while others include varying degrees of skill. For the most part, fans are best served to treat prop bets as wagers for entertainment value rather than for actual betting value. There will always be exceptions, but this is a safe rule of thumb unless you have a specific reason to believe you have data backing your prediction.
In-Play Golf Wagering
In-play golf betting differs from traditional wagering in one key respect: betting markets remain open throughout the entire event – even wagers on who will win. As sportsbooks receive live data from the PGA Tour, they can provide customers with a constant stream of updated odds that change based on the tournament’s current momentum.
In-play golf betting has been available outside the US for years, but is just now gearing up here in the US and is set to expand beyond even what our friends across the pond have had for years as the PGA Tour expands its ShotLink Intelligence platform and leverages that to provide real-time data for advanced in-play markets.
The US in-play betting market looks promising already even though it is still just barely getting off the ground. One example that comes to mind is Metric Gaming, which has developed markets that take in-play betting one step further to provide customers with shot-by-shot wagers from beginning to end.
In-play betting opens so many doors both in terms of strategy and in terms of it just being more fun. For example, you might have a player in mind to win the tournament, but would prefer to watch him play a round or two before you back him with your hard-eared money.
Additionally, in-play betting opens many more opportunities throughout the event that would otherwise be unavailable at a traditional sportsbook which stops taking action after the tee-off. Hole-by-hole betting, for example, lets you bet on individual players’ performances at individual holes.
As another example, imagine you know the 9th hole on the front nine tends to constantly cause problems for certain golfers. This is where you’d be able to take advantage of in-play betting and wager on a specific player to score par-or-worse. This is just one example of the many possibilities that will be coming soon to a sportsbook near you.