Golf is not a timed sport like many others, and so you may be wondering exactly: How long does 18 holes of golf take, and what is an acceptable pace of play?
As a general rule, it takes about 3.5 hours to play a full round with 2 others. For two players, it’s about 3 hours. If you play alone, you could play as quickly as 2 hours.
But many factors can affect the length of time you are out on the course. In this post, you’ll learn how to estimate your golf time to better understand your game and how to fit it into your life.
How Long Does a Round of Golf Take? (Official)
The R&A state in their “Pace of Play Manual” that, as a general rule of thumb, the following intervals are reasonable for different-sized groups in golf.
- Two-balls – 8-minute intervals
- Three-balls – 10-minute intervals
- Four-balls – 11 or 12-minute intervals
This means that based on their recommended intervals, and if golfers keep to them, we can assume the following about how long is a round of golf:
- An 18-hole round for two players should take around 2 hours and 20 minutes
- A full round for three players should take 3 hours
- And for four players, it should take between 3 hours and 18 minutes to 3 hours and 36 minutes.
Read Next: Why Are There 18 Holes in Golf?
Factors Out of Your Control Affecting 18 Holes of Golf Time
How long is a game of golf, you say? Well, that depends on many different things. Let’s look in more detail at the varying factors that will play a part in the average time to play 18 golf.
Golf courses vary widely in length (Anywhere from 5000 – 8500 yards). The total length of the course, the distance from green to tee, and the overall terrain and layout of the course can affect the time of your round.
No two courses are built the same. Some may have longer rough, more bunkers, hazards, and obstacles. Other courses may have blind tee shots, narrower fairways, a lot of elevation throughout the course, and faster greens. Also, the time it takes varies for executive golf courses too.
Yes, we would all love to play golf in the perfect conditions where it is warm with a gentle breeze, but sadly that just doesn’t happen. If you play most of your golf in an area of the world that experiences all four seasons, then at some point throughout the year, you will be contending with the wind, the rain, and everything that comes with it, such as plugged/lost balls, and less distance.
Player Skill Level
If the golf course is filled with low-handicap players, then, in theory, everyone on the course should work their way around the course in a good time. This is rarely the case, and there is a wide range of golfers on the course at any given time.
Lower handicap players are not going to hit as many balls offline. They will generally hit it further, straighter, and they won’t spend as much time looking for lost balls.
Beginner and higher handicap golfers will tend to lose more balls, hit more errant tee shots, and take more shots overall because they can’t hit the ball as far. It all adds up.
I have seen groups of elderly gentlemen working their way around the course at a fantastic pace of play. They may not hit the ball as far, but it’s always straight down the middle, and they know they course like the back of their hand.
How Much Time Do Golf Courses Leave Between Tee Times?
This varies from course to course, but most golf courses leave around 10 minutes between tee times. That can be from seven or eight minutes up to 15 minutes to allow all of the players before you to get ahead on the opening hole.
Factors You Can Control Affecting the Average Time for 18 Holes of Golf
How Many People Are Playing?
A three-ball will be faster than a four-ball, a two-ball faster than a three, and if you are playing by yourself, you should be able to get around reasonably.
Then there is the case of how many people are playing on the whole course at any given time, as this impacts how long it takes for 18 holes of golf. If you are playing on the weekend, on an extremely famous course, or got caught in the middle of a society day, then the general pace of play will be much slower.
The Game You Choose To Play
Stroke play, for example, where every golfer needs to complete every hole to record a valid score, is going to be much slower than if you choose to play matchplay whereby you will receive “gimmes” for shorter putts, or foursomes, where partners take alternate shots all of which save time on your round.
How Long Does 18 Holes Take When You’re Playing Alone vs When You’re Playing in a Group?
Playing in a group rather than playing alone can almost double your playing time, depending on the quality of your friends. If you play alone and are rather adept, expect it to take between 2 hours and 2 hours and 30 minutes. If you opt to play in a three-ball or a four-ball, this can take between 3 and 4 hours, depending on the quality of the golfers.
Riding in a Golf Cart vs Walking in Golf
Using a golf cart does impact the average round of golf time undeniably if the course is quiet or not used by many golfers. It takes away 10 – 20 minutes of time that would be spent walking between shots and holes. Though, if it is very busy, the time isn’t much different from if you were walking.
How the Rules Are Helping Speed Up Golf 18 Holes Time
In January 2019, there were some specific rule changes designed to help make play quicker for both professionals and amateurs when looking at how long it takes to play 18 holes of golf:
- The time a player can search for their ball was reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes
- Golfers are now allowed to putt with the flagstick in the hole
- When you drop a ball, it can now be dropped from knee height instead of shoulder height. This should minimize the need for further drops or placements
- If a ball is plugged, you can now take relief from the rough as well as the fairway
- And finally, there is ‘ready golf’, which suggests that you should play your shot when you are ready, and not have to wait for the golfer furthest from the hole or the golfer who may be looking for their ball
How You Can Speed Up How Long To Play 18 Holes of Golf
There are a few things that you can do to help speed up your round if you are conscious of how long does a golf game last for. The most important thing is to play with common sense:
- Recording your score on the next tee and not the green you’ve just putted out on
- Allowing groups behind you to play through when appropriate
- Enforce the ‘ready to play’ rule
- If you are playing a relaxed game with friends, ensure you give each other a ‘gimmie’ to save some time putting
- Always play a provisional ball if you think you may have lost yours from the tee. Nothing slows down play like that lonely walk back to the tee box to take another shot.
- Take your time with your shots, but don’t waste too much time on the walk between them
Final Thoughts on How Long for 18 Holes of Golf?
How long does 18 holes of golf take? The average time is about 3.5 hours if you’re with a couple of friends — about 30 minutes more or less per person in your group. The governing bodies of the sport have worked out average times, which is a good rule of thumb.
Of course, as any golfer will know, many factors can affect the amount of time you spend on the golf course. Whether it’s the weather, the course difficulty, your skills, and even the group in front of you, the time it takes on a given round could vary widely.
If you were wondering how long does a game of golf take, hopefully, this has given you some insight as to the varying factors that impact the length of the game.
What is important is that newcomers, all the way up to the professionals on tour, maintain a good pace of play. If we can all reduce how long a golf game takes when we are playing, it will bring with it a huge increase in player satisfaction, and more so than that, it will help increase participation in our wonderful sport.
Read More: The Average Golf Score for 9 Holes
FAQs for How Long Does 18 Holes of Golf Take?
Can You Play 18 Holes of Golf in 2 Hours?
If you are an experienced golfer with access to a quiet course and golfing solo, then you can complete a round of golf in around two hours. You won’t have much time to admire the scenery and the course, but you will be around in a very good time.
How Long Does 18 Holes of Golf Take for 4 Players?
With four players, it does depend on the quality of the players, but an average time to play 18 holes of golf would be between 4 and 4.5 hours. The smaller the number of players, the shorter the golf game takes.
How Long Does It Take to Golf 18 Holes With a Cart?
A golf cart helps get you around a golf course in a shorter time if you play on an empty course. If so, you could take off around 20 minutes of playing time, whereas if you are playing on a busy course, it will be around the usual time to play 18 holes which is 4 hours.
How Many Shots Are in 18 Holes of Golf?
The average golf course has a par of around 72, and a lot of professional golfers can expect to play under the par of the course. For the more average golfer, a score of around 90 or under is a solid round.
Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.