No money on a mini golf tour? Sports bettors disagree

As the old saying goes, there is no money to be made in mini golf.

Far from the lavish land of the PGA Tour lies a world where dozens of players congregate in hopes of turning triple-figure entry fees into four-figure salaries. Many operate with a financial deficit to compete, while even the best often barely break even as they seek to move up the ladder.

But amid unprecedented times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new source of revenue has derived from mini-tours and development tours – not on the course, but in Las Vegas.

In a normal week, the action from the Arizona-based Outlaw and Cactus tours won’t attract the attention of Sin City bettors. But with nearly all professional sports sidelined by the coronavirus, bettors are itching to act on, well, something.

Enter mini-tour golf, with a handful of tours continuing to unfold in light of the ongoing pandemic. Shortly after the PGA Tour suspended operations in mid-March, bettors began to focus on tours still standing, filling a sudden void with odds on events and players with little or no recognition. name.

“You can tell people are looking for something to bet on and betting something they normally wouldn’t,” said Matthew Metcalf, director of sports betting for Circa Sports, which currently operates out of two Las Vegas casinos. “It’s been a good exercise in ratings, anytime you get to do ratings on something like that that nobody really follows.”

Las Vegas casinos have been closed for over a month, but Metcalf still has bets going through Circa’s mobile app. While bettors can place bets on the app from anywhere in the US, only Nevada residents can currently access the casino’s remote funding option to add (or withdraw) money. of their accounts.

Even without the use of an open window, Metcalf estimates he still gets about 10% of the action he would get from a typical PGA Tour event. These bets come in at greatly reduced limits; while the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic this week would have meant limits between $30,000 and $100,000 on bets to win the event, action on the Cactus Tour and Outlaw Tour this week will be capped closer to the range from $3,000 to $5,000 before Metcalf “aggressively” adjusts his odds.

“You can usually log into our app at any time and bet to win at least $3,000 on anyone,” Metcalf said.

Those numbers are a drop in the bucket compared to the money that changes hands in a typical PGA Tour week, but they’re also staggering amounts when compared to the prize money handed out during the mini-tour event. The Cactus Tour top prize ($560 entry fee) is just $2,500, while last week’s Outlaw Tour winner pocketed $5,000.

The unexpected attention from the betting community has created a very real scenario where gamblers can make more money through legal wagers placed through a Vegas sportsbook – by them, a friend or a family member – than they can only by winning the actual event.

“It was really interesting to see some guys here playing for other people’s money, I guess,” Outlaw Tour Manager Toph Peterson said. “I wouldn’t want the extra pressure, of putting me $5,000 in Vegas to have to win. So I don’t think a lot of guys are going to do that, but they might.


The Florida-based Minor League Golf Tour suspended operations earlier this month when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order, but before that they were also attracting l bettors. Tour officials added a new rule on March 24 making it clear that even legalized gambling would not be tolerated.

“With most major global sports shut down, some major sports betting companies have been placing odds on players and taking bets on MLGT events,” the rule reads. “MLGT members are not permitted to place a bet on themselves or any other player within the scope of an MLGT event. Any player caught doing so will be subject to suspension and the loss of their contributions.”

Peterson’s group did not change their rulebook, but they did “discourage” betting among outlaw participants. Yet in a money-centric environment filled with side games and skinning action, he admits, “we really can’t control it.” But even tour staff have noticed a dramatic increase in recent weeks from interested parties seeking to glean an extra edge in a previously untapped betting market.

“Our Instagram blew up,” Peterson said. “We get a lot of direct messages from guys asking who can be a member of the host course and who is going to be the hot hand. We don’t answer any of these questions, but it has been interesting.

While he still posts weekly odds on the Outlaw Circuit, Metcalf noted that he’s currently getting about three times as much action on the all-women’s Cactus Circuit. He believes this is largely due to the familiarity derived from small fields, with recent tournaments hovering around 20 participants while Outlaw events typically include 60 or more players.

“There seems to be a bit more continuity in the best Cactus players,” Metcalf said. “The more people can remember names and form an opinion, the more likely they are to bet.”

Arizona men’s and women’s mini-tours add events while others are closed

This continuity has been seen above all at the top, since two women have dominated since the closure: Sarah Burnham won two events out of three before finishing second last week behind Sophia Popov, who also has a recent runner-up. The two started this week’s Dallas Cup Series event as betting favorites, and Popov quickly shot a 61 to create a five-shot lead.

While second and third place finishers at a Cactus event might struggle to scoop up $1,000, the cash is flowing a few miles north of Las Vegas. Metcalf now offers all sorts of betting offers, ranging from odds to win the event (with a four-figure cap) to head-to-head matchups between two specific players ($500 max).

There’s even a “Yes/No” feature, whereby bettors can take the entire field against a single player by betting “No” on that player’s win. The limits on those bets against individual players are set at $1,000 on potential profits tied to the three biggest names – Burnham, Popov and former NCAA champion Haley Moore.

It’s a surprising development for Cactus Tour director Mike Brown, who is in his 10and season which rules the circuit and has never seen so much attention on the birdies and bogeys of its players.

“I heard they were betting on us in Las Vegas and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Brown said. “If someone told me to go bet on Sophia Popov, I wouldn’t know what to do. I am not a gamer. So I laughed when I heard that.

But it’s no laughing matter these days from punters cashing in on mini-tour players they may have never heard of a month ago. Metcalf admitted that the recent dominance of favorites like Burnham and Popov, as well as last week’s Outlaw victory by low-odds Alex Cejka, has dampened his long-term exposure. But that doesn’t mean he’s shy about writing tickets that could eclipse the entire tournament purse, let alone the winner’s payout.

“I’ll take $100 off anyone, so if you have a 300/1 longshot, that’s $30,000 right there,” Metcalf said. “Last week I took $200 off an outlaw at 300/1 (meaning a potential payout of $60,000). I can’t remember the golfer’s name. I knew his name from about 12 hours until he shot an 80.”

Eventually, the spotlight will turn to the bigger tours, with the PGA Tour still set to resume in June. The Arizona Heat will likely pause any Outlaw or Cactus Tour competition by then, regardless of the status of the ongoing pandemic.

But for now, the center stage belongs to smaller circuits that previously went unnoticed – and there’s money to be made, as much (or more) off the course as on it.

“A guy asked me, did you ever think for a moment that this little mini-tour would ever get national exposure,” Brown said. “I said, ‘Never.'”

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