No matter the kind of golfer you are, you've probably wondered what's a good pace of play -- in other words, how long should a round of golf take?
The stock answer is about 4 hours for 18 holes, so, if you have half that time, you should play 9 holes. Playing 9 holes (or even 6) is a great way to get your golf fix without having the same time commitment. In fact, as I've gotten older, I enjoy playing nine holes more than a full round. It's a unique challenge.
Of course, being able to play 9 holes in 2 hours or less depends on the pace of play. Pace of play really depends on a lot of factors: the skill level of the players in your group and on the course, the difficulty of the course, the space in between holes and how many people are on the golf course. That could bump up a reasonable pace of play to 2 hours, 15 minutes for nine holes. Some country clubs demand players go quicker than 2 hours for 9 holes, asking them to wrap it up in closer to 90 minutes -- and that's walking, not with a cart, which doesn't usually speed up play all that much.
The idea, then, is that each hole should take an average of 13 minutes to get to that 2-hour mark. The par 3s should take about 10 minutes, while the par 4s take about 13 and the par 5s take about 15 minutes.
Of course, that's with a full foursome on an average golf course with an average number of people playing. If you're playing with less than four and the course isn't packed, then you can play substantially faster. On an empty golf course, a single player or a skilled twosome can play a 9-hole round in as little as 75 minutes. That can be walking or riding, depending on the age of the players.
On a busy golf course with average to poor players, a 9-hole round can take in upwards of 3 hours to play. You shouldn't play at those facilities because they're not managing their flow well. You'll play worse because you're waiting on almost every shot. And it flies in the face of trying to play golf quickly by playing fewer holes.
If you're playing in a tournament with a shotgun start or a special format, you can expect your nine-hole portion of the round to take two-and-a-half or three hours.
There are also things you can do to speed up the pace of play on the golf course and keep things moving for everyone while enjoying a quicker round of golf.
5 Ways to Speed Up Golf Pace of Play
- Gimmes -- By not asking players in your group to putt everything out, you'll save up to 2 minutes on each hole.
- Ready golf -- Ready golf is the idea that players need not go by the traditional order of play that's based on the player farthest from the hole and instead playing as soon as you're ready to go (within reason). That will save up to 30 minutes per round.
- Good cart golf -- If you're choosing or forced into riding a golf cart, make sure you operate it efficiently. Drive up to a rider's golf ball, drop them off and then go to the other rider's ball. That way there's little waiting time between shots and Ready Golf can continue.
- Quick stops at the turn -- After nine holes, it's fine to make a stop at the clubhouse or pro shop for a snack or a drink. But make it a quick trip, as in less than 5 minutes. This keeps the groups moving.
- Playing the proper tees -- This is incredibly important. Play from the right tee box for your skill level and driving ability. If you're not a long hitter and you can barely break 100, playing from the back tees is a bad idea. Here's a good formula for the length of course you should play: Take your average driving distance and multiply it by 25 to get the proper length of course for you (more or less). That means if you average a 250-yard drive, a 6,250-yard golf course is perfect for you.