How Long Does It Take to Play a Round of Golf?

A view of a Rolex clock near the 1st tee box prior to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links
How long it takes to play a round of golf depends on many factors, but you should never be the reason for any slowness. Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

A round of golf, on average, is expected to take about four hours to play for a group of four golfers. That is the estimate most golfers will give for an appropriate length of time to play 18 holes. But the actual time it takes to play varies for many reasons.

A single golfer on an empty golf course should be able to finish in 2-and-a-half hours or less, if that's what she wants to do. A group of four on a very busy course, on the other hand, might need five hours or more.

Factors That Determine How Long It Takes to Play Golf

The actual time a round of golf - 18 holes - takes to play depends on several factors. Among those are:

  • How busy the golf course is when you and your fellow golfers arrive. The more people on the course, the more possibilities there are for groups to stack up and the pace of play to slow down.
  • How many golfers are in your group. Imagine a golf course that is empty except for your group. Now picture your group being made up of only two golfers vs. having four golfers. Which will be the faster group? The group of two, all other things being equal.
  • The skill level of golfers. A golf course full of low-handicappers should, in theory, move the round along at a quicker pace than a golf course full of high-handicappers. Why? Low-handicappers play fewer strokes.
  • How easy or difficult the golf course is. A golf course that is wide open with no rough and few hazards will play faster than a course that is tight with lots of hazards and deep rough.

    One of the Biggest Factors In Golf's Time Requirement Is ...

    ... how fast or slow each golfer is. How quickly, how briskly - or how slow - golfers move on the course is called "pace of play." Some golfers play very quickly - they are always ready to hit when it is their turn; they stay in position and move directly from shot to shot.

    Others are quite slow, always discovering ways to waste time.

    Don't be one of the slow golfers! Slow golfers aren't just slowing themselves down, but the golfers they are playing with and everyone else on the golf course, too.

    How busy the golf course is and whether you and your group are slow or fast golfers play the biggest roles in how long it takes to play golf.

    As for how busy the course is: If you play a regular rotation of golf courses, you'll learn over time which ones move the round along more quickly, or take longer to play; and at which times things tend to slow down.

    As for individual pace of play, what it boils down to is this: When it's your turn to play, be ready to play. Part of every golfer's responsibilities on the course is to observe good golf etiquette, and part of that means maintaining a good pace of play. Don't slow down the other golfers in your group, and your group shouldn't slow down other groups following behind.

    It's important for newcomers to golf to learn how to maintain a good pace of play, and for veteran golfers to help pass along those habits to newbies. For suggestions, look over our Golf Etiquette primer, and also see Tips for Fighting Slow Play on the Golf Course.

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