How Long Does 18 Holes of Golf Take to Play?

Last updated on August 16th, 2022 at 01:27 am

Whether you are just starting out or have significant other who is a golfer, you are probably wondering how long 18 holes of golf takes to play.

Being a golfer for 12 years, I’ve had my fair share of rounds that have been an average length for 18 holes of golf, but I’ve also had those experiences where the day takes forever. I’ve also experienced very quick rounds! The answer to the question at hand is: that it could depend on a couple of different major factors.

A typical hole takes around 10-16 minutes to play. This leads to the average amount of time to play 18 holes being 4 hours to 4 hours and 30 minutes. There are many variables that could make this time shorter or much longer.

Male Golfer Lining Up Tee Shot On Golf Course

How Long to Play 18 Holes of Golf

You could be behind a slow group of 4. Sometimes the course can be really busy. Other golfers in your party may be slowing you down. All of these factor into your playtime. You should plan on blocking out 4-4:30 hours of your day on the golf course when you set your tee time.

The Length Of A Round May Depend On…

If you would like to speed up your pace of play, that may not be likely due to the following factors below.

Time of Play

What time you schedule your tee time will depend on how busy the course is. Typically, the morning is the busiest time around 8:30-11:00. Golfers love this time, especially in the summer because the temperatures are the most bearable. After 1:00 pm, the golf course gets a little less congested.

More traffic on the course equates to more traffic on the road. You will be moving slower. If you schedule your tee time in the morning, expect that you may have an increased playtime.

Group Size

More golfers will typically equal a longer round of golf. We can break this down even further below.

Golfers’ Ages

There’s no shame to it, but older golfers may slow down your play.

First, older golfers’ strength is not what it once was. They won’t be able to hit the ball as far as they used to, resulting in more strokes. This can be compensated for if they use a tee box that is closer to the hole.

This all comes with a caveat. Older golfers, on average, have much more experience. This means they could get through the course with fewer strokes which would equate to a faster pace of play. All in all, the ages of the golfers with you and in front of you will play a small factor in the length of your golf round.

Your Group Size

More players in your group mean there are more people to hit the ball. You may have to wait a little longer in between your shots for others to hit. It’s typical that a group of 2 will play faster than a group of 4. However, this won’t be something you can control. The golf course will pair you up with another pair so that they fill each tee time’s slots.

If you are paired up with an unfamiliar group, 18 holes may take even longer. When I am with my regular golfing group, we have learned how to play with each other to maximize our pace of play. An unfamiliar group will take some time to get used to and slow things down just a bit. Again, this is a small factor when it comes to the length of 18 holes.

The Party Size in Front of You

In my experience, the party in front of us always is the main factor in determining how long 18 holes will take. Their pace of play directly impacts our group. If they are in a group of 4, they will typically have a slower pace of play (especially if we only have a group of 2).

Sometimes the group in front of you may not have everybody’s else pace of play in mind. Most courses will have the marshal going around checking on these slower players. They should be on a certain pace determined by the golf course. If not, they will hurry the group along or may even let your group pass by them.

How Busy is the Course?

If a course is busy, that generally means that everybody’s round of golf will take more time.

The busiest time of the year on the golf course is the summer. Keep that in mind when scheduling your tee time between April-September that 18 holes may take a little longer than normal.

Look ahead to see if the golf course you are playing is having any special events when you want to book a tee time. Evens will cause more traffic to be around the course. Generally, the course should schedule you around the event, but this may still lengthen your round.

Skill Level

If you are an amateur, this might slow down your pace of play. Hitting poor shots will cause you to have hit more strokes.

More advanced golfers will be able to finish their round in a shorter amount of strokes, meaning less time.

However, it is noted that advanced/professional golfers will take a longer amount of time to line up the ball and hit their shot, so it almost evens out. Still, less skilled golfers will typically take longer to play 18 holes.

Cart vs. Walking

There will be two options for getting around the course when you play. You can either walk the course or you can take a golf cart. Which option will shorten the length of your round?

You guessed it. A golf cart is the fastest option for getting around the golf course. It’s rare, but you may get stuck behind a group that has chosen to walk the course. In that instance, the marshal should wave you in front of them if they are holding you up too much.

The fastest way in a golf cart is when there are no restrictions and you can drive freely on the fairway. However, there are instances where courses will only allow you to stay on the cart path. They call this “cart path only”. These days may slow you down significantly.

How to Improve Your Pace of Play

Now that you’ve seen the different variables that can affect how long it could take you to play a round of golf, we can talk about ways that you can speed up your pace of play.

Keep Your Pre-Shot Routine Short

You don’t have to take a huge amount of time to line up your shot, take a practice swing, and hit your ball. Start practicing a shorter pre-shot routine so that you can keep your round short. If you need a practice swing, allow yourself one. Pros are only allowed up to 40 seconds for their pre-shot routine.

Ready Golf

When it comes to the order you hit in, there is a typical rule of golf. The player with the ball furthest away from the hole hits. This can cause you to wait around for this person if they are not ready.

In “Ready Golf” everybody goes to their ball and whoever is “ready to hit” hits first and so on. You still play by the normal rules of golf, but if the person whose turn it is isn’t ready, then the player who is ready to hit should go ahead with their shot.

Lost Ball Protocol

Everybody who has ever golfed has lost a ball on the golf course. Roughly 300 million golf balls are lost every year. Looking for a ball can take some serious time away from playing the game.

A player is allowed 3 minutes after they arrive to the estimated location to find their lost ball. After 3 minutes is up, amateur golfers have created a rule to help play resume quickly. This is called the stroke and distance rule.

Stroke and Distance

The stroke and distance rule allows you to play your ball after you have lost it. You are allowed to drop your ball at the edge of the fairway at the same distance that your lost ball was estimated. For instance, if you lost your ball in the woods in the image below, you would determine the closest spot on the edge of the fairway so that it does not get you any closer to the hole than your lost ball would have been. You would take a 2 stroke penalty to use this rule. Then you would drop your ball from knee height.

Source: USGA
  • Use the 3 minutes allotted to search for your ball. If not found, use the stroke and distance rule.
  • Take a 2 point penalty.
  • Determine the area where you think your ball landed.
  • Find a spot on the edge of the fairway no closer to the hole than your ball would have been.
  • Drop your ball from knee height.

Utilizing the Stroke and Distance rule will help to increase your pace of play. If you know that you will not be able to find your ball, you don’t have to take up the whole 3 minutes. Go ahead and drop one on the fairway.

How Long Does 9 Holes of Golf Take?

Some people only have enough time in their day to play 9 holes. Working a full-time job and getting off at 4 pm, I’ve done this many times.

If we apply the same math to 9 holes, a typical session for 9 holes would take around 13-15 minutes per hole. This means that 9 holes of golf would take around 2 hours to 2 hours and 15 minutes to play.

What About Par 3 Courses?

Playing 18 holes will vary from course to course. A standard course will be a par 72 course which will have a combination of par 3, par 4, and par 5 holes. However, there are numerous par 3 courses. These courses have a standard par of 54. These par 3 courses will take less time to pay due to fewer strokes.

Below are average times per par

  • par 3 = 10 minutes
  • par 4 = 13 minutes
  • par 5 = 16 minutes

Playing par 3 holes the entire way, the average length of a par 3 course should be around 3 hours, but may be able to be completed within 2 hours.

Final Thoughts

Your play time on the golf course can be dependent on multiple different factors. A slow group in front of you can cause major delays in the pace of play.

Expect your next golf outing of 18 holes to be around 4 to 4 and a half hours, but know that you may go over or under this number.