How Long Does a Round of Golf Take

How Long does it take to Golf 18 Holes?

Around 4 hours for a four ball (4 players), but that can vary a lot. I’ve had rounds that have taken anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours. Here’s why there can be such a variation. It’s around 13 minutes per hole on average. If a group of players between them take just an extra 5 minutes per hole, that’s a 90 minute addition to the round time.

Currently, golfers are allowed 5 minutes to search for a lost ball. On each hole.

Things that affect the time taken to play a round of Golf

Course Length

Golf courses naturally vary in length based on the terrain that they are laid out in. There’s always some boundaries to the available land. It follows that the longer the course is, the longer it’s going to take you to get round.

The course at the Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club in Lijiang, China is the longest conventional golf course in the world. Coming in at 8,473 yards, that’s going to be one long round of golf. It does benefit from being 10,000 yards above sea level though which means that the ball flies 15-20% further. You may want to consider that if your normal round leaves you a little short of breath, they actually provide oxygen on one hole.

That pales into insignificance though when you get to play the Nullarbor Links in Australia. A uniqe concept, this course has one hole in each of 18 towns spread over 850 miles.

There are numerous short courses around the 1.000 yard mark, but to be fair, they are really more pitch n putt type layouts. Those and 9 hole courses aside, the shortest 18 hole courses tend to be in the 5,000 yard range.

Course difficulty

golf course roughCourses with lots of elevation will increase the round time, simply because we move slower uphill. Blind tee shots, or approach shots mean more time scoping out the terrain and looking for balls, so that’s a factor. Narrow fairways mean more time spent in the trees and that adds to time.

Rough that really is rough means more time looking for lost balls and that’s probably a major factor in time added.

Well protected greens can also slow down play, particularly if they require a high chip shot or pitch shot to land on them. And finally, if the greens themselves are tricky, that’s more time on the clock.


It depends where you play, but if the area has seasons, this can be a big factor. Golf is easiest (quicker) when it’s warm but not too warm, slightly overcast so hitting into the sun isn’t a problem, and with a gentle breeze to cool you down.

On a Scottish links course in February with a 30mph sea breeze swirling around you, mist and or rain, you’re going to find that it takes a little longer. Same for very hot weather too.

Number of golfers in your group

The quickest I’ve raced around a course on my own, is a little over 2 hours. A standard 2 ball should get around the average course in about 3.5 hours maximum. Add another half hour or so for a four ball. If you’re in a five ball, be prepared for some comments.

Skill level of your group

Skilled, lower handicappers tend not to hit the ball too far offline, so they spend less time looking for it. The odd one thinks they are Jordan Spieth though and take for ever over every shot.

Beginners tend to lose more balls and spend more time looking for lost balls. They are also generally less aware of the area that their lost ball has come to rest in.

Some of the fastest guys I’ve seen on a course are groups of old guys in their 80’s. They know every inch of the course. They also don’t hit the ball that far and they are never in bother. It’s a different style of golf though.

If the green is 150 away with bunkers left and right, I’m usually going for the middle of the green. They don’t. Their target is to be 10 yards short of the green, with zero possibility of landing in the bunkers. A decent chip and one or two puts, and theyre on their way. Different strokes, as they say.


We all like to play different courses once in a while. It’s a great day out and it sharpens up your golf game. But if you’re playing a course that you’ve never played before, inevitably, you’ll be a little slower. Simply finding your way from one tee to another can be a challenge on some courses that are not well signposted.

And whilst the location a wayward shot on your home course will be familiar to you; the whereabouts of a slice or pull on another course may have you guessing as to the general area to search in.

The obvious answer is to watch your ball carefully and pick your bail outs sensibly. Good starters help here as they’ll point out common issues.

At a recent weekend away for example on courses we hadn’t played before; the started gave us this bit of advice about the 6th. “If you can’t get a ball flight of over 250 yards with your driver, lay up before the water, or you’ll be in it”.

Slow play of golfers ahead of you

On a busy course, everyone has to play at the pace of the slowest group in front of them. If the slowest group just happens to be the first group out, everyone is going to be in for a long day. Some busy courses employ marshals to check on the pace of play and to discuss that with slow groups when they find them.

That said, I’ve met some good marshals and some not so good. The good ones note your party and general conduct from a distance, check your tee time and wish you good day. A few years ago when playing in Portugal, we met another variety though.

We were on the 13th tee and the tee shot was over about 190 yards of water. Driveable for all in our 4 ball, but we all drop one short occasionally so we wanted to hit decent drives.

A marshal approached in her cart and informed us that our pace of play wasn’t acceptable. That a bus load of golfers was on the course and would be catching us up.

We knew that there was nobody within two holes of our group as we’re observant about what’s behind us and the previous few holes had a clear view of that.

Given that we were stood on the 13th tee with only 6 holes to complete, we remarked that we weren’t slow players and that in any case, it’s unlikely that any group at least 2 holes behind us would catch us up with 6 holes to play.

She insisted on arguing with us, which ironically took up time.

When she’d gone, two of us, by now, a bit wound up, dropped our balls in the water, with the consequent extra time required to tee up and drive again.

Not necessary. And we were never caught up.


competition teeFor a professional golfer in the top competitions, a solitary missed 3 foot putt over the course of 72 holes spread over 4 days can mean the difference between becoming a major winner, or losing your tour card. Unsurprisingly then, most pros take a great deal of care over each shot, pitch. chip and putt.

In a social round of golf, where say 4 buddies play together once a week, there’s going to be less emphasis perfection and a few gimmes.

In club competitions, play is always slightly slower. For one thing competitions are usually played off the back tees, so the course is longer. And particularly in medals, every shot counts, so players take more time over their shots. Some take that to extremes though, emulating the length of time that the worst offending professionals take.

Your own slow play

We’ve all seen them ahead of us. The guy who always seems to leave his bag or cart in the wrong place, meaning a long walk to be reunited with it after completing the hole.

The same bloke is also the one who waits for his playing partners to play their second shot before searching for his ball after his longer but off line drive.

And as the players walk from green to tee box, he’s always the one at the back.

Even on the tee, he’s the one who has to go back to his bag for a tee.

And then he stands over the ball staring at it for 2 minutes before he hits it.

Just check to make sure that bloke isn’t you because they are obviously oblivious to their surroundings and the effect they are having.

Playing off the wrong tees

At my home course, this is simple.

Men play off the yellow tees socially and white tees in competitions. Women play off red tees. Juniors play off blue tees.

Some courses have up to 5 tee boxes. If you’re a visitor and you’re not sure which tee to play off, try the yellow one.

Remedies for slow play

Slow play is one of the current major issues in the game, if not the major issue. Nobody likes standing around waiting to tee off because of players on the course ahead of them. Similarly, nobody likes to feel pressured by groups behind them who are constantly on their tail.

Rules changes

There’s a rule book for golf which must be adhered to and the authorities who set the rules are conscious that some of them make play slower. So from January 2019 there are specific rule changes designed to make play quicker.

At the moment, a golfer who loses a ball is allowed 5 minutes to search for it. Etiquette demands that his playing partners assist him.

That’s being changed to 3 minutes, potentially saving 2 minutes per hole. In reality for even higher handicappers, it will save maybe 10 minutes a round.

Currently, the rules state that a golfer cannot hole a putt from the green with the flag in the hole. This can result in a situation on a large green where someone has to leave his ball and walk to the hole to attend the flag for his playing partner. That rule is being removed.

Right now, when a golfer has a drop, it must be done from shoulder height. That’s fine when the ground is flat, but when it’s not, time is wasted. If the ball rolls more than two club lengths from where it struck the ground, as it could on an incline; the ball has to be dropped again. If the result is the same, the ball may then be placed where it struck the course.

The amendment is that shoulder height is now replaced by knee height, hopefully minimising the need for further drops and placements.

Ready Golf

ready golfThis simply means that a golfer should be ready to play as soon as is practically possible. In other words, be at their ball ready to play in turn. Etiquette and safety mean that the first to play is the golfer furthest from the hole, but that’s often debateable. Doing that, debating who’s furthest away, just eats up time and slows play.

Common Sense

Leave your cart or bag away from the green and towards the next tee. That saves time retrieving your equipment from say the opposite side of the green and allows the players behind to get ready to play their approach shots.

Mark the card when you get to the next tee, not on the green that you’ve just putted on.

Take your time over your shots, but move quickly between them.

Be aware of play around you. That means in your own group, the group behind, and the group ahead.

Invite quicker groups behind you to play through when appropriate. If your group is constantly waiting for the group ahead, that usually won’t apply, but if there’s one clear hole ahead of you, it does.

Similarly, if your group is looking for a lost ball and the group behind is waiting, do the decent thing, stand to the side and wave them through.

Related Questions

how long does a round of golf take for 2 players? Around 3 hours 15 minutes if you don’t get held up.

how long does a round of golf take for one person? With a clear course, around 2 hours to 2.5 hours. Depends how many people are on the course though. You’re going to be quicker than any group, but completing your round quickly will rely on groups letting you play through.

how long does a round of golf take for 3 players? Around 3.5 hours on average

how long does it take to play 9 holes of golf? Around 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how many are in your group.

how long does it take to play 18 holes of golf in a tournament? That depends on the tournament. Play will inevitably be slower so expect anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 hours.