How Long Does 18 Holes of Golf Take?

golf course

Golf is one of the best sports ever as you can play it at any age. But there’s one big problem with the game of golf – it takes a lot of time. 

But how long does 18 holes of golf take?

It’s a good question and one we’ll answer in detail today. In some cases, it feels like half your day is committed just to playing golf. While it might work out some days, chances are you have a job, family, and other tasks that need to get done. 

Plus, if you have to drive 20-30+ minutes, want to warm up adequately, and maybe grab a drink, it’s an all day experience. In this post, we’ll break down the average time to play 18 holes and give you tips to speed it up while still scoring well. 

How Long Does 18 Holes Take? 

If you’re like a lot of new golfers, you might wonder how long does it take to play 18 holes?

Ultimately, it depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Weather conditions.
  • Number of players in your group.
  • Competitive event vs. casual rounds. 
  • Handicap/skill-level of each player in your group.
  • The golf course itself (including which tee boxes, difficulty of course, length of course, etc.).

In most cases, the average round should clock in around 4 hours and 30 minutes (or faster). 

This is assuming you’re not in a tournament and playing with a foursome. If you can make it through 18 holes in under four hours, you’re flying in most cases. 

However, there are a lot of different factors to consider. 

Number of Golfers 

The number of golfers is one of the biggest factors when it comes to playing faster. 

If you’re playing as a single, twosome, or threesome, you will typically play faster than a foursome (or if the course allows it, a fivesome). But most courses want to make as much revenue as possible and will pair singles and twosome up with other groups.

While the number of golfers is a big factor, so are the type of golfers in your group. Better players tend to play faster as they hit fewer shots per round. While new golfers tend to take longer, especially when playing difficult golf courses.

Related: What is the Average Golf Score

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Walking vs. Riding in a Golf Cart 

The second thing to consider when it comes to total time to play 18 holes is the mode of transportation. Players can either carry their bag, push their bag, or opt to ride in a golf cart. 

In general, riding in a golf cart is faster than walking; especially if everyone in your group is riding as well. More on this decision in the next section. 

Golf Course Difficulty 

The third factor to consider is the golf course itself. 

Some courses are much longer and more difficult than others (with a higher slope rating) and generally take longer to play. Not to mention some golf courses are hilly and have long drives between holes too. 

If you’re looking for a faster round, try to book a tee time at an easier, flatter golf course. When you’re less likely to lose as many golf balls and play on easier greens, it can improve pace of play. 

For the fastest rounds, look for an executive golf course that is made up mostly of par 3s (and some short par 4s). These are a great way to get your golf fix in for the day without spending all day on the links. 

Other Pace of Play Factors 

The number of players in your group, mode of transportation, and golf course difficulty are the biggest factors for total time to play 18 holes. But, there are a few other factors that also might impact how long it takes for a full round of golf.

  • Time of day: The time and day of the week also play a role in how long 18 holes of golf take. If you’re playing during the week, courses tend to be slower and thus, faster to play. But weekends and/or holidays lead to big crowds and a lot of golfers.
  • Weather: The weather can also slow down a round too. Playing golf in the rain, wind, or cold makes the game even harder and adds a few minutes to each hole. Plus, if you have a frost delay from extreme cold that can make for a much longer day on the course. 
  • Tee times: Golf courses tend to book times 7-10 apart from one and other. But if they choose 7 or 8 minutes, it tends to slow down the overall pace of play.
  • Tournament vs. causal round of golf: Players tend to slow down in tournaments as every shot counts. Not to mention you need to adhere to the rules of golf and might have different rules situations throughout the day. Tournaments are a fun way to test your game but rarely lead to playing fast. 

How to Play Golf Faster

If you’ve been playing for any length of time, chances are you know the feeling of slow golf. In my opinion, it’s the plague of the game and has bottle necked growth for years. Golfers hate it, golf shops hate it, but sadly, it still happens.

Don’t be the person in the group that is responsible for slow golf!  

The good news is that you can speed up your round with a few strategies. Keep reading to learn simple ways to play golf faster and still score just as well. 

1. Play Ready Golf

Unless you’re in a tournament, do not play the honor system (sorry Golf Gods, I said it).

In case you don’t know, this refers to the player who made the lowest score on the last hole tees off first. While this is appropriate for competitive golf, it slows down casual rounds significantly.

Instead, play ready golf and get up and hit it off the tee box if you’re ready. The same goes for approach shots as well. Even if you’re closer but get to your ball first, play ready golf as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s game. 

2. Tee It Forward

One of the main culprits behind slow golf is playing tee boxes that are too advanced for your game. 

For example, if you’re a 20 handicap golfer and decide to play the tips to “Get your money’s worth”, the round will likely take a lot longer. It’s also kind of rude to your playing partners if you play a set that is too good for your current game. They’ll likely have to help you look for golf balls and probably throw off their game too.

While I’m all for challenging yourself to get better, do it at the right time or place. If it’s a busy weekend round with a stacked tee sheet, don’t try to play tees that you can’t score your handicap from. Instead, save it for a weekday, late afternoon round that you play solo or with a friend. 

3. Know When to Ride or Walk

In general, using a golf cart is a faster way to get around the golf course. You can drive straight to your ball, go through your pre-shot routine, hit, and repeat until you’re on the green. No walking or having to use a pull cart.

But sometimes walking is actually faster than riding in certain cases. 

For example, if the pro shop tells you that it’s cart path only because the course is wet, walking is usually faster. Otherwise, you have to drive up parallel to your golf ball but stay on the path, grab some clubs, walk to your ball, and then do it again. 

Some rounds, it feels like you’re just chasing your cart more than you are playing golf. Plus, it’s good exercise as well. 

4. Use a Golf Rangefinder or GPS Device

Another reason for slow golf is players searching for distances to the green and other hazards. 

While some courses still have the distances on the sprinkler heads, fewer and fewer are marking them. Most golf courses assume that players have handheld devices and opt not to mark sprinkler heads. Plus, not every golf course has a GPS device in the cart either for the same reason.

This is why it’s vital that you have a rangefinder, golf watch, or handheld golf GPS device. Having one of these will make it easy to get to your golf ball, find your distance, pull a club, and hit the shot.

5. Develop an Efficient Pre-Shot Routine

Finally, to speed up the pace of play, develop your own pre-shot routine that is efficient. A longer pre-shot routine does not necessarily make it a better one. 

Instead, find the distance, pick your target, grab the right club, make 1-2 practice swings, and go. Don’t stand over the ball for 30 seconds before each shot trying to think your way to a good shot. Create a pre-shot ritual that helps you see the right shot and keep up with the group ahead of you.

Top Questions About Pace of Play 

How many hours does it take for 18 holes of golf? 

It typically takes 3.5 to 5 hours, depending on a number of factors. Those include the number of people in your group, day of the week, time of day, experience level, weather, walking vs. riding in a golf cart and more. 

It’s best to plan at least 4.5 hours from your tee time when trying to schedule out your round of golf. Plus, you have to factor in any commute you might have and warm up session. 

A drive can add another 10-30+ minutes each way, and a warm-up can last 15–60 minutes as well. Needless to say, 18 holes of golf can take six plus hours quite easily. 

How long does it take to play 18 holes with a cart? 

If you’re playing in a cart you should expect to play 18 holes slightly faster than walking – in most cases. But if you’re playing winter rules and can’t leave the cart path, using a cart might actually slow down the pace of play. Not to mention if the course is challenging and other factors listed above. 

Are scrambles faster than a normal round?

In general, yes, a golf scramble is faster than a casual round with your friends. Since the bad shots are eliminated it can speed up the round. 

How long do pros take to play 18? 

Professional golfers have a major pace of play issue. Despite being the best of the best, they do not play in four hours or less. In fact, some of their rounds are 5–6 hours, which makes for a very long day on the golf course.

Sure, they’re walking vs. riding but they also hit fewer shots than the everyday golfer. What tends to slow up professional golf is drivable par 4s, par 5s that players need to wait, and pre-shot routines. Too many golfers spend a ton of time assessing the lie, wind, and other factors which can kill the pace of play. 

There is a recommended time limit for competitive golf – unfortunately it’s rarely enforced on the PGA Tour. As the USGA said, “A player should make a stroke in no more than 40 seconds (and usually in less time) after the player is able to play without interference or distraction.”

What is the fastest round on the PGA Tour?

According to Golf Monthly, the fastest round ever was by Wesley Bryan who played 18 holes in one hour and 29 minutes! That’s an insane pace of play that will be hard to beat. 

Since he wasn’t able to qualify for the next event in the FedEx Cup (due to rankings) he figured he’d set his own record. But what’s even more impressive is that he still played well – shooting a 69! Needless to say, you can play well while still playing fast. 

Can you play 18 holes in 3 hours? 

If you play 18 holes of golf in three hours you’re playing extremely fast. While I’m not saying you can’t play in 180 minutes, it’s pretty unlikely especially with a group of four players.

However, if you’re playing as a single or with a buddy during the afternoon on a weekday you’re much more likely to make it happen. Or, if you’re able to sneak out as the first group out for the day when you can beat the crowds. 

How long do you have to look for golf balls?

One recent rule change has helped speed up the pace of play – how long you can look for a ball. Previously, players were allowed five minutes to search for a ball before declaring it lost. But now, the time limit is only three minutes so make sure to watch your ball land to increase the odds of finding it. 

Do most people play 9 or 18 holes? 

The majority of golfers play 18 holes. While playing nine is faster, most golfers love the challenge of the full 18 holes. 

Not to mention sometimes you don’t get warmed up until 3 or 4 holes (or more) in the round. If you only play nine holes, it can feel like you’re leaving just as you’re playing your best golf. 

Plus, most golf courses base their rates on 18, not nine holes. While some courses do offer nine hole rates (especially executive golf courses), they aren’t the minority. 

Related: How Long it Takes to Play 9 Holes 

Wrapping Up

As golf continues to grow in popularity since 2020, pace of play is a big issue. 

But if you use these five tips, you can help speed up the average time per round. That means more golfers getting out, less time spent on the course, and hopefully, just as good of scores.

Don’t be the person or the group who makes everyone play slow golf! 

How long is the average round where you live? 

Let us know in the comments below! 

Picture of Phil Grounds

Phil Grounds

Phil is an avid golfer, and the creator of The Golfers Gear. He’s been playing golf for 30 years, and is obsessed with improving his game and sharing his experience helping fellow golfers score better.

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