What is Calcutta Golf? The Calcutta Golf Guide

Just when you thought you’d heard of every possible format of betting on the course, we come through with this unique system.

Calcutta golf is not as popular as it should be, but if you encounter one, you stand to win a lot of money.

You don’t have to win or even play well to get paid.

If you fancy yourself a student of the game and can spot real talent when you see it, then you can be profitable with a Calcutta golf tournament.

Like other formats, there are certain strategies you can implement to increase your odds of cashing out.

Of course, it always pays to practice and play your best, but if that doesn’t happen, an intelligent strategy in Calcutta golf can net you some big bucks.

golfers playing calcutta golf.

What Is A Calcutta In Golf?

Calcutta golf is a system designed to wager on players and/or teams in a golf tournament.

Most commonly seen in scramble events, players and guests can bid on teams before play begins. 

If you are the highest bidder, then that is your team, even if you’re not playing on the team or even playing in the tournament. 

If that team wins, you win your Calcutta bet and the associated prize money.   

Best Calcutta Strategy

Most events operate on a handicapping system, meaning that any team playing has a realistic chance of winning.

Of course, the lower handicap players have a better chance of improving their score than someone who only plays seldomly, so the minimum bid may be higher on these teams in order to encourage bidders to bid on every team. 

Knowing this, you must first determine the payout structure of the Calcutta golf event.

If the entire pot goes to only one or two teams, then your strategy should be to win the bid of the most skilled team in the tournament, regardless of the price. 

If the payout is such that the top 5 teams get paid, then you can bid on lower-end teams and probably win the bid for much cheaper than a top-tier team.

They will have a chance at winning and also the safety net of finishing fifth place or higher.

If you’re playing in the tournament, then it pays to have a good player on your team but not too many. You don’t want your handicap to be too low.

Find yourself players in the 8 to 12 handicap range, and then find one player who is closer to scratch.

This line-up means you’ll get a significant amount of strokes. Hopefully, you can use your “ringer” to sink those important birdie putts or rescue your team should everyone miss a tee shot somewhere along the way.  

Just be sure to accurately represent your handicaps, so you don’t get accused of sandbagging. False reporting of handicaps is considered cheating and, if proven true, will result in disqualification.  

A golfer stood in front of a tee

Calcutta Outside Of Golf

You will also find many charity golf tournaments utilizing this fun twist on a traditional golf tournament.

It offers onlookers a great way to be invested in the event, and it’s also an excellent way for charities to raise money from people who are not golfing.

In many cases, players aren’t the winners of the bid for their own team. When this happens, it’s customary for the winning bidder to offer a percentage of ownership to the playing members of the team.

This makes it more fun for the team and gives them more incentive to win and cash in with their newfound investor.

Calcutta In Other Sports

Golf isn’t the only sport that can be jazzed up by this format. It can be implemented in almost any tournament-style event. Softball, billiards, and darts are just a few examples.

This offers spectators a more exciting way to watch their friends and family play.

Can Pros Play In Calcutta?

In most Calcutta situations, there is a lot of money that goes to the pot, especially if you are part of one at a private club.

Due to this, a Calcutta event may cause amateurs to lose their status if they win and take the winnings.

Although the rules of golf state that amateurs are allowed to gamble but not compete for prize money, due to the sheer size of some of these pots and the structureonly a handful of teams get paid—the USGA or R&A can revoke your amateur status if you were to win.

A group of golfers on a fairway.

How To Run A Calcutta Golf Event

To run a Calcutta event, you will need lots of people. The more people, the better.

You will also need some software in order to track and handicap the teams. Handicapping the teams is the most critical part of the process.

You want every team to have a chance at winning, so they get someone to bid on them. To do this, you must award less talented teams a certain amount of strokes.

Open the bidding before the tournament day so people can start bidding as soon as possible. This makes it easy for anyone who can’t attend the event to still get in on the action.

Determine your prize payout ahead of time as well. This allows bidders to develop a strategy and give tournament organizers the best chance at raising the most money.

Why Is It Called ‘Calcutta’?

The name derives from the city in India where the format was invented.

The Royal Calcutta Golf Club is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world and is commonly referred to as the “St. Andrews of Asia.”

With the help of British setters, this course was built in the early 1800s and has seen many world-renowned tournaments grace its grounds.

This style of betting on golfers was derived from India’s knack for betting on horses. They applied the same general technique that horse tracks use.

The British caught wind of this unique style and quickly adopted it in their home country as well.

Three golfers walking down a fairway.

Be Aware When Hosting A Calcutta Tournament

There are some unique factors that come into play when organizing a Calcutta golf tournament. These are the top mistakes that I’ve seen hosts make when running one of these events;

Not Handicapping Properly

Doing proper research on all the participants is crucial. With so much money on the line, it can be tempting for players to pad their handicap so they get more strokes on tournament day.

Be sure to look at all the scores of your players during the season and not just recent weeks.

This will give you a more accurate representation of what kind of player each person is.

Not Having On-Course Officials

Keeping an eye on players is much more important in this kind of tournament compared to other formats.

No other format offers winnings of this amount, so it’s very easy for people to become morally compromised.

By simply having a few extra marshals roaming the course, you will let everyone know that you run a fair tournament that is free of scoundrels.

Not Taking Care Of The Pot

No, not that kind of pot; I’m talking about the collection of money.

The day of the tournament is when the most bidding activity will happen, and there may be an excess of cash in your possession. Have a plan of where to keep it and who is in charge.

  • If the course has a safe, ask them to use it for the day.
  • If a trusted tournament organizer lives nearby, they can keep the pot at their house while the tournament is in play.
  • Encourage bidders to use their credit cards to reduce the amount of cash on hand.
Golfers in a buggy.

Where To Find Calcutta Golf Tournaments

The best place to find Calcutta golf tournaments will be at high-end golf courses and country clubs.

This is because they have a larger network of golfers and bidders who can spend a lot of money.

Other courses may run Calcutta as well, but due to their limited resources, they cannot raise enough money to justify the time it takes to organize.

A Calcutta tournament works best when there is a lot of money on the line. This is more easily found at affluent golf establishments.

You may also look for Calcutta golf tournaments through local charities.

This will give you a much greater chance of entering since you won’t need a fancy country club membership.

Calcutta tournaments hosted by charities are typically a lot busier and can make for a slow round of golf. But just like a country club event, you stand to make a lot of money if you win.

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After graduating from the Professional Golf Management program in Palm Springs, CA, Clint moved back to Toronto, Canada, where he turned pro and became a Class 'A' member of the PGA of Canada. He then began working at some of the city's most prominent country clubs. While this was exciting, it wasn't as fulfilling as teaching, and Clint made the change from a pro shop professional to a teaching professional. Within two years, he was the Lead Teaching Professional at Toronto's busiest golf instruction facility. Since then, Clint has stepped back from the stress of running a successful golf academy to focus more on the fun side of the game. He now enjoys helping golfers choose the right equipment through valuable testing and research and improving their game by raising their golf IQ. Ironically, he plays more golf now than he ever did when working at a golf course.

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