One of the most unique aspects of golf wagering and one that present itself on a regular basis, is hedging. Should you hedge? How should you do it? When should you do it?
What is Hedging?
Hedging, very simply, is making a secondary wager to ensure a profit on your primary wager and/or lessen your risk. There are some very tangible examples in other sports, so let’s look at one from the NFL. If you bet $100 on the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl prior to the season at 40-1 odds, you’d be in line to cash out $4,100 if the Eagles do indeed win the Super Bowl. Let’s assume they face the New England Patriots in the Big Game and you have a very easy hedging opportunity. You can bet an amount of money, let’s say $2,000 on the Patriots at -200. So your two outcomes are:
- Eagles win the Super Bowl – You win $4,100 on your future and lose $2,000 on your hedge for a $2,100 profit.
- Patriots win the Super Bowl – You lose $100 on your future and win $1,000 on your hedge for a $900 profit.
In this scenario, there are no other possible outcomes, so you guaranteed yourself a victory.
Why is Golf Hedging Unique?
There’s really no other sport in which you can be holding a large ticket that you placed on a longshot just a few days prior. Think about it, where else can you find a 50-1 or 100-1 ticket that has a realistic chance of cashing on a near weekly basis? Most other scenarios in sports wagering would require you to place a future bet on a team to win the Championship, for example, and you’d need to wait six to nine months for that ticket to cash.
In golf, these situations are occurring nearly every week which often puts you in a difficult position about when and how to hedge. The problem with golf hedging is that these scenarios are not binary, meaning there are really endless different outcomes. Unlike our NFL example above, it’s not this team OR that that. It’s this guy or that guy or maybe one of those guys. There are sometimes a dozen different golfers with a realistic chance to win the event at the time you are looking to hedge.
When Should You Hedge?
The most common time to hedge your outright ticket would be after the third round. Not only has every golfer played the same number of holes but the natural break allows for you to really assess your options without having to make a split-second decision. Let me provide you with a recent, real-life leaderboard after the third round. NOTE: I have changed the player’s names for ease, but the scores, live odds and opening odds are all real.
- Patrick Reed -17, Live Odds: -125, Opening Odds +5000
- Justin Thomas -14, Live Odds: +500, Opening Odds +1500
- Rory McIlroy -13, Live Odds: +500, Opening Odds +1800
- Jon Rahm -12, Live Odds: +1400, Opening Odds +1100
- Bryson DeChambeau -12, Live Odds +1800, Opening Odds +2000
Let’s imagine that you are holding a pre-tournament +5000 ticket on Patrick Reed that you placed $100 on, meaning you’re due for a $5,100 payout if Reed wins the tournament. If you wanted to hedge, how would you do it? There are multiple golfers who have a chance to win the event and placing a small wager on all of them would really dilute your potential winnings.
Leads Aren’t That Safe
In the above example, Reed’s three-shot lead might feel insurmountable but let me assure you… it is not. In fact, a golfer with a three-shot lead going into the final round only wins the tournament 43.8% of the time. Less than half the time! Even larger leads aren’t locks according to these historic win rates after three rounds:
- 1 Shot Lead: 30.6% Win Rate
- 2 Shot Lead: 39.7% Win Rate
- 3 Shot Lead: 43.8% Win Rate
- 4 Shot Lead: 76.1% Win Rate
- 5 Shot Lead: 79.5% Win Rate
The larger the lead, the more difficult it becomes to hedge in my opinion. Still using the scenario above, if Reed does not win the tournament it’s more likely that he stumbles and comes back to the field instead of one golfer shooting a ridiculously low score and beating him. If Reed does indeed come back to the field, he just gave an opportunity to a half dozen golfers to beat him. Meaning more golfers are live to win, making a hedge even more difficult.
The Best Ways To Hedge
To me, trying to figure out which chaser might derail my large outright ticket is a fool’s errand. It’s one that will require plenty of guessing and lots of luck. I’d prefer to hedge in some non-conventional ways.
Pre-Tournament Hedging – Seriously! Let’s think ahead, before the event starts and not get stuck in a sick situation on a Saturday night. The best way to hedge your longshot tickets is at the same time you make the bet, by also place a wager on their Top 5 or Top 10 number as well. In many parts of the globe, sportsbooks offer this as an “Each Way” but in the United States, we will need to create these ourselves.
When you placed $100 on Patrick Reed to win at +5000, you could have split that into two bets — one for $50 on his outright number at +5000 and one for $50 on his Top 5 number at +1000. If Reed does actually win, you would cash both bets, totaling a return of $3,100. If Reed falters and finishes third, you’d still return $500.
In this scenario, it doesn’t matter which golfer beats Reed and trying to guess that correctly, because you’ll return a profit as long as he remains in the Top 5. These two wagers don’t have to be equal and you can mess around with Top 5 versus Top 10 wagers to find what is right for you.
Consider Your Matchup Options – Betting a final round matchup against one or two of the closest chasers is a fairly low risk way to hedge an outright ticket in golf. Continuing with our example above, Patrick Reed will enter the final round with a three-shot lead over Justin Thomas. If you place a fourth round matchup wager on Thomas to beat Reed, you’ve opened up a few different avenues.
If Thomas goes on to win the tournament, he’s certainly going to shoot a better final round score than Reed and you would win that matchup wager.
Additionally, you could win both wagers here — something that is quite rare in hedging. Reed could easily go out and shoot a 68 on Sunday while Thomas shoots a 67. Thomas would win the matchup but Reed would still win the tournament. You’d be a winner on both tickets.
In short, golf hedging is hard and there’s lots of luck involved. Putting yourself in a position to succeed before the event and understanding all your options during the event will at least make you a well-informed hedger … if you choose to do it! Good luck!