Legal Sports Report

Daily Fantasy Golf

Golf is one of the few individual games that is well-suited to daily fantasy sports. There are around a hunded players to choose from, scoring plays are frequent, and the battle for victory is often tightly contested on Sunday.

Although interest lags behind the major sports and the legality is somewhat fuzzy, most operators provide golf for their customers where possible.

Here are some questions and answers about playing daily fantasy golf.

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Most of the major DFS operators offer daily fantasy golf contests. DraftKings and FanDuel both do, as well as Draft and FantasyDraft. In most places, at least. New York DFS players have fewer choices.

The state’s DFS law prohibits operators from launching contests for sports they were not offering prior to November 2015. While DraftKings was already running golf contests at that point, FanDuel and others were not. Most other sites have since rolled out paid-entry golf contests, but players in New York are generally blocked from entering at FanDuel.

Yahoo DFS does not offer golf contests in any state.

How does daily fantasy golf work?

Daily fantasy golf is fairly straightforward, as there are no positional requirements for lineups. Everyone is just “Golfer.”

On most sites, golfers are assigned a price that roughly coincides with their expected performance. Users must create a lineup with multiple golfers that fits within a designated salary cap. Specific lineup requirements vary from site to site, but most use five or six golfers. FantasyDraft requires either six or seven depending on the contest, and the low score is dropped in the seven-golfer format.

Not everyone uses the salary cap, though. Draft uses a snake draft similar to season-long fantasy leagues. Boom Fantasy bypasses the lineup entirely, basing its contests on a series of comparative or “prop” selections.

Once the contest begins, users accumulate points based on the real-world performance of the golfers they’ve chosen. Birdies and such count toward the score, and points are typically deducted for bogeys and beyond.

Unlike the actual sport, the highest score wins in DFS golf.

What kind of daily fantasy golf contests are there?

Daily fantasy sports operators provide their full lineup of game types to users during golf season. Most contests require paying an entry fee to compete for a set amount of prize money. Some contests are also free to enter and may or may not feature a prize. The site takes a percentage of each entry as a “rake” to generate revenue.

Contests generally fall into a handful of categories:

  • Guaranteed prize pools (GPPs): A fixed prize pool is offered by a site with a maximum number of entries, sometimes in the millions of dollars at the largest sites. They run regardless of whether they fill up or not.
  • Cash games: Players can either join an existing contest or create their own. These are smaller than GPPs and not guaranteed to run.
  • Head-to-head: A contest that pits two players against one another; the winner receives the entire prize pool.
  • 50/50: The top half of the field doubles their investment; the other half of the field receives nothing.

Golf is also available within the private DraftKings Leagues and FanDuel Friends Mode.

Entry fees for golf contests span the entire range, from a few cents up to thousands of dollars.

Daily fantasy golf legality

From a legal standpoint, daily fantasy golf operates in a slightly grayer area than its counterparts in other sports.

At issue is the federal law called the UIGEA, which carves DFS out from the list of prohibited gambling transactions. That 2006 act stipulates that fantasy contests must be based on “multiple real-world sporting or other events.”

The “multiple” requirement is easy to meet for team sports, like football and basketball. The operator simply needs to ensure that users choose players from more than one of the day’s games. This is why you’re not allowed to fill your roster with players from one team; the law is built into the software.

But with golf, there are no other games or other teams. There’s just one event, and all of the players are competing in the same field. The same can be said for NASCAR and other individual sports.

DraftKings was one of the first to put its toe across the line and roll out PGA Tour contests. It contends that the four rounds of a golf tournament constitute ‘multiple events’ under the law. Other operators have since followed the lead, and DraftKings has gone one step further by offering weekend slates for the final two rounds only.

As far as we’re aware, nobody has challenged the legality of golf contests in court. State-based DFS bills and laws do not contain the “multiple event” language found in the UIGEA, so operators are in the clear on that level. Compliance with local law seems to be enough justification to continue, at this point.

It’s not clear if a court would agree that golf contests are permitted under UIGEA, but unless it’s forced to take a stance, operators will continue to offer them.

What’s in store for daily fantasy golf?

DFS golf is heavily reliant on interest in the sport itself. And the sport seems to be in a good spot at the moment.

There is a big group of young standouts who are challenging the old guard at the top of the FedEx Cup standings. And the old guard is holding its own, too. Phil Mickelson, a fan favorite, recently found the winner’s circle for the first time since 2013. When “Lefty” is competitive, people are more inclined to watch and play golf.

And, of course, there’s the Tiger Woods factor. When Tiger is playing well, interest in golf skyrockets among casual fans. Coming off a major back surgery, Woods seems to be regaining his form in 2018, and that’s a welcome sight for the tour. His resurgence is crucial to golf’s relevance in the mainstream.

As the game goes, so go the DFS contests. As long as golf can hold the attention of casual fans, the vertical will continue to be a successful one for operators.

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