Golf 101: How Long Does 18 Holes Of Golf Take?

How long does 18 holes of golf take?

Sounds like a simple question that would have a simple answer . . . but in reality, it isn’t as clear-cut as it could be.

There is no hiding the fact that playing a round of golf can take up most of your day.

This is the primary reason many amateur golfers don’t play more often. Do you value your time? If so, we have some ideas on how to speed up your next round.

How long does 18 holes of golf take and how can we improve our pace of play? To answer these questions, there are a few important factors to consider, which we’re going to explore below.

Let’s get into the swing of it!

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Quick Answer: How Long Does 18 Holes Of Golf Take?

If you’re looking for the quick (but rather subjective) answer, then look no further:

The average round of golf (18 holes) will take between 3.5 to 5 hours.

This is your time playing on the course and does not factor warm-up time or drinks in the 19th hole. With these things added in, you can easily spend an entire day at your local golf club.

How Long Does 18 Holes Of Golf Take? 6 Factors To Consider

To help you estimate how long your next round of golf will take, always consider these 6 factors before planning the rest of your day:

#1: How Crowded Is The Tee Sheet?

If the golf is crowded you can expect to wait on the foursome in front of you. Hopefully, they have a good pace of play, but you never know.

The more players on the course, the more likely you are going to have to wait between shots.

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Most golf courses now use online systems, so if possible check out the tee sheet before you head to the course.

Look for the following information related to the tee times on the day you are playing:

  • Is the tee sheet full? Is every tee time taken?
  • Do you have one of the first times off in the morning or are you later in the day?
  • How far apart are the tee times? If they are less than 10 minutes apart the course is more likely to get clogged up.

If you are playing on a full course with tee times only 8 minutes apart and you are later in the day, you should plan for a longer round.

Each round will be different, but this is the first factor to consider when trying to answer “how long does 18 holes of golf take”.

#2: Difficulty Of The Course

Pretty straightforward. The harder the golf course the longer it will take you to play it.

Did you know that you can check the difficulty of the golf course before you play?

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To support the golf handicap system each set of tees on every golf course are rated. You can find the rating by looking at the scorecard.

Look for the “Course Rating” and “Slope”. The course rating indicates the difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer.

The slope of a golf course predicts the difficulty of a course for a “bogey” golfer. The golf course slope will be between 55 and 155. The average golf course slope is 113.

The higher the course rating and slope, the harder the golf course. You will notice that each tee box on the scorecard will have different ratings and slopes.

How long does 18 holes of golf take? Course difficulty plays a role.

#3: Weather

It can be challenging to play in the wind, but the primary weather condition that will add time to your round is rain.

Playing golf in the rain requires extra equipment (umbrella, towels, etc.) and it adds steps to your pre-shot routine.

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It will take you longer to hit shots and it will also take the players in front of you longer to play holes.

Even worse, if the course is saturated, the superintendent may declare “cart paths only“. This means you have to leave your cart on the path and walk out to hit your ball.

Always check the forecast before trying to answer “how long does 18 holes of golf take”. We bet your longest rounds will be in the rain when it is “cart paths only”.

#4: Walking Or Renting A Cart?

Walking the golf course is a great way to get some exercise, but it will take you a little longer than riding in a cart.

The only exception is what we talked about in “#3”. If the course is enforcing “cart paths only” you might be able to play quicker by strolling down the fairways with your bag.

#5: Level Of Players

Your golf skill level and the ability of other players will impact how long it takes you to play, but this can be hard to estimate.

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First, you won’t know the skill level of the groups playing in front of you. Their ability and pace of play are impactful to the amount of time you spend on the golf course.

It makes sense that better players would play quicker, but that isn’t always true.

If you watch the PGA Tour on TV, you will notice that even the best players in the world sometimes take 5+ hours to complete 18 holes.

Golfers that struggle to break 100 can play faster than scratch handicaps.

The playing ability of golfers on the course can impact your pace of play but is not the most critical factor.

#6: Are You Playing In A Tournament?

If someone asks you, “how long does 18 holes of golf take?”, you need to consider the type of round you are playing.

Is it a tournament round or a casual round?

A tournament round of golf will take longer than a casual round for several reasons.

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First, players tend to take it more seriously and this causes them to slow down. They may take longer to select their club or more time reading the greens.

Second, in a tournament, you have to finish every hole and make every putt. There are no “gimmies”. This adds time to your round.

Many amateur tournaments leverage a “shotgun start”. This means that all players start at the same time, but start on different holes.

A round of golf using a “shotgun start” almost always takes longer to complete than tee times off the 1st hole.

The longest rounds of golf (5+ hours) are typically tournament rounds that leverage a “shotgun start”.

4 Ways To Shorten Your Next Round Of Golf

The answer to “how long does 18 holes of golf take” can be frustrating. There are days that you want to play, but can’t risk spending 5 hours on the course.

We’ve been there and can reassure you that you do have options. Here are 4 ways to shorten your next round.

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#1: Avoid Peak Times

Do you want to fly around the course without waiting on other players? Avoid making your tee time when the course will be busy.

You have two options at most golf courses. Try to get a tee time early in the morning or wait until the late afternoon.

If you can get the first tee time off in the morning you will have nothing in front of you except for freshly mown grass!

#2: Be Part Of The Solution, Not The Problem

Do a quick self-assessment. Are you a slow player? How is your pace of play?

You have direct control over how fast you hit each shot. Make sure your pre-shot routine is quick and efficient.

Play ready golf in your foursome. You don’t have to wait for your turn, if you are ready to hit your next shot, hit it.

This is a relatively new change to golf etiquette and the rules of golf have been updated to allow this concept.

Finally, don’t hold up the entire course. If the group behind you is faster, let them play through.

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#3: Play The Appropriate Tees

The USGA (United States Golf Association) has kicked off a program called Tee It Forward. The idea is that you should play from the set of tees that match your age and ability.

This can help in a couple of different ways. First, you will have more fun playing from shorter tees. More chances to make a birdie!

Second, from shorter tees you will be able to play faster.

The USGA recently performed a survey of players that tried the Tee It Forward concept:

  • 56% played faster
  • 56% are likely to play golf more often
  • 85% had more fun
  • 93% plan to Tee It Forward again
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#4: Play A Short Course

You want to play golf, but can only spare a couple of hours? There are alternatives to the normal 18-hole game.

First, you could simply play 9-holes instead of 18. Most courses offer a reduced rate and you will finish in half the time.

The other option is to find a par 3 course in your area. Par 3 golf courses are a great way to practice your short game while still getting to play holes.

Don’t let the answer of “how long does 18 holes of golf take” prevent you from playing around today. Find a style of golf that will fit into your schedule.

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Now You Know How Long, But Do You Know What You Need?

How long does a game of golf take has been answered, but what golf equipment do you need before you head to the course?

Photo of author
Ray has been playing golf for 35+ years, including being part of his High School and College golf teams. While he still enjoys playing in amateur tournaments, Ray now focuses on growing the game of golf through teaching and coaching. He has two sons that both play golf competitively and loves spending time watching them compete. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +2 handicap.

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