How long does it take to play a round of golf?

If you spend anytime on golf twitter you will quickly notice that pace of play on the golf course is a hot button issue. You will see videos of random players taking forever to hit a shot and complaints about how long PGA tour events take. There are few things that drive a golfer more insane than standing around all afternoon waiting on the group in front of them to move along.

Sadly, verbal or even physical fights can break out on the course due to slow pace.

With all of this in mind, how long does it take to play a round of golf? The standard answer is between 4 and 4 ½ hours. This is accurate, but should it take this long? Let us take a deeper dive.

How long does it take to play a round of golf? Around 4 hours

What Factors Impact Pace of Play?

When you consider the length of time to play 18 holes of golf, there are several variables you need to consider.

  • How many players in your group – are you playing by yourself or in a foursome?
  • Are you riding in a cart or walking the course?
  • Is the course crowded?
  • What level of player are you? A beginner or a scratch golfer?
  • How long is the course? We are not talking about the actual yardage, but distance between holes. Some courses leave plenty of room for houses, so you end up travelling a good distance between a green and the next tee.
  • Is the course well-managed? Do they have a ranger checking on pace of play and reminding players to move along?
  • Are you playing in a tournament or just for fun? Tournaments typically take longer

All these factors play a role in pace of play, but I would argue they are the difference between 3 ½ hours and 4 ½ hours. They do not cause the 5- or 6-hour rounds that you sometimes hear players complain about.

My perspective – most of the above factors only play a small role in pace of play.

For example, you would assume riding in a cart is faster, but it can cause foursomes to play slower. If two players are sharing a cart, they drive to player A’s ball and player B watches them hit a shot and then they drive to player B’s ball and player A watches him hit a shot. These two shots would have been struck quicker if they both walked directly to their ball.

2 golfers sharing a golf buggy which is one way to slow down play

A beginner player, with a fast routine can shoot 125 faster than a scratch golfer, with a long pre-shot routine shooting 72.

The number one reason golf rounds take more than 4 hours is individual players. There are two key reasons a player is slow.

First, they have watched too much PGA tour on TV and take too long to hit a shot. Too much time checking the wind, figuring out the distance, picking a club, or taking tons of practice swings.

Second, the group (foursome) does not move with purpose. They are not ready to play when it is their turn.

Any foursome, regardless of skill level, can play any course (walking or riding) in under 4 hours.

Golfers playing a round as a foursome

Are you a slow player?

The challenge with pace of play in golf is that most slow players think they are fast. How would you know if you are slow? 

When you are playing on the course are you typically waiting on the group in front of you or do you find the next hole is typically open when you reach the tee box? Do you always feel like the group behind you is watching and putting pressure on you? 

How long does it take you to hit a shot? The next time you play, pay attention to your pre-shot routine. Try to get a rough idea of how long (how many seconds) does it take you to hit a shot once you get to your ball. If the time is under 15 seconds, you are a fast player. If it ever goes over 30 seconds, you might be a slow player.

A few tips to play a round of golf faster

Do you want to contribute to improving the pace of play on your local golf course? There are some things you can do to help turn that 5-hour round in to 4 hours or less.

  • Be aware of the length of your pre-shot routine – keep it nice and quick. Arrive at your ball, figure out distance, make 1 practice swing, and hit it. Let’s be honest – too much thinking never helped a golfer.
  • Play “Ready Golf” – do not worry about who is further away – if you are ready, hit your shot. While other members of your foursome are hitting shots, start your pre-shot routine. Once their balls lands, you can hit yours.
  • Be Quick on the Greens – you probably do not need to read every putt from 4 different angles – assess slope and direction and stroke the ball.
  • Let Faster Groups Play Through – there might be faster players behind you – that is ok – don’t spend the day trying to rush because they are always back there waiting – let them play through.

It is important to remember – you do not have to be great at golf to be a quick player. If you are a beginner, learn to play quick and you will find that more experienced players enjoy playing with you. I would much prefer to play with a fast player shooting 100 than a slow player firing a 68.

Close up of a golf ball while the golfer is reading the green before putting

So, how long does it take to play a round of golf? Final thoughts

If you are planning the rest of your day, you need to assume that a round of golf will take between 4 and 4 ½ hours, but it can take longer. If you happen to find a course that is not busy, you can easily get 18 holes played in 3 hours or less, but you will need to focus on your pace.

Golf is a great way to spend an afternoon, but no one wants to spend the afternoon and most of the evening waiting. Do your part. Play quick. A fast 18 leaves you more time in the 19th hole!

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