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What Is a 3-Ball Bet in Golf?

What is a 3 Ball Bet in Golf? | Tipico
What is a 3 Ball Bet in Golf? | Tipico
Danny Scaramella - Tipico
Published: 2022-07-18

Most professional sports involve one person or team battling against an opponent in a head-to-head matchup that can disrupt individual plays. However, golf is different. One player has little effect on the next.

So, how do we set the bet?

While the most popular type of golf bet is a futures bet, where you place money on who will win any given tournament, that’s not your only option. Bets like a 3-ball bet allow you to bet as if there were head-to-head matchups. Let’s look a little closer to understand how this type of wager can bolster your betting strategy.

Understanding a 3-Ball Bet

Ask yourself this question: During week one of the NFL season, is it easier to pick the winner of an individual game or the Super Bowl? Obviously, you’re more likely to pick the winner of one game since the Super Bowl is still so far off, and you don’t know what the season will hold.

This same thought process is why it can be so difficult to pick the winner of a golf tournament. Just think of all the things that can affect who wins:

  • Who enters the field for that tournament
  • Who is playing well entering the week
  • How the early rounds go and the positions they put the golfers in
  • The nature of the course (different courses tend to favor different golfers)
  • The type of grass (if you think Bermuda grass plays the same way Zoysia grass does, then you’re in for a surprise)
  • The length of the rough
  • The weather that week

That’s a lot to account for, and it isn’t even a comprehensive list. Knowing this, golf sportsbooks have created other ways to bet on golf tournaments and create the golf odds. You can place a betting option on golfers simply to place (Top 3, Top 5, and Top 10 bets are popular options)

And then there are 3-ball bets.

What is a 3-ball bet in golf? It’s actually pretty simple:

  • At the start of a tournament, golfers are split into groups of three players. These three players will play together during the first two rounds.
  • For a 3-ball bet, sportsbooks will assign outright odds to each golfer in a given group.
  • You then wager on which golfer out of the three will shoot the lowest score for that specified round. The bet acts as if these three golfers are in direct competition.
  • If your golfer has the lowest round of the three, your bet wins. If either of the other two golfers shoots lower, your bet loses.

That’s it. A 3-ball bet is a winner-takes-all bet that only lasts for one 18-hole round. And, by using golfers who are all playing together, you can ensure that they’ll all be playing in the same weather and course conditions. All you have to do is determine who’s going to play the best round of golf.

3-Ball Betting Odds

Let’s look at an example of what you might see for a 3-ball bet:

  • Jon Rahm (+180)
  • Justin Thomas (+210)
  • Cam Smith (+250)

For this hypothetical, the oddsmakers have decided things are pretty even between all three golfers. The odds show that they think Jon Rahm is slightly more likely to shoot the low round than the other two, with Justin Thomas being the next most likely and Cam Smith being the least likely.

These odds also show you what your potential payout will be. The “+” number represents how much you can win for a bet of $100. In this case, a $100 bet on Rahm will win you $180. $100 on Thomas can win you $210. A $100 bet on Smith can win you $250.

While it’s typical that all the odds in any 3-ball bet will be “+” odds, you may see a golfer with “-” odds. Let’s say the odds looked like this:

  • Jon Rahm (-120)
  • Justin Thomas (+210)
  • Cam Smith (+250)

As you can see, the odds for Thomas and Smith are the same, but Rahm now has “-” odds. This is a sign that the oddsmakers think it’s very likely that Rahm will shoot the best score. Now, you would have to bet $120 on Rahm to win $100.

What is a 3 Ball Bet in Golf? | Tipico

Dead Heat Rules

If you’re a golf fan, you may have already figured out that there’s a potential complication looming in the 3-ball bet. What happens in the event of a tie? After all, while we’ve created a betting scenario that pits the golfers against each other, they’re not actually competing in match play.

That means at the end of the round, it’s possible to see two of the golfers shoot the same score.

In the event of a tie, most sportsbooks use something called dead heat rules. Dead heat rules in golf betting split your bet and payout fractionally in the case of a tie. To make things clearer, let’s go back to our first example.

  • Jon Rahm (+180)
  • Justin Thomas (+210)
  • Cam Smith (+250)

After one round, the scores are:

  • Jon Rahm -4
  • Justin Thomas -6
  • Cam Smith -6

In this scenario, anyone who bet on Rahm would lose their bet. And anyone who bet on Justin Thomas or Cam Smith technically won. However, most sportsbooks aren’t going to pay all bettors who put money on Thomas or Smith in full.

Instead, because two golfers tied for one spot, your bet is now cut in half. Let’s say you bet $100 on Thomas and your friend bet $100 on Smith:

  • Your $100 bet is now reduced by ½. It is now as if you bet $50.
  • $50 at +210 odds results in a win of $105.
  • Your final payout is $105 (winnings) + $50 (initial stake) = $155
  • Since your initial stake was actually $100, you have now won $55. If there had not been a tie, your final payout would have been $310 for $210 in winnings. Dead heat rules have reduced your winnings by $155.
  • The same rules apply to your friend’s bet on Smith. It is as if he bet $50 at +250 odds. This results in a win of $125.
  • His final payout is $125 (winnings) + $50 (initial stake) = $175.
  • Since his initial stake was actually $100, he now wins $75. If there had not been a tie, his final payout would have been $350 for $250 in winnings. Dead heat rules reduced his winnings by $175.

All that math can get complicated, but the gist is that dead heat rules will mean that if your golfer ends up tied, you’ll have reduced winnings. It’s better than an outright loss, of course, but it can still sting.

Dead Heat Variations

While most books will use the dead heat rules described above, some books will reduce the odds instead of the stakes. So in our above example, your $100 bet on Thomas still acts as $100, but the +210 odds get reduced by ½ to +105.

That would make your final payout $205 ($100 initial stake + $105 winnings).

Most of the time, odds reductions will result in higher payouts than stake reductions, though this isn’t always the case.

Still, other books may not employ dead heat rules at all. They may void the bet, or they may pay out in full to all winners. Be sure you know the policy of your sportsbook so you don’t get a surprise in the event of a tie.

3-Ball Betting Tips

Now that you understand how 3-ball betting works, how can you successfully add it to your betting strategy? There’s no surefire way to predict winners, but there are some tips you can follow that will maximize your chances of success:

  • Scour the pairings – While later round pairings in golf are based on early-round scores, the early round threesomes are decided differently. Golfers are put in different buckets based on past performance markers such as:
    • Previous major winners
    • Current World Golf rankings
    • Recent tour winners
    • Previous year's FedEx cup rankings

This ensures you won’t see Rory McIlroy teeing off with two amateurs, but there’s still a good deal of variance.

Look for threesomes where one golfer stands out. For instance, in the recent Traveler’s Championship, an early threesome was McIlroy, Webb Simpson, and Kevin Kisner. No offense to Kisner or Simpson, but McIlroy stood out as the smart bet there (and at least for round 1, that would have been a winning 3-Ball bet).

  • Futures are for big wins; 3-ball is more incremental – The beauty of a 3-ball bet is that it’s easier to predict. That also means the payouts will be smaller than a futures bet on who will win the tournament. Sprinkle some money on futures for potential big payouts, but be more conservative with your 3-ball bets. They can be the incremental victories that keep your bankroll steady while you search for your big futures payoff.
  • Consider the course – Some courses just suit some golfers while other courses can bring them to their knees. Do your research on the courses and see if any pairings seem suited to go in different directions due to the type of course.

3-Ball Betting and More at Tipico

If you’re looking to add some excitement to your golf weekends, placing some bets may do the trick. At Tipico, we have all the golf bets you need. Start the week off with some 3-ball bets, then shift to live betting as the tournament starts taking shape.

In golf, strategy is key—that’s why players hit with a full bag of clubs. As a golf bettor, having more betting options is equivalent to having all your clubs. And at Tipico, we offer everything you need to make sure your golf betting bag is always full. Check out our online sportsbook today.

Tipico. How to Bet on PGA Golf: 2022 Guide.
Tipico. How to Read Sports Betting Lines.
Golf News Net. How the PGA Tour determines tee times and groupings each week.
Odds Shark. How To Bet On Golf: A Golf Betting Guide.
Scores & Stats. What Is 3-Ball Betting in Golf?
Action Network. Dead Heat Rules in Golf Betting: What to Know, Examples, And How Each U.S. Book Handles Them.


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What is a 3 Ball Bet in Golf? | Tipico


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