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How Long Does It Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf?

Last updated: December 11, 2022
how long does it take to play 18 holes of golf
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Key Takeaways

The time needed to play 18 holes can reach 3-6 hours, depending on many factors, such as the number of players, their skill level and behavior, using a cart or walking, weather conditions, course traffic and difficulty, etc., are all things that directly affect the duration of a golf round.

Golf is a very popular sport in the United States and other parts of the world. Millions of people enjoy playing golf every year. However, there are also many misconceptions about how long it takes to complete a round.

This article will provide information on the average golf round length. This will give you a better idea of how much time you need to spend practicing before you can start competing.
We will cover the factors that affect the pace of a golf game and how each affects the total time needed to complete a round.

By the end, you will have gotten tips and advice on how to avoid being a slow player and reduce the time you need to finish a full game.
All you need to do for now is keep reading the article!

How Long Does It Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf?

Three golfers on a golf course with on of them holding a clipboard

So, how long does it usually take to play an entire golf round, all 18 holes? The United States Golf Association (U.S.G.A) conducted a study to determine the average time a golf round needs to be completed. 

According to the study, 18 holes can be completed in around four hours, with an additional 30 minutes during weekends. Depending on many factors, such as the number of players and the obstacles on the course, the day of the week, weather conditions, etc., this time can be longer or shorter. In some cases, it can take up to five or six hours. 

Each golf course typically contains three types of holes: Par-3s, par-4s, and par-5s. For a group of four players, Par-3 holes take approximately 10 minutes per hole to complete; par-4s take about 13 minutes and par-5s around 16 minutes to complete.

Taking into consideration that a course usually has the following holes: four par-3, four par-5, and ten par-4, the total play time of the entire course will be around 3 hours 54 minutes, and the approximate travel time between holes around 6 minutes. 

For a group of three players, the estimated time will be slightly shorter: around 3 hours 30 minutes. Two players will need about three hours to complete 18 holes. A single-player would typically need about two hours and 30 minutes.

One important thing to take into consideration is that if your group is one of the very first groups to play on the course, play time can be much shorter. On the other hand, as the course gets crowded with more groups teeing off, completing the course will require more time.

What Is the Problem With Slow Play?

Illustration of a tortoise playing golf on white background

Slow play is when a golfer takes too long to finish their round. This can lead to frustration for both the players and their playing partners.

For example, let’s say you are playing with someone who takes 15 minutes to hit each shot. You have already played nine holes and are ready to start the tenth. After waiting for them for 20 minutes, you decide to leave. If they don’t catch up with you, they may feel bad about themselves and not want to continue playing.

There are several reasons why slow play occurs. Some players do not know the rules of golf, which makes them miss shots. Others don’t understand the etiquette of the game, which leads to poor sportsmanship. Still, others are just plain lazy, and they might think they can get away with taking too long to play.

Slow play is an issue that is not exclusive to beginners or occasional golfers who may lack the experience or knowledge of golf rules and etiquette. There are some famous professional players who were known for being slow players. 

Examples include the Spanish pro golfer Sergio Garcia, a famous professional slow player who has fortunately changed his pace after the latest golf regulations concerning the pace of play.

More recently, the American pro golfer Bryson DeChambeau has been known to take a long time to hit the ball. Usually, he would spend time talking to his caddie about air density (and other things) before taking the shot. 

For other professional players, waiting until your turn to start thinking about your shot can be seen as a sign of disrespect and lack of consideration. Even for viewers, slow play can be infuriating and ruin the whole game and kill the fun.

Factors That Affect How Long a Round of Golf Takes

Portrait Of Four Friends Enjoying A Game Golf while carrying their golf bags

Earlier, we mentioned that the time a round of golf takes to complete would vary depending on many variables. These include the number of players, weather conditions, players' skill level, etc. Let's now tackle each factor individually in more detail.

Number of Players in the Group

This is probably the most obvious factor affecting the amount of time needed to complete a golf round. A group of four players will normally need more time than three, two, or even a single player. 

One player usually needs around 2 hours 30 minutes to complete 18 holes (10 minutes for each par-5, 8 minutes for each par-4, and 7 minutes for every par-3).

Two players can complete the course in around three hours (12 minutes for par-5s, 10 minutes for par-4s, and 8 minutes for par-3s).

A group of three players can complete the game in about three hours and 30 minutes (14 minutes for par-5s, 12 minutes for par-4s, and 9 minutes for par-3s).

For four players, the needed time will usually be around four hours (16 minutes on par-5s, 13 minutes on par-4s, and 10 minutes on par-3s).

Please note that the mentioned timings are average estimations that can be lower or higher depending on other factors. Also, the detailed timings are for single holes; that is, to get the total timing, the numbers have to be multiplied by the number of holes (Typically four par-5s, four par-3s, and ten par-4s).

Riding in a Golf Cart or Walking

Golf couple walking on fairway with bags

This is a highly debatable issue: Which one is better, walking or riding the cart? Both options have benefits and drawbacks.

Walking is good if you want to enjoy the scenery while playing, but it also means that you'll need to carry all your stuff with you. If you're carrying anything heavy, this could affect your swing performance and rhythm which can make you lose concentration. It's also harder to walk when it gets hot out on the course.

The time you spend walking can be socially beneficial and game-improving; in other words, you can mingle with colleagues and family members while walking and also have a better understanding of the course layout.

Walking is also good for your health, but if you have problems like back issues, this could not be the best option for you as it physically stresses the body. 

Riding the golf cart gives you the benefit of having everything at hand. It is also an easier and faster way of moving around the course between holes. You will quickly get to your golf balls, tees, and holes.

Moreover, the cart provides protection from the elements and doesn't stress the body as much as walking. It protects you from any unexpected surprises from mother nature!

Still, if you ride a cart, you don't get to fully enjoy the scenery of the golf course. Additionally, it can be difficult (or even impossible) for the cart to go everywhere in the course, especially if it is a challenging course with a lot of obstacles. 

The following video ( 1 minute 50 seconds) from the YouTube channel of GOLFFOREVER provides a comparison of the two methods as well as tips on how to safely walk on the course even if you have back problems:

Player Skill Level and Behavior

Completing 18 golf holes also depends on the players themselves. Skilled players can usually complete the course faster than beginners or average players who may lack the golfing skills or knowledge required to play the game. You can improve your playing time by mastering golf skills and by using effective training aids.

It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong answer here. The only thing that matters is how fast you can complete the course!

Check Also: Stress-Free Golf Swing

The personality of the players also determines how they behave on the course. For example, some players are responsible and pay attention not to take too much time so as not to ruin the game for their group and the following groups.

On the other hand, some irresponsible, careless players may not even think about others; for them, all it matters is for them to enjoy the game and have fun. So, the whole world can wait! 

These players usually slow down the pace of play and cause the game to take much longer to complete.

Here's an article where you can learn some golf swing basics that can help speed up a round of golf.

Tee Time Intervals

Tee Time Clock on a golf ball illustration

Tee time intervals refer to the amount of time that the course establishes between tee times (when each group can start playing). As course managers want as many players as possible to play (and thus make more money), this can sometimes lead to overcrowded courses that negatively affect the golfers' experience.

There are different possible tee time intervals depending on each course (from seven minutes to fifteen). A seven or eight minute-interval means that up to 32 players will join the course every hour (eight tee times per hour). 

A twelve-minute interval would allow for up to five tee times every hour and 20 players potentially joining the course.

If the course operators opt for a fifteen-minute interval for their daily schedule, the number of tee times will be limited to only four per hour (up to 16 players joining per hour).

In a nutshell, shorter intervals mean that more players will be on the course simultaneously, leading to overcrowdedness and a slow pace of play. Conversely, longer intervals put fewer players on the course and can drastically improve the pace of play!


Different weather forecast concept

Mother nature does have a say on how long your golf game will take to complete. In fact, your golf game highly depends on the weather conditions (rain, temperature, wind, etc.) at the time of playing.

For instance, if you're going to play on a rainy day, you'll probably need to bring along an umbrella or wear a raincoat. Likewise, you may need to wear extra layers of clothes on a cold day, meaning that body movement and performance will be restricted. 

Ball flight is also affected by the weather. Warm, dry weather will help your ball fly longer, while rainy weather will mean that the way the ball bounces and rolls will be different; sometimes, it won't even roll if there is too much rain. In addition, wind can affect the ball flight trajectory and could mean that you end up with a few lost balls.

Different weather conditions can determine whether you will complete your golf round faster or slower!

Additionally, you should know that the weather conditions can change throughout the day. Therefore, you should always plan ahead and check the forecast before heading out to play.

Course Traffic

The number of players on a golf course on a given day will affect the pace and time needed to complete a round of golf.

Playing on a busy, crowded golf course means that a lot of players are simultaneously on it. If you are unlucky to have some slow players ahead of you, then the pace of play will take a serious hit because you will be obliged to wait for them to play before you can move on. 

Usually, the first round of the day takes less time and is completed in under four hours, but as other groups tee off and join the course, the pace becomes slower. 

Moreover, the best days to play golf at a faster pace seem to be Monday through Thursday, as golf courses are usually less crowded than the rest of the week (Friday to Sunday). 

This is because most people go to work during those days, and even if they manage to find time to play golf, they are more likely to play faster because they don't have much time to spend on the course. 

Furthermore, the pace of play is usually faster in the morning than in the afternoon, probably because players are more energetic and the weather is better at that time of day (especially during hot summer days). 

So, ideally, for a faster pace of play, you want to play golf in the morning while avoiding weekends as much as possible. Also, being the first group (or one of the first groups) to tee off will certainly help you complete the course faster!

Course Difficulty, Obstacles, or Hazards

Pebble Beach golf course, Monterey, California, USA
Pebble Beach golf course, Monterey, California, USA

The difficulty of a specific golf course will affect the time needed to complete it. The more hazards and obstacles the course has, the harder it will be to complete. 

A golf course can contain two types of hazards that make the game more challenging: water hazards (Rivers, lakes, etc.) and man-made hazards (Bunkers - even though calling bunkers hazards has been depreciated lately). There may be instances when you find yourself in bunkers. Learning how to hit out of the bunker as a beginner will get you out of this hazard in a faster and more efficient way.

Obstacles in a course include roughs, trees, bushes, penalty areas, or any other obstacle that makes the game harder.

Moreover, 18-hole golf courses are usually considered more difficult to complete; so, If you're looking for a challenging course, then you might consider playing an 18-hole golf course instead of a 9-hole course. While the latter is generally easier to play, the former provides a greater (probably more enjoyable) challenge.

Examples of golf courses that are considered hardest to complete include the Carnoustie Golf Links (Scotland), Whistling Straits (Winsconsin, U.S.A), Bethpage Black (New York, U.S.A), Palm Course, Saujana Golf Club (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), among others.

Distances Between Greens and Tees

Generally speaking, the closer the tees are to the greens, the easier the course will be to play. This is because it's easier to get from point A to point B when the distance between points A and B is shorter.

Similarly, the further away from the tees are from the green, the harder the course will be to complete. It's harder to reach the green from a farther distance. 

If you're looking for a short course, you may want to look for a golf course with the shortest distance between holes.

For example, a 10-minute drive from the first tee to the last tee would make the course very easy to complete. On the contrary, a 30-minute drive from the start to the finish line will make the course quite difficult to complete.

What Are the Benefits of Faster Play?

Flaming fast golf ball illustration on white background

There are several benefits of playing a fast-paced round of golf. One of these benefits is that you'll enjoy your round more. You'll feel happier and more relaxed after completing a faster-paced round.

Also, regardless of your skill level, playing at a faster pace will make the game more interesting and enjoyable for both yourself and your playing partners. It also provides a mental challenge to be able to think about your shots, especially chip and pitch shots, and execute them faster. 

Another benefit is that you'll improve your swinging skills faster. Playing a faster-paced round will allow you to practice your swing more often, which will result in improving your technique and consistency. Moreover, you'll become more familiar with your own body movements by practicing your swing more frequently.

Improving and increasing your golf swing speed can greatly help you play golf games better and faster. You can use top swing speed analyzers when practicing your golf swings.

What Are the Best Tips to Reduce Golf Course Time?

Now that we have established that a faster pace of play can make a golf round more enjoyable, you might be asking yourself how to speed up your pace. There are certain tips you can try to achieve that; let's cover some of them in more detail.

Ready Golf

Official golf competitions such as the PGA tour usually adopt a system named the "honor system". This means that the player with the lowest score in the previous hole gets to play first in the following one. Then the player that is furthest from the hole gets to play first. However, this system seems to waste a lot of time.

To try to save some time and speed up the pace, a new concept of play has been introduced in an attempt to replace the honor system. In a nutshell, 'ready golf' means that whichever player in the group is ready to play gets to play first without the need to strictly follow any order. 

Ready golf can significantly improve the pace of play and time of completion of a golf round if used safely and responsibly.  

Tee It Forward

Tee It Forward is another approach that tries to speed up the pace of play and make golf a more fun game to play. It is a joint initiative between the USGA and PGA of America which began with a two-week trial back in 2011. 

Tee it forward allows golfers to play the course at a length that best suits their ability and average driving distance. Players simply play from tees that make them save time and complete the course faster while having more fun; golf is a game, after all, and it needs to be fun!

A recent survey by the USGA found that a lot of players enjoyed and embraced the concept:

  • Ninety-three percent will TEE IT FORWARD again.
  • Eighty-five percent had more fun.
  • Eighty-three percent hit more-lofted clubs into greens.
  • Fifty-six percent are likely to play golf more often.
  • Fifty-six percent played faster.

Play Fewer Holes

Maybe this is the most obvious solution to reduce the time needed to complete a golf round: To play fewer holes!

In fact, you are not required to play all 18 holes to complete the game, even though everyone seems to think of the number '18' whenever talking about a round of golf!

Playing nine holes will be the perfect solution if you don't have enough time to play all 18 or usually play in the afternoon when there isn't enough sunlight to finish the game. So, how long would it take to play nine holes? 

It all depends on the factors we discussed earlier (number of players, traffic, day of the week, etc.). A single golfer or a skilled twosome can finish the course in about 75 minutes if the course is not crowded. However, if the course is busy, a couple of players may need up to three hours to complete nine holes, depending on their age and if they choose to walk or ride a cart between holes.

Choose the Correct Set of Tees

Choosing a set of tees that match your driving distance can also help speed up the pace. This concept is what we referred to as "Tee It Forward" earlier. It allows players to drop their scores and enjoy their time while playing.

A general rule of the thumb is to hit from the closest tee if you hit under two hundred yards. If you hit between 200 and 225 yards, use the next farthest tee. If your driving distance is consistently 275 yards or above, then you need to hit from the tees that are the farthest back.

Choosing a Good Golf Cart

Even if golf carts can take the physical exercise part out of a golf game, they still have many benefits such as saving time, providing protection from the elements, and the ability to have comfortable conversations while traveling together around the course. Choosing a good one will depend on your budget and personal preference (gas-operated or electrical). This is your go-to option if your goal is to save time.

If you prefer walking, you may opt for a pushcart to easily carry your gear around the course. Whichever you end up picking, you need to make sure it offers enough compartments to have all your gear well-organized and save you a lot of time.

Checking In Earlier

Another way of saving time is to arrive at the golf course and check-in earlier. Please don't wait until it's almost your scheduled tee time to check-in!

You should arrive at the course between 30 to 45 minutes earlier; this will give you plenty of time to check-in and do anything you want or need to before the game starts. For example, you could get something to eat or drink, chat with partners or start warming up before it's your turn to tee off.

Final Thoughts

Golf is a very technical game. It takes a lot of practice and strategy to play. Everything needs to be calculated to enjoy the game without any surprises.

The time needed to complete a course depends on many factors like weather conditions, day of the week (busy weekend or other days), course difficulty, etc.

We tried to cover the whole topic at hand in as much detail as possible. We discussed the average time different groups of players need to complete a course, causes and solutions to slow play, etc.

We also provided tips to help you speed up the pace of a golf game and make it more enjoyable. Now, we believe you are ready to apply everything in this article to a real golf course. You will be surprised how big a difference the little details can make!

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us or leave a comment. We will do our best to assist you.

Jacob Jensen
Jacob Jensen
My name is Jacob, a self-diagnosed equipment and golf enthusiast. I've been golfing since I was 15. Golf has always been my passion. I'm a bit of a golf equipment nerd and I've been that way since the moment I picked up a club for the first time. As someone who's been on both sides of the game, I know what it takes to be a good golfer. Of course, you need good equipment, but you also need to know how to use it. I hope sharing my experience with you will help you improve your game.

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