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The Time It Takes to Play 18 Holes Depends On Many Factors
A typical round of golf that has 18 holes takes a little over four hours. Some courses may play faster and some slower depending on many different factors. It varies from about 3 1/2 – 5 hours.
My home course takes about 4 hours and I am happy when I can finish in the allotted or suggested timeframe. My friends down south in Florida play on a relatively flat course where riding carts are required. A typical round at their course takes 3 1/2 hours at most.
In my many years of playing golf, the fastest 18-hole round I played was 2 hours 40 minutes and that was me walking with a pushcart playing solo golf with no one ahead of me. The longest round I have played was in the 6-hour range and it was a long, slow day with a lot of waiting on the course.
There are many factors for the length of time which includes everything from the type and length of the golf course to how busy the course is for the day.
Factors That Affect How Long It Takes to Play an 18 Hole Round of Golf
Type of Golf Course
The type of golf course will absolutely affect the time it takes to play.
Courses that tend to be shorter in length and less challenging than a traditional 18 hole golf course will usually take a shorter amount of time to play.
These shorter courses include Par 3 and Executive golf courses. Par 3 courses have 9 holes and sometimes even a full 18 holes. Each hole is only a par 3. Executive golf courses have par 3’s, par 4’s, and maybe a par 5. These also only consist of 9 holes and are played twice to get an 18-hole round in.
These tend to be easier than a traditional 18 hole golf course, especially if the 18 hole course is a championship golf course.
If comparing public or municipal golf courses to private golf courses, many of the private courses will be longer in length, but not always.
You can look at the course scorecard to see the total number of yards each set of tees plays to get a good idea of the overall length.
Difficulty or Layout of the Golf Course
Even traditional 18 hole courses can vary in many ways including how challenging it plays. And this will have an effect on the time it takes to play.
Challenging courses will bring higher scores, more trouble, more hazards, and more lost balls which all contribute to more time on the course.
You can try to find out how challenging a course plays by the slope rating on the scorecard, but according to this Golf Digest article, the slope doesn’t really have any bearing on the pace of play.
It has more to do with the “playability” of the course as mentioned in the previous paragraph.
For example, are the holes surrounded by bunkers, are there fescue and trees where balls can get lost with narrow fairways?
If so, these all reduce playability and will likely increase the amount of time it takes to play at this particular course.
A few years ago with the new rules changes, the USGA and R&A decreased the official time to find lost golf balls from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. The reason for this change was to help decrease the amount of time golfers take to search and hunt for their lost golf ball. Hoping to help with the pace of play for all golfers.
Weather can impact the amount of time spent on a golf course. Hot temperatures might make for a slower round especially if walking or pushing a cart.
Rain and thunderstorms might cause delays or pauses in play as well. Sirens on a golf course will sound if there is lightning in the area bringing all golfers on the course back to the clubhouse until it is safe to play. This can cause a long delay as golfers are not allowed to head back out for at least 20 – 30 minutes after lightning has been observed.
Riding or Walking
Walkers pushing a cart are typically slower than golfers riding in carts.
Now, having said that – I admit there are some very fast golfers who push their cart and walk, especially on my course. But for the most part, riding in a cart will be a quicker round. It is why most charity tournaments or golfing events and tournaments might require riding carts to be used…to keep the pace of play moving and quicken up the time for all groups out on the course.
Hills, Mountains and Elevation
A course that is situated up in the mountains, has a good number of hills, or a good amount of elevation changes or elevated greens will play a lot longer. And especially if golfers are walking.
We just played an 18 hole golf course up in the mountains in Maine and the tee boxes were a good distance from the previous greens. Walking this course would have taken 6+ hours. Luckily, it was set up and designed to be a riding course and even with that, the standard pace for this course was a 4 1/2 hour round.
Many golf courses especially public courses, will utilize rangers out on the course. A ranger’s main responsibility is to inform slow groups to pick up the pace. This helps to keep golfers moving along at a decent pace of play.
If a golf course utilizes a ranger to move things along, pace of play may be faster. If not, it could be a long round as one slower than usual group might start a backlog of waiting groups behind them. Especially on a busy weekend day or holiday.
Clocks on Carts
More and more golf courses are utilizing pace clocks on the digital screen of their riding carts. These screens show the time of day, the actual pace of play the group is on, and whether you are ahead of schedule or behind schedule, and by how much.
When golfers are out on a course for a 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 hour round, it can be hard to know whether they are on pace. The only way is by keeping up with the group in front of them and making sure the group behind is not waiting an exceptionally long time.
However, these clocks that track pace are a great way to help golfers be alerted if they are on pace or not.
Planning to Play? Don’t Forget to Factor in Other Time Factors When Playing Golf
Besides the actual time it takes to play a round of golf, it is important to factor in additional time. This is why golf can be a full-day affair.
My most recent round of golf was a 9 hour day from the time we left our house to the time we returned.
This included travel time to and from the course, pre-round preparation, actual playing time, and dinner. We were tired and happy when we got home, but it was a long day.
1. Travel time to and from the golf course.
Don’t forget to account for the time it takes to travel to and from the golf course.
2. Pre-round preparation and practice.
Golfers typically like to arrive 30 minutes to an hour early to do all their pre-round preparation, socializing and warm-up needed before playing their round. This might include getting their bag situated, grabbing all their needed items, checking in at the pro shop, and hitting a few balls at the range, or putting green.
3. 19th hole
Many golfers enjoy kicking back and socializing at the 19th hole after their round for a few beverages and snacks or might even stay longer to grab a meal like lunch or dinner.
With these additional time factors, it would be a good idea to plan for upwards of at least 5 – 6 hours for your day of playing golf.