How Long Does a Round of Golf Take? (For 18 & 9 Holes)

A round of golf takes some time investment. But exactly how long does golf take? Unfortunately, there’s no set timeframe, so it’ll change from one day to the next.

We can give you an idea, though, and you can plan your day around your game of golf. Get out for a round in the morning sunshine and make it back in time for that afternoon barbeque.

How Long Does 18 Holes Take?

On average, it takes 4-5 hours for a foursome to play a round of 18 holes of golf. When there’s no wait ahead of you, it’s realistic to finish in roughly 4 hours. On a busy weekend with waits on each hole, expect the round to take 5 hours.

This duration depends on several factors, including when you play, how busy the course is, speed of play, skill level, and whether you’re walking or riding a cart.

Group size and pace of play are the most significant factors determining how long it will take you to play 18 holes. For example, playing with a foursome on a busy weekend will take much longer to play than sneaking off the back nine as a single with no golfers in front of you.

The below table illustrates how long it takes to play for each scenario.

# of GolfersNot busy / No waitBusy / Wait on each hole
44 hours5 hours
33 ½ hours4 ½ hours
23 hours4 hours
12 ½ hours4 hours

How Long it Takes to Play Par 3s, Par 4s & Par 5s

golfer waiting on players ahead of him

In golf, 18 holes take 4 hours on average. It takes this time for a standard foursome to get around the course while walking. For 4 players, that gives an average of 13 minutes for each hole.

However, it takes that amount of time if there’s no waiting around between shots.

All golfers know that 18 holes can take longer than 4 hours. Sometimes you can get stuck behind a slow group. Or there can be a lot of players out on the course at the same time.

This can cause congestion in play.

Think of a highway. It has a maximum capacity for traffic to run smoothly. But when that capacity is exceeded, we get congestion.

A golf course is like a highway in that respect. If there are a lot of players out on the course, we’ll get congestion in play. That usually happens on big competition days.

So, 18 holes on a Saturday morning will likely take longer than on your average Tuesday morning. We’ll take a closer look at factors that affect how long golf takes later in the article.

Check out the table below for a snapshot of how long each type of hole should take.

# of GolfersPar 3sPar 4sPar 5s
410 mins13 mins16 mins
39 mins12 mins14 mins
28 mins10 mins12 mins
17 mins8 mins10 mins
Source: R&A

How Long Does 9 Holes Take?

For 9 holes, it’ll take an average of 2 – 2 ½ hours. That’s for a standard foursome walking around the course.

We can easily calculate that using the average of 13 minutes per hole. So it gives us the 2 hours figure.

But you could still be waiting around between shots, even playing 9 holes. So, therefore, it could take longer to play the 9 in those instances.

At least you now know a ball-park figure for how long golf will take on average. You can plan ahead to squeeze in 9 holes. Or you can play the full 18 holes if you’ve got more time.

How Long Does Golf Take for 1, 2, 3 and 4 Golfers?

With no wait on each hole, golf takes 2 ½ hours for 1 golfer, 3 hours for 2 golfers, 3 ½ hours for 3 golfers, and 4 hours for 4 golfers. This is the average time when you’re playing without waiting around.

As previously mentioned, waiting between shots affects how long golf takes. View the table below to compare playing golf without a wait and playing with a wait on each hole.

# of GolfersNot busy / No waitBusy / Wait on each hole
44 hours5 hours
33 ½ hours4 ½ hours
23 hours4 hours
12 ½ hours4 hours

As you can see, waiting on each hole can add an hour to your round of golf. And that’s if you’re waiting for about 3 minutes on every hole. But sometimes you might be waiting longer than that.

If it’s a super slow day, it can take longer than 5 hours to play a round of golf. This is rare, but it can happen.

The times above are how long it takes for golf when walking the course. It won’t take as long if you’re riding a cart.

How Much Time Golf Takes with a Cart

If your foursome is moderately experienced and there’s no waiting at each hole, golf takes as little as 3 – 3 ½ hours with a cart. But, again, that time changes if you must wait on each hole. Even riding a cart, it can take around 5 hours for golf when it’s jam-packed.

Factors Which Affect How Long Golf Takes

Let’s look at 8 factors that affect how long golf takes:

  1. Skill level
  2. Number of players
  3. Pace of play
  4. Game format
  5. Course size and design
  6. Busy or not
  7. Riding or walking
  8. Weather

1. Skill level

Skill level varies from player to player. Some people are amazing golfers, while some are beginners just learning the game. On average, the better golfers will also be faster players.

Highly skilled, experienced players will be able to decide which shot to hit more quickly. It’ll be like second nature to them. But beginners will take more time to decide and then execute the shot.

Also, better golfers will likely hit the ball further than beginners. Maybe it takes a beginner 2 shots to reach the same distance as a good player’s drive. More shots equal more time.

And that’s a big reason why skill level is a factor in how long golf takes. For example, a highly skilled golfer can score 72 while an average player can score 90. Now, let’s say each shot takes both 60 seconds to hit.

Because better golfers take fewer shots, they ultimately take less time.

2. Number of players

As we’ve already seen, the number of players factors into how long golf takes. If you’re playing alone, you can easily smash the 4-hour mark if it’s not busy. You can finish in as little as 2 ½ hours if you keep up the pace of play.

For one player, it takes an average of about 8 minutes to complete a hole.

Keep up that pace, and you’ll be finished in about 2 ½ hours.

But as we now know, the time increases with each additional player. You’ll have to wait for your playing partners to hit their shots, which increases the time golf takes.

3. Pace of play

Every golfer has their own pace of play. Some like to walk quickly, but some prefer to stroll to conserve their energy. So naturally, that affects how long golf takes.

Also, different activities during the round all add up. For example, players take clubs in and out of their bags, search for lost golf balls, record scores, and do many other activities. All this contributes to the pace of play and affects how long golf takes.

4. Game format

In golf, there are different game formats. Stroke, matchplay, and foursome golf are three different formats.

Stroke play means every golfer must record a score on each hole. So even if you’re an inch away from the hole on your 8th shot, you must tap the ball in to record the score.

On the other hand, Matchplay doesn’t need a player to finish every shot on the hole. If the ball is close to the hole, your opponent can give you a ‘gimmie’ which allows you to pick the ball up. That speeds up play.

In foursome golf – sometimes called alternate shot – players compete as a team and hit alternate shots. This reduces the number of shots for the round, meaning a game doesn’t take as long.

5. Course size and design

Modern golf courses cover areas as large as 150 acres, a large area of land. The longer the course, the longer it takes to finish.

The terrain of the course also factors into the time golf takes. If there are many hills, for instance, it’ll take longer to walk uphill. And hazards can slow play, too, because players will have to hit more shots if they get into trouble.

6. Busy or not

As previously mentioned, whether it’s busy or not affects how long golf takes. The average time will rise if there are several groups back-to-back on the course.

Some golf courses are popular destinations. This popularity will affect how long your round takes. In addition, some courses are busy throughout the year, so this will contribute to the time your round takes.

7. Riding or walking

Walking the course while carrying your bag or using a pushcart will increase the length of your round. Even the fastest walkers can’t keep up with a cart.

You’ll take less time to complete the round riding a cart. If you’re under time constraints, booking a cart is a good option. You can zoom around in about 3 hours if there’s no delay.

8. Weather

If the rain is pelting down, are you going to continue playing? It’s not the best idea to continue in those conditions. Taking a break is a good option.

Of course, that’ll add more time to your round. You might be waiting a few minutes for the rain to ease, or you might wait longer. Either way, it’ll affect how long you’ll be out on the course.

On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about such delays when the sun is beating down. You can play your round as normal. But the weather is a major factor that affects how long golf takes.

Tips to speed up your round

Although some things are out of your control, here are some tips to speed up your round.

Book a tee time

Booking a tee time through the pro shop or scheduling online can save you time. This way, you’ll know exactly what time you’re teeing off. It allows you to better plan your day.

If you don’t book a time, you could arrive to find many groups waiting ahead of you. You could be in for a long wait to get going. Put that worry aside by booking a tee time.

Play off-peak

If you play off-peak, the course won’t be as crowded. This allows you to speed up your round.

Weekend mornings are typically the busiest times on the course. You could play off-peak on weekends or weekday afternoons. Then, fewer golfers will be around to slow you down.

Record scores on the next tee

When everyone on the course records scores on the next tee, it speeds up play. You don’t want the people in front of you hanging around the green recording their scores. It means you can’t hit until they walk clear.

The same applies to you for the group behind. If you’re on the green recording your score, you slow them down.

Record scores on the next tee and get things moving. Even if you have to wait on the next tee, at least you spend some of that time recording scores.

Hit when you’re ready

Instead of waiting for the person furthest from the target to hit, hit when you’re ready. For example, maybe your playing partner is hurrying to get to their ball while you’re already at yours.

If that’s the case and the coast is clear to hit, let rip. That’ll speed up play.

It’s called ready golf.

Enforce ‘gimmies’ in social play

If you’re out playing socially with your friends, enforce ‘gimmies’ for certain putts. Most players allow ‘gimmies’ for putts a putter-length from the hole and shorter. But it’s up to you and your buddies to decide.

Picking the ball up from these distances speeds up play.

Hit a provisional ball

If you blast a drive into the trees or deep rough, hit a provisional ball. You can then play the provisional if you don’t find the first one.

Otherwise, you’ll be marching back to the tee to hit another drive. That’s a sure way to slow play.

If in doubt, hit a provisional ball to speed up play.

Rules that help speed up play

The speed of play has long been a concern in golf, and some rules have been introduced to help speed up play.

  • Time allowed to search for a ball – Players now have 3 minutes to search for a lost ball as opposed to the previous 5 minutes.
  • Putting with the flagstick in – Golfers can putt with the flagstick in the hole, which saves time taking it out and in.
  • Dropping the ball – When players must drop a ball, they can do it from knee height, lessening the chances of the ball rolling outside the permitted drop zone. This saves time because players don’t have to re-drop as often.
  • Plugged ball – If a ball is plugged, players can now take relief from the rough as well as the fairway. This speeds up play because golfers don’t have to dwell over a plugged ball.
  • Ready golf – Players can hit when they’re ready, instead of waiting for the person farthest from the hole.

Conclusion

There we have it, everything you need to know about how long golf takes. Now you can plan your schedule around your round of golf, or you can get in a sneaky 9 holes if you’ve some spare time. Try some of our tips to speed up play if you find your group playing on the slow side. It’s likely the golfers behind will notice and be grateful.

Joe Morelli

Joe's been playing golf for 25 years, starting as a junior golfer in his early teens. He loves getting out on the links with his dad and friends -- whether an early weekend foursome or his weekday, afternoon league.

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