Betting Basics

What Is A 3-Ball Bet In Golf?

August 22, 2023

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.

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:

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:

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.

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

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:

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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:

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).

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.

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Tipico staff contributions