How Long It Should Typically Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf
Written by Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8

Updated on January 25, 2024

In a 2014 report by Golf Digest, the publication explains that the average 18-hole round of golf in the United States takes four hours and seventeen minutes. That data was gathered well before the recent boom in the game’s popularity during the pandemic.

The PGA suggests that a four-ball of golfers should complete a round of eighteen no more than 4 hours and 21 minutes after arriving on the first tee. In essence, this means that four-balls should play a golf hole every 14.5 minutes, while a three-ball is allotted 1 minute less.

The downside to this system is that it gives you the same time to play par 3s, as it does for par 4’s and 5’s. Par 5s are typically 350-yards longer than a par 3, so it makes no sense that you have the same time limit to play both holes.

 

Factors That Affect Your Pace of Play

Field Capacity

The greatest impact on the pace of play is how many additional players are in the field and the tee time intervals. If you are playing in a tournament with a full field you can expect to wait between shots, which will increase the duration of your rounds.

Conversely, if you fit in a round on weekdays, the field is limited, meaning you should breeze through 18-holes in a couple of hours. I highly recommend choosing a quieter day of the week to play on. Granted, not everyone has this luxury, but it helps you avoid the crowds and speed up your round.

Golf Cart Or Walk

The next factor that impacts the duration of your round is whether you walk or take a cart. A cart travels at 12 to 14 mph, approximately four times faster than a human walks without carrying anything.

Therefore, it means that you can maneuver between shots 3x faster than usual.

Players In Front

Even if the course is relatively quiet, you rely on the players in front of you to maintain their pace. If those ahead of you are slow and spend time looking for balls or dawdling between shots, it will slow you down.

Golfers who are well versed in the etiquette of our game should let you play through if they see they are slowing the field down. However, in my experience, that type of person has no regard for the rules, and you will need to politely ask them if you can play through instead.

Lost Balls

If you or those in your group are having an off day, it will increase your round times. Consistently looking for balls from wayward shots will add to the amount of time your round takes. Faster groups of players tend to possess a superior skill level and spend minimal time seeking out balls compared to beginners.

Weather Conditions

Mother nature can impact the time it takes to play 18-holes in several ways. For starters, if lightning is in the vicinity, you are forced to vacate the golf courses and seek the nearest facilities for shelter. You cannot continue until the officials deem it is safe enough to do so.

Secondly, the weather can impact your accuracy and distance, causing you to spend more time looking for golf balls and playing more shots than usual.

Halfway House

The halfway house is a necessary part of golf for amateurs to refuel after nine and regather themselves for the remaining holes. However, the comfort of a warm room, tasty bacon and egg toasted sandwich, and a cup of coffee, can quickly take your focus off golf. That causes you to overstay your welcome.

Typically speaking, you should never spend longer than ten minutes at the halfway house.

Format

The length of a round of golf depends on the type of format you are playing. For example, match play is a shorter endeavor. If you have no reasonable chance of winning the hole, you can pick up, concede and move to the next tee.

In addition, if you play foursomes, you and your partner play alternate shots, which reduces how many shots your group needs to hit.

Conversely, if you are playing in a stroke play event, your round may take longer because every shot counts. Therefore, you may make a 12 on a hole, increasing the total time of your hole and your round.

On a side note, if there’s a shotgun start, the field tends to flow better, leading to a faster round, with less waiting and happier players.

Time Of Day

If your name is on the tee sheet at the crack of dawn, the chances are that you will skip the crowds and record a pacey round of golf. Conversely, if you only walk onto the first tee box at around midday, you are bound to run into the obstacle of stagnant play. Where possible, tee off earlier and avoid the crowds.

 

How Long Does 18 Holes Take for 1 Player?

Walking vs Golf Cart

Golf Magazine suggests that the average four-ball should take 3 hours and 27-minutes to complete an entire round of golf. If we divide that amount by four players, it works out to fifty-six minutes and three quarters. As you know, it would take a lot to get through 18-holes in that time frame.

Those calculations fail to account for players in front of you and a stop at halfway house.

Playing behind a slow number of players can cause you to wait two to five minutes per hole, delaying your round by an extra hour at least.

The fastest round I ever played was in 2 hours and 30 minutes, as a single player using a cart. Based on Golf Magazine’s analysis, they reckon that the average player walks 18-holes in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Basically, if you are a one ball on a cart and have faster groups ahead of you, you can get a round of 18-holes in under three hours. However, that also depends on how much time you spend searching for lost balls and how many shots you play.

Conversely, if you decide to walk and carry your clubs, you can expect to finish a round of 18-holes in 3 to 3.5 hours.

Beginner vs Intermediate vs Advance

There are too many external factors that impact a good pace of play before debating if lower handicappers are faster than beginners. For example, scratch golfers could hit all fairways and greens and make every putt. However, if the group ahead holds them up, it adds to the total round time.

We can apply the calculation run by Golf Magazine, which found that the average golfer spends 5 minutes per round looking for lost balls. Therefore, we can assume that an advanced player will spend half or less time looking for lost balls. As a result, they may complete a round of 18 holes in approximately 2.5 hours.

Considering that intermediate and beginner golfers hit more wayward shots, their round will take 4 to 5 minutes more than an advanced player.

 

How Long 9 Holes Could Take for 2 Players

Walking vs Golf Cart

My playing partner and I walk every round, and we take 1 hour and 45 minutes to get through 9 holes. When we are driving, that comes down to 1.25 to 1.5 hours.

Beginner vs Intermediate vs Advanced

Super accurate low handicappers on a course with limited hazards can make it through nine holes in an hour if they have a golf cart. However, if they are walking, 2 players can get around in 1.25 to 1.5 hours.

On a good day, beginners and intermediate golfers can get through a round of 9 holes in under 2 hours with a cart. However, if these players are walking, it can take 2.25 to 2.5 hours.

 

How About with 4 Players?

Walking vs Golf Carts

The average four-ball takes four hours and seventeen minutes to complete their participation in a round of golf. That is if you decide to walk rather than take a cart. However, if you wish to save time before your next shot, a golf buggy will expedite the process.

From my experience, if all 4 players are riding on a cart, you can complete a round in just under 4 hours.

Beginner vs Intermediate vs Advance

An advanced four-ball of golfers can get through a full round of golf in 3.5 to 4 hours if they have a cart. Without wheels, these players will get around in approximately 4 hours.

Intermediate and beginner golfers may take 4 hours and 20 minutes to complete a round without a cart. They can make it around in approximately four hours when operating a vehicle.

 

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Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8