How Long Does It Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf?

how long does it take to play 18 holes of golf

A frequent question for those new to the game and even for some seasoned players is, “How long does it take to play 18 holes of golf?”

The answer isn’t fixed—it can vary based on several factors. So let’s dive into some of the key elements that can influence the duration of a round of golf.

How Long Does It Take To Play 18 Holes?

When I play golf, I always hope for a 4-hour round. But there have been times when I’ve played 5.5+ hour rounds that really tested my patience =).

But on average, a round of 18 holes of golf takes approximately 4 to 4.5 hours to play for a group of four golfers. That’s the benchmark most golfers go by.

Factors That Determine Pace Of Play

1. The Number of Players

  • Singles: A single golfer, if uninterrupted, could play 18 holes in as little as 2.5 hours.
  • Twosomes: Generally take about 3 to 3.5 hours.
  • Threesomes: Roughly 3.5 to 4 hours.
  • Foursomes: As stated, around 4 to 4.5 hours.

2. Golf Course Traffic

  1. Tee Time Intervals: Some courses set tee times close together to accommodate more players. This can lead to backups, especially if some groups play slower than others. Closer intervals can mean more congestion.
  2. Popular Times: Weekends, holidays, or times with ideal weather conditions will see more golfers on the course.
  3. Slow players: Unfortunately, some golfers are slower than others. If they’re in front of you during your round, that can add significant time to your 18-hole game.

3. Skill Level

Beginners might take longer due to more strokes, frequent ball searches, and mulligans. Conversely, seasoned golfers with a swift pace can shorten the round’s time.

However, beginner golfers can still keep pace on the course by being aware, moving swiftly, and avoiding lengthy pre-shot routines. The majority of time delay in golf comes from searching for lost balls, so it’s important not to spend too much time searching and to keep playing.

Good players often slow down the pace of the game by meticulously preparing their shots with pre-shot routines. This is especially true when playing seriously without taking any gimmies, as they tend to spend a significant amount of time on the greens.

Yes, lower-handicap players generally play faster than high-handicap players or beginners, but the pace of play ultimately varies for each individual.

4. Course Design and Difficulty

Courses with longer distances between holes, challenging terrains, or more hazards might take longer to play.

5. Cart vs. Walking

Using a golf cart can speed things up, especially on vast courses. However, this might not always be the case on crowded days where cart-path-only rules are in effect.

7. Preparation and Routine

Golfers with longer pre-shot routines or those who take their time reading greens for putts can add minutes to the round.

8. Searching for Lost Balls

The official rules provide a three-minute search time for a lost ball. However, not everyone adheres strictly to this, and prolonged searches can extend play.

9. Breaks

The halfway house or snack shack visits, restroom breaks, and other pauses can add time.

10. Course Policies

Some courses enforce “pace of play” policies, with rangers ensuring groups maintain a steady speed. This can lead to quicker rounds.

7 Tips to Speed Up Play

  1. Be Ready: Always be prepared for your shot.
  2. Limit Pre-shot Routines: While routines are essential, they should be concise.
  3. Play Ready Golf: Whoever’s ready should hit, rather than strictly adhering to “farthest from the hole plays first.”
  4. Play It Forward: Beginners or high-handicap players should consider playing from the forward tees.
  5. Be Aware of Your Group’s Pace: Keep an eye on the group in front, and if you’re falling behind, pick up your pace.
  6. Keep an Eye on Your Ball: This will limit time spent searching.
  7. Use Technology: Modern rangefinders or GPS devices can help players get their distances faster and make quicker decisions.

How To Play Faster 18 Rounds Of Golf?

1) Play Early Morning Rounds

Wake up early and play one of the 1st 5 groups. Being one of the first groups on the course typically means fewer delays from groups ahead.

Greens in the morning are typically smoother and softer, resulting in fewer ball marks and potentially faster putting. However, the presence of dew can make the course wet.

Be a Dew Sweeper!

2) Ride Instead Of Walk

Walking can be great exercise and give you time to appreciate the beauty of a course. However, if your goal is speed, riding in a cart will save you significant time.

3) Play Golf Course With Marshalls On the Course

Marshalls are there to help regulate the course’s pace of play. If you’re playing a round and see a marshall, ask for his/her help to get through any slow groups ahead.

4) Play Mid-Afternoon Rounds

Not as many players hit the course in the mid to late afternoons. So you can breeze through 18 holes quicker, but you gotta outpace the sun.

Mid-afternoon rounds of golf have their advantages, including discounted rates offered by many courses during twilight hours. As sunset nears, players may quicken their pace to complete the game before darkness sets in.


While it’s essential to appreciate the game’s traditions, the modern golfer often seeks a balance between savoring the experience and fitting golf into a busy schedule. Understanding the factors that affect the duration of a round can help golfers plan better and enjoy both the sport and the company of fellow players.

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