So how long does a game of golf take? Or maybe I should be asking, how good are you at golf? Or better yet, how long is a piece of string?
The honest answer is, nobody knows precisely! With that said, we can dissect many aspects and factors that make up a round of 18 holes to get a rough idea of how long it may take.
A typical round of golf will depend on an array of different elements; however, a general rule of thumb should say a standard 18-hole game should last approximately 4 to 4.5 hours in total.
This depends on the time of day, playing on a weekday or weekend, and how many players are sharing the course with you.
However, if you play with friends like mine, chances are you could be there for 6 hours or more. They take more time making sandcastles in the bunkers than playing.
Welcome to my life, ladies, and gents.
Anyway, let’s step onto the tee and drive into some food for thought when playing a round of 18, so you can play more efficiently by avoiding some of those dreaded time-consuming traps!
Pace of Play Estimate
We were able to scour the web and find some interesting research, courtesy of The R&A, on how long it approximately takes to complete a par 3, par 4, par 5, and 18 holes by taking up to 4 players into account.
The below information should give you a guided estimate on how long the average pace of play should look like:
2 hrs 30 mins
3 hrs 0 mins
3 hrs 30 mins
4 hrs 0 mins
It has to be said, this is only an estimate and doesn’t consider factors that many of us may encounter on a day-to-day basis, but still, it’s something.
Such factors aren’t accounting for overcrowding, where everybody seems to be playing a four-ball in every direction from the minute you arrive.
Oh, and they all seem to have an individual handicap and synonymous age of 75, which means you’re likely to be on the course for at least 10 hours if you happen to catch it at the wrong time.
Just kidding, we love the older generation! All we ask is that you please use a golf buggy, so some of us don’t need to bring a sleeping bag to finish our round.
Time-Costly Factors To Consider
Number of Players Taking Part
So, when we ask the question, “how long does a round of golf take?” we must factor in the number of players collectively taking part, and of course, the fewer players playing should, in theory, increase the pace of play.
However, no matter your level of golfing IQ, chances are you’ve already experienced the woes of playing behind a large group and the joys of playing behind a small group.
In my expert opinion, try to be ahead of the game by using a simple tactic. If you’ve booked a tee time, I suggest arriving around 20 minutes before to warm up and see if the course is busy or not.
Suppose the tee box is free from long-winded four-ball teams, then jump on and tee up! But if there appears to be traffic, ask the staff if you can play the back nine before the front as it could be more time-efficient.
Walking vs. Golf Buggies
I may be stating the obvious here, but it’s always worth clarifying even the most apparent factors in life. You know water is wet, the grass is green, those types of things.
So when we ask ourselves how long does it take to golf 18 holes? Surely we can assume a much shorter time frame if there was a golf buggy involved?
Not only can they increase the pace of play, but my word, these things are full of unadulterated fun…when the course marshall isn’t watching anyway.
With this said, what if I told you the complete opposite is true? Yeah, didn’t see that one coming, did you? Walking may be faster than using a golf buggy!
Let me put this into some context for you.
Let’s imagine two players are enjoying their morning of golf while riding around in their buggy, but they don’t seem to be speeding up very much.
Every time player A hits a ball, they ride to their next shot, and when player B hits their ball, they get in the buggy and whiz over to that ball too. See the problem?
The time it takes to hit a shot, ride to the next ball, and continue to do so after every attempt drastically decreases pace-of-play.
To increase time efficiency, player A could ride to their ball, and player B could take a few clubs out of the bag before trotting over to take their shot.
This way, as soon as player A hits their ball, they can ride over to player B on the way, thus keeping angry club members off their backs!
Another factor that will affect the time taken to golf 18 holes is the weather and the brutal conditions that it can sometimes provide.
Now, three main weather factors can drastically affect your pace of play around the golf course: temperature, wind, and rain.
We could, of course, mention snow and hail, but if you’re playing golf in snow and hail, then you deserve a medal of honor for your elite bravery.
Temperature can both go in your favor or against you, depending on what type you encounter. For example, dry and warm conditions will help enhance your distance as there’s no interference.
However, conditions that appear to be colder tend to interfere with ball flight which will heavily impact the time taken to play shots.
Additionally, colder conditions can also restrict a player’s movement/swing due to inefficient warm-ups and wearing more layers of clothing, which will affect pace-of-play.
Rain is a dreaded condition for most golfers as, unlike temperature, it doesn’t seem to have a positive and negative effect. It’s just a long list of negatives.
It will affect a player’s game and pace of play in various ways. One is that if the course has had a substantial amount of downpour, the ball won’t roll further in distance, or it may stop dead if the fairway or green is flooded.
Not only this, but having to wipe the rain off your gloves, balls, and clubs after every shot will also add unwanted minutes onto your round, which is something no golfer needs or wants.
Lastly, we have wind to consider. The wind is a deceiving condition to play in as it can dry courses out, which some players may prefer as the ground is sterner and more effective for distance.
But so I’ve learned, nothing’s ever as good as it seems. Although the course may be dryer, this means greens and fairways are more challenging and can result in a well-hit shot carrying over into bunkers, the rough, or even water hazards.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to rub more salt into the wound, but we still haven’t mentioned how it affects ball flight either.
Wind will play a vital factor with ball flight, and in some instances, when the wind is terrible, I’ve seen tee shots fly over the player’s heads. This, of course, is severe wind conditions, but even on a mildly windy day, it will still increase your pace of play by a fair bit.
How To Increase Play By Reducing Time
There are many different ways to increase the pace of play, so we’ve listed 20 different ways to improve your playing time below:
- Empty start intervals – Empty start intervals are what every golfer dreams of, and if we had it our way, we would have one for every hole. Sadly, this is merely just a dream unless you book an entire course for yourself.
- Limit the number of players in groups – This is an obvious one. If you play with more players, the likelihood is that your game time will increase, so try and avoid four-player groups if you’re short on time.
- Incentivize fast play and limit slow play – An excellent way to speed up a round of golf is to offer incentives. Groups can implement rules; if a group finishes at a specific time, they will get food and drink at the bar. Penalties can be awarded for those that are playing too slow.
- Pick balls up when allowed – This doesn’t mean asking for a “gimme” when you’re 15 ft away, but if you’re close enough to the hole and it’s unanimously agreed to allow a gimme, then use it to your advantage.
- Play provisionals – There’s nothing more infuriating than watching a group of players spend 10 minutes in the rough looking for a ball as though it were a needle in a haystack. Do yourself and the course a favor, and please play a provisional if you can’t find your ball. Thank you.
The 18th Hole
So, there we have it, my golfing friends.
Now when somebody asks you how long does a round of golf takes? You can happily direct them to this article, or better yet, revise everything I’ve written word for word and give them knowledge for the ages.
We hope you enjoyed this insightful post and can now implement different strategies to avoid being stuck on a course for hours on end.