How Long Does It Usually Take to Play 9 Holes of Golf?

When I first started playing golf, I was a little bit turned off by the huge time commitment that it took to play a full 18 holes. However, I quickly learned that a good alternative is to play 9 holes, especially when you are pressed for time.

If you’re newer to the game of golf, you might be wondering how long it takes to play nine holes. As it turns out, the time depends mostly on you and the other players. 

Here’s a detailed look at the time it takes to play 9 holes of golf.

 

How Long Does it Typically Take to Play 9 Holes of Golf?

The majority of golfers can play nine holes of golf in about two hours. This makes nine holes a much better option for golfers who cannot commit to a full round of 18 holes

It’s a whole lot easier to play nine holes instead of a full round of 18 after work before it gets dark outside.

 

Factors That Affect Your Pace of Play

There is a whole slew of factors that can affect your pace of play on the golf course. If you are wanting to speed up how fast you play, pay attention to the following factors.

1. Number of Players

One of the biggest factors to how fast you can sneak in nine holes is the number of players in your group. It’s a heck of a lot easier for a twosome to play faster than a typical foursome. 

To that same point, a single player can finish nine holes at an even faster rate. Not all golf courses allow singles, especially if it’s a busy golf course. Most of the time, the pro shop will pair you up with another golfer if you show up alone.

2. Skill Level

Skill level has a huge impact on pace of play. For example, beginners typically spend lots of time searching after wayward tee shots. Searching after a lost ball can eat up a big chunk of time.

On the other hand, more seasoned golfers keep most of their shots in the fairway. This means they spend less time looking for their golf balls.

Also, most poor players struggle on the putting green. It’s not uncommon for beginner-level golfers to need three or four putts to get the ball in the hole. 

Most veteran golfers tend to only need two putts or fewer on the green. This saves them a ton of time throughout a 9 hole round.

3. Walking or Riding

This next factor presents a bit of a dilemma for some golfers. Walking the golf course is great cardiovascular exercise and it burns lots of calories. However, it usually takes more time to play nine holes while walking.

Using a golf cart won’t give you the same type of workout as walking, but it will help you play at a much faster pace. You’ll be able to get to your golf ball much quicker unless the rules that day require you to keep the golf cart on the cart path.

4. Size of the Course

Another factor that affects pace of play is the size of the golf course. A nine-hole course with lots of Par 3s can be played much faster than a nine-hole course with a couple of Par 5s.

Some golfers like to play on executive courses, where all of the holes are short Par 3s. On these types of nine-hole courses, most golfers can finish in an hour to an hour and a half.

Did you know that most Par 3 holes can be played in as little as nine minutes? That is because Par 3s are much shorter than their Par 4 and Par 5 counterparts.

The average golfer plays a Par 4 hole in about 12 minutes. Par 5s are always the longest holes on the golf course so they take the most amount of time to play (18 minutes on average).

5. How Busy is the Golf Course?

The busyness level of the golf course can greatly affect your pace of play. Booking a tee time for nine holes on a random Tuesday afternoon is usually a lot quicker than playing nine holes on a bright and sunny Saturday morning. This is because most golf courses are usually packed with people on the weekends.

When the course is busy, you may have to wait several minutes on each hole before teeing off. Waiting just three minutes on each hole increases your time on the course by nearly half an hour. Patience is a virtue, in life and on the golf course!

6. Course Difficulty

This factor is common sense but a lot of golfers forget about it. A golf course that has lots of water hazards and bunkers is going to take a lot longer to play than an easier course with fewer obstacles.

When a golfer hits a ball into a water hazard, several minutes are wasted. First, the golfer has to make sure his shot is not playable by making sure it went into the water. 

Next, he has to either hit another tee shot or take a drop near the water hazard. You can see how lots of time can go by because of errant shots, especially if a group has more than one inaccurate shot per hole.

Shots into the bunker also tend to slow down the pace of play. It can take a long time to get in and out of a bunker, especially if the golfer takes the necessary time to rake the bunker afterward (which is proper golf etiquette). 

Many golfers also need multiple strokes to get out of a deep bunker, especially if they don’t have a good lie. This also takes up more time.

7. Ready Golf

Another factor that influences pace of play is whether or not the group is playing “ready golf”. Here is a brief explanation of what ready golf is.

Standard golf rules say that the player farthest away from the pin must hit their shot first. However, when playing ready golf, whichever golfer is ready first is free to play their next shot. Ready golf can lessen the time it takes to play nine holes by a considerable amount.

8. Weather Delays

Nothing can cause a delay to your round more than a bad weather delay. While most golf courses will let you play in the rain, any sign of lightning results in a mandatory delay.

Lots of golf courses adhere to the 30/30 rule, which states that any lightning bolt that is followed by thunder in less than 30 seconds poses a safety risk and a delay must be enforced. The rest of the rule states that play cannot be resumed until 30 minutes after a storm has safely passed through the area.

 

How Long Does 9 Holes Take for 1 Player?

A single player can usually jet through nine holes in 1.5 to 2 hours on an empty golf course with a golf cart. If walking, the pace of play will increase to 2.5 to 2.75 hours. If the golf course is nothing but short Par 3s, these numbers will be severely reduced.

Beginner-level golfers usually need about 2.5 hours to play nine holes, even by themselves. Average players finish nine holes in about 2 hours. Advanced golfers can complete nine holes in around 1.5 hours.

 

How Long Does 9 Holes Take for 2 Players?

Most twosomes can finish nine holes in 2 hours and 15 minutes if they are using a golf cart. That number increases to about 2 hours and 45 minutes if they decide to walk instead of ride.

It may take a rookie twosome three hours just to play nine holes. Intermediate twosomes can be done in about two hours while advanced twosomes can complete nine holes in 1.5 hours.

 

How About with 4 Players?

Golf courses prefer to send golfers out in foursomes because they can accommodate more people that way. The pace of play with a foursome is much slower than groups with fewer golfers.

It usually takes a foursome about 2.5 hours to play nine holes if they are all using a golf cart. If all four players are walking, it can take closer to 3 hours.

A foursome of high handicappers can take as long as 3.5 hours to play nine holes. A group of four average golfers can be done with nine holes in around 2.5 hours. Finally, a foursome of single-digit handicappers can complete nine holes in around 2 hours.

 

Common Pace of Play Rules

  1. Let faster groups play through
  2. Play ready golf
  3. Consider playing Scramble if your group is filled with beginners
  4. Don’t spend lots of time looking for a lost golf ball
  5. Record your scores at the next tee box instead of while sitting at the green

 

Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with sports for over 30 years. He's been an avid golfer for more than 10 years and is obsessed with watching the Golf Channel and taking notes on a daily basis. He also holds a degree in Sports Psychology.