How Long Does Playing 18 Holes of Golf Take?
Overly long games can become a chore and lose their enjoyment. You are out on the course too long, and the game loses its flow. Plus, additional factors like the weather can make a marathon six-hour session uncomfortable.
No one wants to feel rushed on the course, but taking a long time to play each hole impacts the enjoyment of your fellow players and holds up other groups.
So how long does playing 18 holes take? And how long should it take? We address these questions, the factors that affect playing time, and tips on optimizing your pace of play.
How Long Does It Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf?
The average playtime for an 18-hole golf round is anywhere between 3-5 hours. A good average to work on is around 4 hours, but each course varies. Many different factors will impact the length of time, some of which are within the player's control and some not.
It’s always worth calculating your average playtime per hole when you are on the course, ignoring the time it takes to get from one hole to the next. The travel time will vary according to the course and whether you walk or use a cart.
An average time per hole can help you keep to a reasonable overall time frame for an 18-hole game.
How Long Should It Take to Play Each Hole?
A regular golf hole for four amateur golfers takes, on average, 15 minutes to complete. Many factors can reduce this time, but there are plenty of variables out of your control, such as how other people play, the course difficulty, and even the weather.
11 Factors That Affect How Long a Round of Golf Takes
A large group of players will take longer than just a couple of buddies. A group size of four golfers will take about 4-4.5 hours to play 18 holes.
Pace of Play
Two people should play more quickly than a larger group, but if your tee time is a chance to catch up or even conduct business on the course, two players can have an extended pace of play.
The pace of play is not just the time for the group as a whole but also how long each player takes to gauge the shot and make the stroke.
Waiting Time on the Tee Box
Waiting time on the tee box is an unfortunate fact of life on a busy course. The wait can add five minutes or more to each hole.
Finding the intervals between the tee times before you book your slot helps gauge how long the overall round will take.
Time of Day
The main part of the day, from 7 am to mid-afternoon, will be when the course is at its busiest. A crowded course can slow down the pace of play as you wait for other groups ahead of yours to finish.
If you can play later in the day, your round is likely to be quicker. Try to time it to finish with less than an hour's daylight left. If the weather is hot, then you may find other players also want to play later in the day when the temperature has dropped.
Walking or Using a Golf Cart
Walking the course is becoming increasingly popular, but it does slow down the pace of play.
Using a golf cart can shave around an hour on average from the course time. However, it can depend upon whether you stick to the cart path or drive on the fairways, which is quicker.
Catching up With Other Groups
Catching up with other groups on the course will always cause delays unless they allow you to play through their group.
Player Skill Level
Beginner golfers will always play more slowly than experienced golfers. It takes them longer to assess their shot, select the club, and play the ball. They are less accurate and take longer to put the ball away.
Clubs can overbook the course. When the course is busy and congested, everyone will take longer to play their round.
Some clubs will have set times for novice players or beginners so that they can play without feeling pressurized. More experienced groups can avoid these times.
A course with long holes will obviously require more time to play. Challenges like bunkers, water hazards, and thick rough will always slow players down. As golf equipment has improved, courses have increased in difficulty.
Experienced players usually take these extra difficulties in their stride, but casual players or beginners should expect to add a significant amount of time to their game.
The location of the tee box can add or detract from the time it takes to play a round.
Many golf courses have tee boxes located close to the previous hole’s green. However, some courses have hard-to-reach tee boxes or extra travel time between the holes.
Newer golf courses built around other obstructions like housing estates or developments also can stretch out the space between tees and greens.
Course management is also a significant factor in how quickly you can play your round.
Ideally, roughs should be at a reasonable height, moderate green speeds, and pin placements away from difficult areas like humps or ridges.
Clubs that keep tee times around 9-10 minutes apart will ensure a good flow of players around the course, but you might feel rushed. Some clubs will also consolidate groups of less than four and ban larger groups during busy periods.
Adverse weather will always delay the game. Strong winds slow down players and golf balls, and excessive heat can also take its toll. No one feels like rushing when it is sweltering.
Why Is Round Length Important in Golf?
The round length is vital for several reasons. For regular, non-professional games, it is a matter of courtesy to other players that you don’t take too long.
The pace of play is also critical at the professional level. Over the years, the USGA has set out various rules to encourage a prompt pace of play. One of the most critical rules to know is that a player has a maximum of 40 seconds to play a stroke.
The National Golf Foundation found in a 2012 study that an 18-hole round played during peak season took four hours and sixteen minutes.
However, many rounds on busy public courses take five hours. This slow pace of golf can discourage new players and push established golfers away from playing at specific clubs.
So, how can you pick up the pace?
Improving Your Round Time
Here are some trusted techniques that can shave a considerable amount of time from an 18-hole round.
- - Keep moving—save the chat for the walk between the greens and the clubhouse.
- - Be ready to hit your shot—try and keep prep time down to one minute or less before you take the shot.
- - Read the course—assess the shot while waiting to play so that you are ready.
- - Lost balls—the rules of golf allow three minutes to search for your ball, but you can cut this down to two or even one minute to save holding up the game.
- - Get ready—start the round with tees and markers. Replace head covers as you walk or while others are taking their shots. Make sure your golf bag is ready and equipped with everything you need before you set out for the course.
- - Be cart smart—drop off your partner and drive to your ball or the other way around. When you leave the cart, take a selection of clubs, not just one, in case you change your mind.
- - Watch your partners—observing other players can help identify a lost ball more quickly. Assist other players in your group when searching for missing balls.
- - Play the correct tees—choose a set of tees with a slope rating of 142 minus your handicap index.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Play 18 Holes of Golf in 2 Hours?
Playing 18 holes in 2 hours would be the exception rather than the rule. However, theoretically, it is possible, but only if you are an experienced player, know the course well, and have favorable weather.
A full par-72 course will usually take around 4 hours to play, but you can complete a par-3 course with 18 holes in around 2 hours.
How Long Do 18 Holes of Golf Take With a Cart?
A golf cart can take around an hour of the average course time. Playing 18 holes is subject to all the usual variables like course difficulty, how busy it is, and how many players are in the group, but using a cart will undoubtedly make it quicker.
If every player takes responsibility for their game, the pace of play for any course should be amenable for everyone. Keeping an eye on your average hole time will ensure your game is efficient and slick— it doesn’t mean you have to feel rushed.
There are many techniques and tips that can streamline your game, and efficient golf time means that you can fit in more visits to the course during the week!Ready to improve your pace of play? Shop Stitch Golf today for lightweight golf bags, stylish apparel, and more to keep you performing at your best and looking good while you do it.