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Opinion & Analysis

Betting The Players Championship: Inside the mind of a professional gambler



Golf betting is blowing up. Look no further than the PGA Tour’s recent partnership with the Action Network for evidence of that fact.

With the calendar reshuffle, The Players Championship now kicks off the meat of the golf season. The most serious golf bettors have been placing wagers for months of the 2020 season already, so to get the more casual wagerers among us ready for the big betting events of the year, we’re talking with a professional gambler.

We’ve talked with Dave of Top Market Sports, the only sports advisory site in the world that’s owned and operated by real Wall Street traders and analysts, on two occasions, and he always has plenty of betting wisdom to impart.

Check out our conversation below.

Q. What are some challenges that you face as a serious golf bettor?

Betting on golf for a living is like trying to hit a moving target. It’s very niche, so it’s worlds different from betting on something like the NFL. The hardest part becomes finding fair places to bet. Here’s a good example. There are a bunch of major bookmaking operations that are now capping golf futures at 50/1. Meaning that 50/1 is the deepest they’ll price a guy to win a tournament. They just don’t want the liability given how thin the market is. Like this week, Chez Reavie is being offered for 50/1 at some places. That is the definition of outrageous. I bet him last night at 200/1 offshore.

You can’t be playing carnival games with these people. Not if you want to turn a meaningful profit doing this. So, I guess that’s my biggest challenge lately, being forced to become a global citizen in order to have proper jurisdiction and access to bookmakers across the globe. It’s funny, people assume you can bet on anything under the sun here in Vegas. In reality, the golf betting scene in this town is pretty dead. There’s one new shop attempting to breathe some life into it, but the jury is still out. As a result, the lion’s share of bets I’m making on The Players Championship this week will be placed offshore.

Q. You seem to never bet on the big marquee names like Rory McIlroy to win. Why?

A. Betting single-digit futures is bankroll suicide. Single-digit futures are anyone with shorter odds than 10/1. In fact, I’m actually making a conscious effort this season to not touch anything lower than 25/1.

The sports betting market, as a whole, underestimates the possibility of an unexpected event happening. For example, the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup last year after being priced at 250/1 midway through the season. Leicester City won the Premier League as a 5000/1 long shot a few years ago. Five thousand to one! My point is that in sports, the unexpected happens all of the time. And in golf, this phenomenon is amplified even more.

If you’re feeling strongly about a player at the top of the board like McIlroy, just bet him in matchups. Then all you have to do is beat one guy, not a full field of 143 killers. Pretty much everyone in this Players Championship field is capable of tasting God Mode on any given week. You want to bet against an army of 143 with a 6/1 shot? Be my guest, but you’re in the wrong business.

Q. Speaking of matchups, how do you split the action between matchups and futures? And how did your selections fare last week at Bay Hill?

A. Matchups are the meat and potatoes. You have to be able to sustain yourself on matchups while waiting to smash a gravy train future. About 75 percent of my play each week goes into matchups, and the remaining quarter gets pounded into deep value outrights.

Last week we played McNealy (100/1), DeChambeau (25/1), Scheffler (70/1), and Cabrera Bello (100/1) in the outright market. Despite whiffing, it was encouraging to see both DeChambeau and Scheffler in semi-contention for all 72 holes.

Our huge matchup play at Bay Hill was Harris English -120 over Jason Kokrak. This was one of those spots where clients were advised to hammer until they couldn’t hammer it anymore. It really was stealing! I beat a Costa Rican outfit for a Cadillac on that one. Fading Kokrak has been a windfall these past couple years. The wannabe-wiseguy-leather-jacket crowd can’t get over him for some reason. We also cashed DeChambeau +112 over Fleetwood and Scheffler -125 over Niemann. The only match we lost was Howell -111 over Cauley. On the whole, it was a satisfactory week.

Q. Nice work! How about a pick for this week?

A. The matchups I’m going to reserve for my client base, but here’s another future. I already mentioned Chez Reavie at 200/1. Shane Lowry at 90/1 is also worth something. Sentiment has really reached a boiling point on him. His extended liquor-soaked British Open celebrations are a cute narrative, but couldn’t be further from the truth at this point.

He’s been striking it beautifully for months, but has been held back by some trouble on the greens. After a workmanlike top 25 at Honda, he took Bay Hill off for a hard reset of the putter. Sometimes, a putting shake-up can pay immediate and shocking dividends. People inside the ropes tell me he’s 100 percent golf-focused, locked down practicing with the flatstick in recent days, preparing for this week’s championship.

Shane now fancies himself a big event player, as he should. That British Open bink seems like a lifetime ago, but in reality it’s only been seven months. The win proved he’s capable of being a rockstar threat on the biggest stage. And with TPC Sawgrass being as pressure-packed and high stakes as it gets, this gives him a mental edge on the majority of the field. Knowing he’s done it before is the type of intangible Pokemon power card that could come in very handy if he’s able to slide into contention down the stretch on Sunday.


Check out Top Market Sports for golf (and all other major sport) packages, and follow TMS on Instagram.

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  1. Barry

    Mar 12, 2020 at 1:01 am

    Explain to me again how the PGA tour is a non profit?

  2. kevin

    Mar 11, 2020 at 9:19 am

    i’d be curious if the pros would consider it a better bet to bet a top 5, top, 10, or top 20 vs trying to pick winners. you can find great odds and have a player play great and not win. picking winners seems like an unrealistic crap shoot, especially doing it picking guys with longer odds.

  3. rob

    Mar 11, 2020 at 1:41 am

    i always asked myself „why are people giving a shank on these„.
    now i gave also one. i love statistics, like the guys from 15th club, but dude, the homepage is from 2018 and they talking about PGA Championship in Bellvere

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?



Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 

One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf



I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes



“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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