Spread Betting on Golf

Golf Spread Betting

There are five main spread markets: finishing positions, ten-man indices, 72-hole matches, 18-hole day-one matches and hotshots. The 18-holers are the most volatile because there's ten points for winning and three further points for each stroke you win by. Take Shaun Micheel v Nick Faldo, round one of the 2004 US Open. Micheel 71, Faldo 81. USA 40pts, GB 0. Nice if you are with Micheel, very nasty if you fancied Faldo.

Hotshots (four named golfers who have to finish in the top ten to make buyers smile) are rarely worth the trouble. Those clever-clogs at Sporting, IG, Cantor and Spreadex usually manage to slip in one with plenty of question marks against his name, or simply a player you don't really want. Only if you actively want all four players should you think of buying. Otherwise it's a sell or, more often, a pass.

Spread insiders often reveal that all sports markets are framed for punters to buy (or, in the case of finishing positions, to sell), and golf is no different. Conversely, they add, if you get short of every market (or long of those finishing positions), you will end up in front in the long-term. Of course, that often means betting long odds-on and requires balls.

Much of the play has been taken away from spread betting by Betfair. Before that came along, a spread bet was the only way punters could act as bookmakers. Now they can play bookmaker to their hearts' content on the exchange.

The least volatile bet, the 72-holer, has no hidden extras so stakes can be higher there, but my preferred betting medium is finishing positions. This is the purest form of spread betting: if your chosen golfer has an excellent week, you will win money selling his finishing position.

In every other form of spread bet, your man can have a great week but his opponent(s) on matches and indices can have better ones, and you can often end up doing your dough. But if your man shoots, say, ten under par on the week, it's all Lombard Street to a china orange that he will beat his finishing-position mark, which is rarely less than 20th and often in the high 20s and 30s.

On the spreads, always look for consistent players, rather than stars. A run of high finishes comes to an end some time, but if you can find some solid course form to set alongside current good play, you will be unlucky to come a cropper too often.

Finishing position sells are also a great way of supporting players of dubious courage when it comes to the business of actually winning a tournament. If you have sold a choker at 30 and he fluffs a three-footer on the final green, you win 28-times your stake instead of 29. Back him on fixed-odds and your dream payday turns to fresh air.

The most popular Golf spread markets are:

Finishing positions The leading players in every tournament are given finishing position spreads with a maximum make-up of 50 if he finishes outside the top 50, although in certain tournaments there are also unlimited make-up quotes offered, where the most a player can make up is the total number of players in that event.

If you win, your finishing position is one. If you are the runner-up it is two and so on. If two players share second place their make-up is 2.5. If five players share 19th place their make-up is 21 (the average of finishing positions 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23).

Indices There are two types - leaderboard and restricted. The leaderboard index includes the entire field and operates with a similar scoring system and in an identical way to a Premiership index (see long-term football markets). The restricted index comprises a selected number of players, usually ten, and may award 50 points to the golfer who finishes best of the ten nominated players, 30 to the one who is second best, 20 for the third best, and ten for the fourth best. This would be expressed as a 50:30:20:10 index. Only these ten players matter for the purposes of the index.

Supremacy There are match bets over either 18 or 72 holes. They are very different and the 18-holers are particularly volatile. An example: you buy Mickelson/Singh at 0-1.5 over 18 holes. Mickelson loses by four shots. You lose ten for the loss and three per shot margin, a massive 22 points in total, plus, of course, the 1.5 that you pay for the buy. Very expensive. Over 72 holes it's more straightforward. The offer margin this time will be wider, 0-3, and say Mickelson shoots 281 to Singh's 288. You win simply the difference, seven shots, less the three you have paid for the privilege. The volatility here comes if either player misses the cut, in which case both players' 36-hole scores are doubled. Maximum make-ups apply but it is foolish to have a supremacy bet without working out what you will lose in the worst-case scenario.