As with all major sports, there are many markets to choose from when it comes to betting on golf. Whilst most golf punters stick to the outright winner betting, and perhaps a few other key markets like backing the first round leader or a top 10 finish, those who dig deeper will find a whole host of alternatives.
Of those supplementary markets, one of the more popular options is 2 and 3 ball betting. Here we take a closer look at this market and explain what it is, anything you might want to look out for and how to go about finding some winning bets.
2 & 3 Ball Betting in Golf
This market is sometimes simply known as 18 hole betting and unless otherwise stated it will apply to the first round, or next round, only. The “ball” might more simply be called “player” and the wager is a bet on which of two or three named players will shoot the lowest score for the round in question.
When just two players are involved it is a straight head-to-head, a match bet, and referred to as 2 ball betting. Alternatively, if the players are grouped as a threesome, it is a 3 ball and a bet on which of the three named players will come out on top.
It is a simple enough bet and whichever of the two (or three) players manages the best round is the winner. It is a nice way to have an interest in just one round of a tournament; and in a sport where picking the outright winner is tricky, to say the least, it is a betting option that gives you a much greater chance of landing winners. This is because you are selecting from just two or three players, rather than a field of 150 or more.
Of course, the odds reflect this and typical prices for a standard 2 ball will see two fairly evenly matched players at odds of just under evens. Should the two golfers be deemed to have an exactly equal chance of success, odds of 10/11 for both or sometimes slightly lower can be expected.
One thing to be aware of is that as a general rule 3 ball bets will use dead heat rules. This means that in the event of a tie between two players for the lowest round, half of your stake will be settled as a winning bet and half as a losing one. In contrast, the more common treatment of a tie in a 2 ball is that the wager will be deemed void and you will get your stake back.
As with many different bets and markets, some bookies do things slightly differently and so especially when it comes to 3 balls, you may see the tie offered as a choice. Should two or more players shoot the joint-lowest score where the tie was offered initially, “tie” will be the winning selection, with all others bets settled as losers.
Irrespective of whether you are looking at a 2 ball or a 3 ball bet and regardless of whether or not the tie is offered, odds for this market tend to fall within quite a narrow range. It is rare to see even a strong favourite priced at odds shorter than 1/2, whilst in a 3 ball you will not often see the group’s biggest outsider priced much above 4/1. Indeed, most of the time all three players will be priced quite similarly at odds often just a small amount either side of 2/1.
The point is that this is usually a market where each player in the field has a viable chance of winning. In that sense, it is wide open, but with such a small field you still have a great chance of landing a winning bet.
Rules to Note
The key rule that is likely to come into play concerns how ties will be handled. As said, this will depend on the specific rules of the bookie where you made the bet, whether or not the tie was offered as an option and whether or not it was a 2 ball or a 3 ball wager.
Aside from that, the other main thing to be aware of is what happens in the event of one or more players not completing their rounds. Again, you may find that some bookies deal with things differently but in general, once all of the named players have teed off at the first hole, bets are valid and will stand. That means that if, for example, one player is disqualified or withdraws mid-round, bets on them will lose and either the sole remaining player will be settled as the winner or, in the case of three balls, whichever of the remaking two players shoots the best score will win.
That said, bets will be settled shortly after rounds are completed and will be based on the official scores at that time. As such, should a player be subsequently disqualified, this will not alter the bet settlement.
Should the entire round be abandoned, bets will generally be voided. Last of all, note that any alterations to the playing schedule or groupings will not usually lead to bets being voided or changed. So, for example, should a player drop out pre-round, bets will still stand, subject to Rule 4 deductions where necessary. However, in the event that a round extends into an additional delay (for example due to bad weather), or that the named players of a bet are no longer all playing in the same group, bets will still run and stand as normal.
There are a few related bets, with both 2 ball and 3 ball bets sometimes offered for different portions of rounds. Normally these are offered for just 18 holes and most commonly for the first round. However, you may see 36-hole 2 and 3 balls and occasionally even 54-hole or even 72-hole options.
These extended bets sometimes bring into play another aspect of this market and that is that the named players may not be part of a physical grouping. So-called “mythical 3 balls” may select any three players from the field, rather than the three players who are actually playing together on a given day. For example, a bookie may decide to create a mythical 3 ball bet focussing on the top three players in the world rankings, or three players who have a good rivalry at that time.
Another potential twist on this market that you may see offered involves the players being handicapped. If, for example, one of a trio is an especially strong favourite in the standard market, there may be an alternative handicap option where their rivals receive (for the purposes of the bet only) a hypothetical shot on the favourite to even out the odds.
2 Ball & 3 Ball Accas
Golf is not a sport that we usually associate with accumulators but because of the low odds in this market, it is perfect for those who love an acca. Beyond the strategy tips we consider below, there are no real secrets as to how to go about making your selections but accas in this market can be a great way to land some potentially massive wins from a small stake.
How many selections you opt for depends on your personal preference but in general, we advise against going too wild and we would suggest it is best to stick to between three and six legs. Of course, if you want to land a truly massive win then you can add more but just be aware that picking even one winner is not particularly easy, so landing seven all together is going to take some real skill and, in truth, probably a good degree of luck too. If you do go down this route, perhaps use smaller stakes.
The great thing about this type of bet is that with most selections generally priced at odds of between 8/11 and 3/1 (that range being a rough guide and covering both 2 and 3 ball bets), you have a nice balance between generating a good payout and having a realistic chance of success. As an example, let us imagine a fivefold 3 ball acca with odds of 13/8, 13/10, 5/6, 6/4 and 11/10.
In this situation, all five golfers would be favourites to win their 3 ball grouping. In addition, with just five picks we have not tried to be too ambitious. Even so, a successful £10 wager on this would return a very tidy £581.11. Not bad for five favourites, all in their own three-horse race!
Betting Tips for Golf 2 & 3 Balls
When it comes to this market the most obvious influence over who is likely to triumph is quite simply who is most likely to win the event. The bookies will largely price 2 and 3 balls according to each player’s standings in the outright market. By and large, there is a very strong correlation between the probability of a player winning a tournament and them doing well in any specific round.
However, when assessing your 18-hole (or 36-hole or more) bets, it pays to take a closer look at how each of the players score in the particular round in question. Let’s focus on the first 18 holes of an event as this is when this wager is most often made.
Some golfers are known as fast starters and such players may often be priced higher up the first round leader market than they are in the outright one. It may be that they just tend to play their best golf on a Thursday before the pressure ramps up or that they are especially bad at closing out events and so do not always get the high finishes they should. It might even just be a habit that a golfer has fallen into that becomes almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy where they believe they will shoot a good (or bad) score in the first round and so that confidence (or lack of confidence) means they often do.
No matter what the reason, it definitely pays to focus on how a player has been scoring in the first round. How far you choose to extend your analysis is often the tricky part and some punters may look at just the last few events, others may look at a player’s whole career, whilst others may opt for something in the middle, like perhaps the current season.
One other neat trick applies only to mythical 2 balls and 3 balls and that is to pay particular attention to the weather forecast. If the players are teeing off at different times it may be that one of them is going to be out in conditions far more benign than the others. If you can spot this possibility before the market you may get great value backing an outsider who is expected to be playing in calm conditions whilst the two favourites head out later in the day in something of a storm.