Fantasy Golf Strategy – Learning the Basics for DraftKings and Beyond

Fantasy golf basicsOutside of fantasy football, some of the biggest daily fantasy contests available these days are in fantasy golf. DraftKings offered a $2.2 million guaranteed contest for The Masters, and for the U.S. Open in June, a prize pool of $2.5 million is being offered.

Fantasy golf seems pretty easy to play — you just pick a lineup of six golfers, for the most part, and make sure your team falls under a site’s salary cap. But like any DFS contest, there is a lot of skill that goes into setting a successful lineup. We’ll take a look at some of the basics of the contests, and how to successfully set a lineup.

Scoring

There are three major sites that offer fantasy golf based on the PGA Tour: DraftKings, Victiv and DraftDay. We’ll focus on DraftKings, for the purposes of this article, and get into the differences between sites later.

The basics? Players score fantasy points based on the performance of the golfers they have in their lineups. You receive points for positive events (eagles, birdies, winning a tournament, finishing in the top 10, etc.). You lose points for negative events (bogeys, double bogeys).

Here is the full list of scoring at DraftKings:

Per Hole Scoring
Double Eagle (DBL EAG): +20 PTs
Eagle (EAG): +8 PTs
Birdie (BIR): +3 PTs
Par (PAR): +0.5 PTs
Bogey (BOG): -0.5 PTs
Double Bogey (DBL BOG): -1 PT
Worse than Double Bogey (WORSE DBL BOG): -1 PT

Tournament Finish Scoring
1st: 30 PTs
2nd: 20 PTs
3rd: 18 PTs
4th: 16 PTs
5th: 14 PTs
6th: 12 PTs
7th: 10 PTs
8th: 9 PTs
9th: 8 PTs
10th: 7 PTs
11th–15th: 6 PTs
16th–20th: 5 PTs
21st–25th: 4 PTs
26th–30th: 3 PTs
31st–40th: 2 PTs
41st-50th: 1 PTs

Streaks and Bonuses
Streak of 3 Birdies of Better (MAX 1 Per Round) (3+ BIR STRK): +3 PTs
Bogey Free Round (BOG FREE RD): +3 PTs
All 4 Rounds Under 70 Strokes (ALL 4 RDS UND 70): +5 PTs
Hole in One (HOLE IN ONE): +10 PTs

Lineups

Fantasy golf at DraftKings consists of picking six golfers, within a salary cap of $50,000. Just like any other sport for DFS, you can’t just pick the six best golfers available; you can likely take one or two top-tier golfers, and then look for golfers with value/upside who cost less in terms of salary.

You’re obviously looking for players who have the best chance at events that result in positive scores, and limit the number of negative scores. Although the former is more important than the latter, as we’ll demonstrate below.

While daily fantasy sports sites offer statistics and advice for setting your lineups, your best bet might be using the wealth of information at PGATour.com.

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Satellites

If you want to play in the big golf events at DraftKings, but you have a limited bankroll, the site offers qualifiers — events with smaller buy-ins that allow you to win your way into events with larger buy-ins.

And you don’t even have to know fantasy golf that well to attempt to qualify. The qualifiers for fantasy golf contests at DraftKings are contested in other sports — baseball, basketball and soccer, for example. That allows you to enter contests in which you have more expertise with a chance to play the big guaranteed golf contests.

Picking players: Scoring events

As you can see from the scoring above, players who score a lots of birdies and eagles are the most valuable to have. Because over-par scores on individual holes are not as important as under-par scores, a player’s average score per round is less important than their ability to card scores of par or better.

For example, several players could score a 68 on a course with a par of 72. But they could result in very different fantasy scores for a single round:

  • Player A: 4 birdies, 14 pars: 19 points
  • Player B: 8 birdies, 4 bogeys, 6 pars: 25 points
  • Player C: 1 eagle, 2 birdies, 15 pars: 21.5 points

That makes it obvious that you want players who are most likely to score well while getting under-par scores, regardless of their likelihood of getting bogey or worse.

The PGA Tour’s website offers you a variety of ways to see how well players do at getting birdies, under-par scores, and over-par scores:

Clicking on individual players will take you to their bio, which includes all of their stats.

From this link, you also have access to a number of statistical categories regarding how a player has fared in the last five and 15 events.

Picking players: By finish position

While scoring events are the most important thing to base your lineup selections on, you should also be trying to pick players who are likely to have a chance to win the tournament.

The scoring by finish position at DraftKings is heavily weighted toward the winner, with a bonus of 10 points for picking the first-place finisher (30 pts.) over second place (20 pts.). There is good value for the top six positions, as each of those is worth two points more than the preceding spot, while all other positions only see an increase of one point over lower positions.

At the PGA Tour’s website, you can get the season totals for top-10 finishes, which includes wins as well as second- and third-place positions.

Also of interest is the “Stats Formula” that the PGA Tour puts together each week, which attempts to predict a winner based on a variety of metrics. Here’s the one they did for this past week’s Players Championship.

Picking players: Making the cut

You obviously want to pick players who are likely to make the cut as well. (If you’re not that familiar with PGA Tour events, for each event, a tournament will start with a certain amount of players. After two rounds of play, a percentage of the field will be eliminated and will not play the final two rounds).

If one of your players doesn’t make the cut, your ability to score fantasy points and finish in a cash position is severely limited. That’s in addition to the likelihood that they will not have scored many positive points, in relation to the rest of the field, in missing the cut.

The PGA Tour website does not have a ranking for cuts made, only for streaks. Here is a resource for how many cuts a player has made this season.

Picking players: By course

Perhaps the most valuable research you can do that would set you apart from your fantasy competitors is seeing how golfers have done historically on the course or tournament being played that week. All golf courses are not created equal, and some will favor different types of players. Some courses put an emphasis on driving distance, approach shots, putting, etc. Some players simply have a skill set that makes them more likely to do well at a certain course.

This information is a little more difficult to come by, but it is often covered by DFS content sites like Rotowire, RotoGrinders, etc., in their weekly coverage leading up to a tournament.

You can also find some good information by looking at previews for a tournament online. For the upcoming Wells Fargo Championship, the PGA Tour has a preview that gives you a glimpse into how some players have done historically.

You can also go to a tournament’s section of the PGA website to find past results for that event; a drop-down menu lets you look at an event’s results by year.

While this information may be the most difficult to mine, it is also arguably the most important information you can look for in picking a fantasy golf lineup. A player who has won a certain tournament more than once could provide a lot of value. On the flipside, you want to avoid players who have historically struggled and missed cuts at a certain course.

Picking players: By salary cap value

Many of the top DFS content sites provide their advice for good players to draft each week. You should look at as many of those as you can, in an attempt to find a consensus on which players represent good values based on their salary cap figure.

Many of the top players will be the same across many lineups. So what can set you apart is finding a player with a lower salary cap figure who is likely to do well in that week’s tournament.

Picking players: Across sites

So far we’ve only looked at DraftKings. But two other large sites, also offer golf contests: Victiv and DraftDay. Victiv, for instance, has a $75K guaranteed prize pool contest offered for the June U.S. Open.

The three sites all have differences in scoring. The major takeaways:

  • Victiv awards no points based on finish position; only a player’s scores on individual holes matter. As compared to DraftDay, more points are awarded for under-par results, while there are larger penalties for over-par results:

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  • DraftDay follows a model that is very similar to DraftKings, but with no negative points for over-par results and more points for under-par results:

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Conclusion

If you want to play fantasy golf, it’s pretty easy to get into and set a lineup with minimal effort. But to have long-term success, you want to do your due diligence in setting lineups to have the best chance at winning money.