How Long Does It Take To Play 18 Holes Of Golf: Beginner's Guide

You made a tee time, cleaned your clubs, and bought some new golf balls. You picked out your favorite golf outfit and are heading to the course. How long will you be there? How long does it take to play 18 holes of golf? This seems like a simple question, but if you ask 10 different golfers, you’ll receive 10 different answers. The quick answer is: it depends.

A round of golf will typically take between 4 and 5 hours to play. If you look it up, you’ll see that the average round of golf in the US takes 4 hours and 17 minutes. That’s a good directional timeframe to keep in mind, but 18 holes of golf can be played in as little as 2 hours and can take as much as 6 hours.

This type of range can make it hard to plan your day or weekend, but we can help. Below we explore the different factors that impact your speed on the course. Using this guide, you’ll be able to make an accurate estimate of how long it’ll take you to play a round of golf.

Factors That Can Impact How Long Your Round Of Golf Takes

There are numerous factors that impact the time you spend on the course, but we’ve identified the 9 you need to consider before making post-round dinner plans.

Type Of Course

Are you playing a full-length, par 72 golf course or a par 3 course? The amount of time it takes to play a par 3 course is much shorter than a standard course. The average of 4 hours and 17 minutes is based on a standard golf course. You can play 18 holes on a par 3 course in 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Day Of The Week 

If you are trying to figure out how long it’ll take to play a round of golf, you need to understand how many other players will be on the course. A large portion of the delay in your round will be waiting on other players to finish in front of you.

With that in mind, what days are busy? Weekends will typically be the busiest and Mondays or Tuesdays are typically the days you’ll find the course wide open. Weekend golf rounds will almost always take longer than weekday rounds.

Tee Time (Time of Day)

If you want to play fast, we would recommend you try to get one of the first times in the morning or play in the late afternoon. Golf courses will be busiest from mid-morning through early afternoon. 

In other words, if you have an 11 a.m. tee time on Saturday, you should be prepared for a round that’s closer to 5 hours than 4.

Walking Vs. Riding (In A Golf Cart)

In general, you can play a round of golf more quickly if you’re riding in a golf cart - common sense, right? The only thing you want to pay attention to is the recent weather and the golf course rules. If the course is wet and the rules say “Cart Path Only,” you may actually play quicker if you’re walking directly to your ball vs. having to go back and forth from the path. And if you’re typically a walker, consider choosing a lightweight golf bag that makes it easier to move around with, shortening your overall time. 

girls walking the golf course with their lightweight bags

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Size Of Group

Are you playing by yourself or did you bring three friends? You’ll finish much quicker if you’re playing by yourself versus in a foursome. One thing to keep in mind is that many golf courses will pair you up with other players. Don’t assume that because you made a tee time for yourself that you’ll get to play in a onesome. The odds are, the pro shop will pair you with other players. This will impact how quickly you can play a round of golf.

Course Difficulty

Tricky or difficult courses take longer to play. Anytime your ball goes in the woods, high grass, or near the lake, you’ll spend time looking for it. Time searching for golf balls will increase the length of your round. Not to mention, most players will shoot higher scores on harder golf courses. More shots means more time!

Weather Conditions

Always check the forecast before you leave the house. First, you want to be prepared with the appropriate golf gear to handle the elements and second, the weather can have a direct impact on how long it takes you to play a round of golf.

man playing golf in the rain

Rain showers will cause the round to take longer. Most golfers struggled to manage an umbrella, play, and keep their golf equipment dry. Expect to wait more on the group in front of you if bad weather blows in.

Skill Level Of Players In Your Group

Better players will typically play faster. They have to hit less shots and they have to search for less golf balls after wild shots. There are exceptions to this rule. 

You may play with a great golfer that takes the game a bit too seriously and reads every putt like they’re on the PGA tour. It’s hard to plan for this factor, but you’ll know it when you see it. The speed of the players in your group and the groups in front of you plays a significant role in how long it takes to play a round of golf.

Are You Playing In A Tournament?

Playing in a golf tournament will almost always take longer than a casual round. First, players tend to take it more seriously and take longer to hit shots and make decisions. Second, if it’s a tournament that includes a shotgun start (everyone starts at the same time, but on different holes) you should expect a long day. A shotgun start tournament can often take 5+ hours to complete. Tips To Reduce Time On The Course

If you love to play golf, but don’t like spending 5 hours on the course, there are some things you can do to speed up your round.

Play Ready Golf

What does it mean to play ready golf? Quite simple - when it’s your turn, be ready to swing. Don’t watch your playing partners instead of getting prepared. Don’t wait until it’s your turn to read your putt, shoot your yardage, or choose your club. Be ready! If possible, talk to other players in your group about playing ready golf. This will have a huge impact on how long it takes to play 18 holes of golf.

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Play During Downtimes

Is your golf schedule flexible? If so, try playing your golf during course downtimes. Can you play in the morning during the week? If so, you may be able to complete a round of golf in 3 hours. If you can’t play during the week, try to get early tee times on the weekend. The earlier the better. You might be called a “dew sweeper,” but it’ll take you much less time to play a round of golf.

Pay It Forward: Be Courteous - Let Faster Players Through

Golf courses often get backed up because of one or two slow groups. Are you ever part of a group that’s holding up the foursome behind you? If so, be courteous and let them play through. This will help everyone on the course enjoy their round more. Hopefully if you’re waiting on a slow group they’ll do the same and let you through.

Develop An Efficient Routine

Why are slow players slow? Sure, they could just be struggling to play well, but that typically isn’t the reason they are slow. It comes down to two reasons - they don’t play ready golf or they take too much time in their pre-shot routine.

Do your part by using an efficient routine for each shot. How long do you take to read putts? How many practice swings do you take? Keep it simple. One practice swing is enough and over-thinking your next shot isn’t going to help you play better. Be decisive, be quick, and make a committed swing or putt.

guy golfing
You can be part of the solution for slow golf. You can personally decrease the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf.

No One Enjoys A 5 To 6 Hour Round Of Golf

Now that you know the average round of golf takes a little over 4 hours, you can assess the speed of your rounds. Are you typically below or above average? If it’s taking you longer to play, why? Is the course just crowded, or is your group struggling to keep up? If the latter, try playing ready golf and make sure your routine is efficient.

We all love to play golf, but it’s more fun when it takes 4 hours to complete an 18-hole round. Just think, you can use any extra time you have to hang out in the 19th hole or even play an “emergency nine.” Enjoy your day and play well!

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