How long should it take to play an 18-hole round of golf?
CMC Golf Culture

How long should it take to play an 18-hole round of golf?


Whether you're a newbie golfer or you've been hacking it around for a while, you've probably wondered what's a good pace of play -- in other words, how long should a round of golf take?

How long should it take to play 18 holes of golf?

An 18-hole round of golf should take 4 hours, in an ideal world. In a more realistic world, a round of golf will probably take 5 hours.

Of course, 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 4 hours, 30 minutes.

Some country clubs demand players go quicker than 4 hours for 18 holes, asking them to wrap it up in 3 hours, 30 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 4-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 an 18-hole round in as little as 2 hours. That can be walking or riding, depending on the age of the players.

On a busy golf course with average to poor players, an 18-hole round can take in upwards of 6 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.

If you're playing in a tournament with a shotgun start or a special format, you can expect your 18-hole round to take five or six hours. Sometimes standard rounds can last that long, too, particularly if golf courses stack up tee times at 8- or 10-minute intervals. Avoid those courses.

If you go to a course to play nine holes, you should expect to be done in 2 hours, though you can get it done in as little as an hour if you're playing alone or with one other person on a scarcely populated course.

There are also things you can do to speed up the pace of play on the golf course and keep things moving for everyone.

5 Ways to Speed Up Golf Pace of Play

  1. Gimmes -- By not asking players in your group to putt everything out, you'll save up to 2 minutes on each hole.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he has covered dozens of major championships and professional golf tournaments. He likes writing about golf and making it more accessible by answering the complex questions fans have about the pro game or who want to understand how to play golf better.

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