How To Win Golf Majors & Masters Pools: Strategy Tips And Advice

5 proven strategies for getting an edge in golf Majors and Masters pools, including advice and tips for tiers-based picking contests.

We walk through strategies for getting an edge in Majors and Masters pools

That spring smell in the air means that golf Majors are back, and we are excited to announce that PoolGenius will now provide customized pick advice and research tools for Majors and Masters pools.

This article outlines some foundational strategy tips for competing successfully in golf Majors and Masters pools, and explains some of the core principles behind our new Golf Majors & Masters Picks product.

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Golf Majors & Masters Pools Overview

Over the next four months, golf fans will have the opportunity to see the world’s best golfers compete at the sport’s biggest events.

In addition, they’ll have the chance to test their mettle by picking golfers in various formats of pools either focused on just The Masters, or spanning multiple Majors such as the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and/or The Open Championship (British Open).

Based on our research, the most common variant of these pools uses a tiers-based format. Tiers-based pools require you to pick one or more golfers from each of a series of predetermined tiers, or groupings.

For example, in a Masters pool, you may need to pick five golfers total, one from each of five preset tiers, with the entire Masters field divided up into those five tiers.

The pool’s scoring system may then be based on one of a number of different options based on the performance of the golfers you picked, such as:

  • Prize money won
  • Place of Finish
  • Overall strokes above/below par
  • FedEx Points
  • Individual hole scoring (different points for birdies, bogeys, etc.)

Both this article and our new pick advice product currently focus on tiers-based pools for any scoring system except for hole-based points. So the advice we give in this article may not all apply to salary cap based pools (another somewhat popular option) and hole-based scoring systems.

Majors & Masters Pool Strategy: 5 Tips For Making Better Picks

Below we lay out five data-driven strategies you should keep in mind as you decide which golfers to pick in tiers-based Majors and Masters pools:

  1. Know each golfer’s (trustable) odds
  2. Consider how your opponents will pick
  3. Adjust your picks based on pool size
  4. Understand your pool’s scoring system
  5. Plan for future Majors (if you need to)

Existing and past PoolGenius subscribers will recognize the common themes here, but we’ll explain the particular quirks and details as they relate to these specific types of pools, and to golf pools in general.

1) Know Each Golfer’s (Trustable) Odds

Golf may seem pretty random. After all, we’ve seen numerous cases already in 2024 of some big long shots winning PGA tournaments.

Part of that, though, is the illusion of large numbers. There are a handful of top contenders in golf, while there can be over 50 golfers who each have fairly low individual odds to win any given tournament. All it takes is for one of those longer shots to have a great week.

If you compared each of the top golfers to each individual longer shot player, though, you would see that the top golfers are posting the better score well over 90% of the time head-to-head.

After seeing all the long shot victories so far in 2024, you may be tempted to take a scatter-shot approach to picking lesser known golfers in a Majors or Masters pool, especially if they’ve already scored a tournament win this year. However, your best path to victory over the long term still involves playing golfers with better odds to win.

What matters a lot, though, is your source(s) of record for determining what a golfer’s odds are to win a particular Major. In general, your best bet is to consider power ratings (aka Strokes Gained) metrics and the betting markets (e.g. outright odds to win the tournament) as leading indicators.

Whether you are in a pool where you pick all your golfers from one big group, or from across several tiers, you should be using those kinds of objective data to start to identify the more compelling plays.

Stroked Gained Example

As an example of how picking relatively better golfers can help you win, we first used our pre-tournament strokes gained rating to divide the top 60 golfers into six different tiers of 10 golfers each. (That approach should roughly approximate how lots of pools compose their tiers.)

Then, we compared the finishing position within each tier for the golfer with the highest pre-tournament win odds according to the betting market (1st golfer) and the one with the lowest odds (10th golfer).

We ran this analysis on the 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and The Players Championship. Here are the results:

TIER FINISH1st Golfer10th Golfer
TOP 352%29%
MIDDLE 435%33%
BOTTOM 313%38%

Taking the golfer with the best win odds in each tier provided a notable advantage in the odds to have one of the top golfer scores in a tier.

It also helped to avoid a relatively bad score within the tier, as the 10th golfer by betting market implied win odds was about three times more likely to post a bottom three score in that group compared to the 1st golfer by win odds.

Those poor scores are the type of results that can sink an entry in a pool, especially in a pool that penalizes you heavily if one of your picks misses the cut.

2) Consider How Your Opponents Will Pick

While taking the best golfers is a good starting strategy, many of your opponents are aware of that approach too. So the better golfers are typically going to be more popular picks in your pool.

In order to craft the best pick strategy, then, you also need to account for how your opponents are likely to make their picks.

After all, you can only win a pool when you are getting some better scores than your opponents are getting (or in some cases, avoiding worse scores when a popular golfer misses the cut).

The best picks, in some cases, could be golfers with similar win odds as the top golfer in their tier, but with much lower expected pick popularity in your pool. Those types of picks often entail a similar level risk, but provide a much higher potential reward, since you’re getting more pick differentiation from your opponents.

The challenge is projecting pick popularity in your pool. In our Golf Majors & Masters Picks product, we first gather national pick popularity data for tiers-based Majors pools. Then, we adapt it for your particular pool (based on the specific players in each tier, which you can customize), to uncover the most likely contrarian value advantages.

3) Adjust Your Picks Based On Pool Size

This piece of advice is common to many sports pools, ranging from survivor pools to March Madness contests to golf.

You need to make sure that the picks you make for a Majors or Masters pool reflect an overall level of risk that makes sense based on the total number of entries in your pool.

Small Pool Strategy

In smaller Majors pools, taking mostly the top golfers can be a fine strategy, even if they have higher pick popularity.

One reason why is that it is possible that multiple golfers within a specific tier are not even picked in a given small pool, reducing the number of competitors that your pick has to beat.

Even limiting your pick selection to the top three golfers in each tier by betting market win odds yields 720 unique combinations of picks that you could form in a pool with six different golfer tiers.

That is more than enough pick differentiation potential for a pool with only, say, 20 or 30 entries. You should be able to construct a lineup that is both unique enough and has you choosing only from the top available selections in each tier, without feeling pressure to take on riskier picks.

The key here is that you almost never need to hit the top-scoring golfer in each tier to win a small pool. You may, in fact, only need to pick just 1-2 of the top tier-specific performers, while having the rest of your golfers just put up decent enough results vs. other entries.

Medium-Sized Pool Strategy

As the size of your pool goes up, so does the likelihood that the top performing golfer in each tier is selected by at least one other entry. That increases the chance that a few randomly great (and lucky) scores show up in the pool standings.

For a pool with 100 or 200 total entries, if you go too heavy on uniqueness and make mostly below-average win odds picks as a result, you will still often get burned by some of your golfers scoring poorly.

At the same time, the average score needed to win should go up as pool size increases, so you can’t just play it totally safe.

Pick strategy in this range should usually be a balance of the best picks by win odds, and a selection of contrarian value plays among golfers in the upper to middle part of a tier, whose win odds are significantly higher than their pick popularity.

This approach gives your entry the opportunity to be one that hits one or two of the unexpected surprise performers of the tournament, while still playing the favorites in other tiers and not taking too much risk overall.

Large Pool Strategy

In very large pools of hundreds or thousands of entries, the chance that some entries will hit on multiple of the unexpected top performers magnifies, and the expected score you will need to win becomes even more extreme.

As a result, making mostly popular and high win odds picks typically becomes detrimental.

Instead, a more boom-or-bust pick strategy that does terribly in most tournaments, but gives you a fighting chance in a wackier Major tournament where some of the popular golfers fail, should give you the best chance to actually win one of these pools at some point. You might still play one or two of the higher ranked golfers in a tier, but your entry should be highly biased toward selecting value picks for uniqueness.

In short, you want to create the opportunity to rocket up the leaderboard in Majors when several of the most popular picks underperform, and your rarely-picked golfer in the same tier simultaneously puts up a great score.

Since your expected win odds in a large pool are quite small no matter how strategic you are about pick making, you cannot concern yourself about posting a bad score. You just have to focus on setting up the best upside scenarios, knowing full well that they are not likely to work out.

4) Understand Your Pool’s Scoring System

As mentioned in the introduction, golf Majors pools can come with all sorts of scoring variations, and each one has its own set of implications for strategy. You can start with two basic groups:

  • Place of finish, prize money won, and FedEx Points are all similar, even though the specific point earning calculus is not. They all rely on a scale where the first place finisher gets the most points/prize money and it descends from there, so the focus is on upside and odds to win.
  • Individual hole scoring can introduce more randomness, as someone getting an eagle and then two bogeys might score differently than a golfer who has three straight pars, even though the overall score is the same. (As a reminder, our product does not currently support this scoring system.)

A couple other scoring formats deserve a more detailed exploration.

Stroke Scoring and Missed Cuts

Overall stroke scoring is fairly common in Majors pools, though there can be plenty of variations that impact pick strategy. The biggest one is how individual pools treat missed cuts:

  • Some pools have set “penalties” or scores assigned to golfers that miss the cut. These rules can be extremely punitive to an entry in the event of a pick missing a cut.
  • Others pools might assign the worst score on both Saturday and Sunday to all cut golfers.

Depending on the overall scoring for the tournament, the difference between a golfer who barely makes the cut and one who narrowly misses can end up being bigger than the difference between having the tournament champion and someone 10 strokes back on your entry.

Picking golfers who are less likely to put up very poor performances can be more important in pools with an extreme missed cut penalty than in pools where scoring is solely based on prize money won.

Excluding the Worst Scores

Some pools also allow entries to throw out one or more of their worst scoring golfers. This rule variation has implications on how you should approach the pool from a value and uniqueness standpoint.

For instance, if you are in a pool that picks six golfers and counts all of their scores, it creates more opportunity for uniqueness from your opponents than if you pick six golfers but only count your top four. In the latter scenario, pool entries will tend to have more of the same golfers doing their scoring (or being excluded, if they were popular and posted a bad score).

So if your pool discards one or more of each entry’s worst scores, you should give more priority to uniqueness and value when making your picks, because an unpopular pick that scores well should be a bigger differentiator when it’s one of four scoring golfers, instead of one of six.

This exclusion rule also means that a somewhat riskier pick will not punish you as much if it ends up scoring poorly, as that can be a score you exclude.

5) Plan For Future Majors (If You Need To)

This final strategy principle only applies to a subset of Majors pools:

  • If your pool only includes a single tournament like The Masters, this section doesn’t apply to you.
  • If your pool includes multiple Majors, but you can re-pick the same golfer as many times as you want across events, you don’t really need to think about future tournaments now (assuming your pool starts with The Masters) and you can skip this part. You will need to consider your position in the standings when you pick future Majors, but we will save that discussion for a future article.

That leaves Majors pools that include multiple events, but where you can only pick a golfer once across all events included in the pool.

If you are in such a pool, you need to constantly evaluate whether it’s better to pick a specific golfer for the current tournament, or to save him to use as a future pick, because you will not be able to pick the best golfer in every tier for every tournament.

Psychologically, many of your opponents may have difficulty delaying picking the golfers they think are best, so the top golfers will probably be more popular picks in earlier tournaments. As a result, waiting to pick the best golfers until they are hopefully less popular picks could give you a relative edge.

Over the course of time in Majors pools, you will do better if you are picking golfers in tournaments other than the one in which the highest number of your opponents is also picking them. The public tends to like to play golfers in events they have won before in the recent past, or had a good finish the year before that placed them best relative to the other golfers in their tier.

If you plan ahead in a Majors pool, you should still be able to pick from among the top 4-5 options in each tier of golfers, while getting the best of pick popularity compared to your average opponent entry.

Tee Off With the PoolGenius Advantage

Reading strategy advice for golf pools is well and good, but putting all these tips into practice is where things typically get a lot more challenging.

First, there are many golfers to evaluate in a Majors or Masters pool. That means a lot of data to collect and analyze if you want to maximize your edge: betting odds, player rankings, recent course performance, national pick popularity trends, and more.

In addition, factors that impact pick strategy like a pool’s scoring system, size, and how its tiers are constructed will differ from pool to pool, and you need to figure out the optimal balance of risk and upside for the specific pool(s) that you enter.

Against this backdrop of complexity, we designed our new Golf Majors & Masters Picks product to help you make the smartest pick decisions in the most efficient way. Features include:

  • Customized pick advice for an unlimited number of pools, from the Masters through The Open Championship (British Open) in July
  • Support for any combination of Majors included in a pool, from single events (e.g. Masters pools) to pools that include all four Majors
  • Comprehensive and sortable Data Grid showing updated betting odds, Strokes Gained data, course history data, and golfer rankings
  • Ability to configure your pool’s tier structure and see detailed golfer data presented tier-by-tier

Whether you’re a do-it-yourself researcher who loves to study all the angles, or someone who’s super busy and just wants some quick advice that provides an edge, the product will help you get the most out of the short time window for each Majors week.

Using similar approaches for other types of sports pools, on average, PoolGenius subscribers report winning pool prizes roughly 3x as often as expected, given the size of their pools. We look forward to helping our Majors & Masters Picks subscribers achieve a similar level of success.

P.S. If you also play in golf One And Done pools, we also have a product for those pools (Golf One And Done Picks), and discounted packages that combine both our Majors & Masters and One And Done tools.

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