How Long are Golf Tournaments? [Professional and Amateur]

Golf is a great pastime for people of all ages and skillsets, and tournaments are an excellent way to play a game with your peers. Normally, a round of golf lasts as long as it takes the player to finish 18 holes at a golf course, but tournaments can last days and have multiple rounds of golf to evaluate the best player while considering playing consistency throughout the play.

What is a Golf Tournament?

A golf tournament is a competition held by golf authorities or local clubs to encourage golfers to test their skills and talent by competing with other players. These tournaments can be structured differently, while the main structure recognized by ruling golf bodies being professional and amateur tournaments. Age is also a determining factor, and handicap levels can also determine which tournaments you can play depending on whether you meet the requirements.  

Golf Scoring Formats

Apart from being an incredibly relaxing sport, golf can also provide competitive players with that adrenaline rush that they are looking for. Tournaments are structured differently to bring out the competitive spirit in golfers while allowing them to improve their skills by playing with other golfers.

Before discussing the types of golf tournaments and their durations, we need to understand the different formats of playing golf used in professional and amateur tournaments that determine how long each game can take depending on the complexity involved.

Match Play

Match play events involved individual golfers or teams competing against each other to determine which party can have the lowest score on a hole. Each hole will result in a winner, loser, or a draw. The scores are calculated according to the number of individual wins at each hole instead of a cumulative score, and the winner is the player or team who wins the most holes

Stroke Play

Stroke play is the most commonly used format in a Professional golf tournament. The score is have determined by individuals and teams tracking total scores for every hole played. The winner is the individual or team with the lowest score after playing all 18 holes.


Skins games award different points for winning or scoring in different holes. This is commonly played for casual games where some players even associate a certain amount of money with winning different holes. If there is a tie at any hole, the points or money is transferred to the score of the next hole, making the next whole worth more in terms of points or money

professional golf tournaments pace of play


Foursome events involve two golfers playing enter team, and the two golfers play the same ball on alternate shots. Normally golfers divide teeing off between even and odd-numbered holes among themselves. The remaining shorts are alternated during playtime, and foursome events can be played according to stroke or match play.


Scramble events have teams of two to four players, and each player tees off from the same location, and the players collectively decide which shot was the best. Other players collect their balls and shoot them from the same location as the best ball’s location. These steps are repeated until the golf ball ends up in the hole at some point.


A string event requires each golfer to have a piece of string, the length of which is determined by their handicap level. Typically the string is 50 centimeters per handicap point. 

The string can be used to provide an advantage to high handicap players to improve their lies. This string can be used once per short, and it can be particularly helpful if the golfer it’s a ball in a difficult to hit location, allowing them to move the ball according to the length of their string.

How Long are Golf Tournaments: Types of Golf Tournaments

Golf tournaments have different formats that they are conducted in, and they can provide hours of entertainment. Most adult tournaments have rounds that add up to 36 holes minimum and a maximum of 72 holes. These tournaments are usually played between two to four rounds of 18 holes that can span over a few days, whether they’re being played locally or nationally. 

Tournaments can be played at local clubs or world-class golf courses, depending on the nature of the play. The variation between tournaments in different areas and even countries makes it difficult to determine the exact duration of every game.

Tournaments are mainly divided according to whether the players are professionals or amateurs, which can determine the duration of the game, number of rounds, and number of holes played. While professional players can play an 18-hole golf course in 4 hours and a 36-hole golf course in 6-8 hours, the tournaments have multiple players, thereby increasing the game’s duration.

amateur golf casual round

Professional Tournaments

Golf Professionals play golf as their full-time job, and they dedicate their time and focus on improving their game to achieve greater recognition and larger monetary prizes. 

This is the main source of income for professionals, and they pride themselves on doing what they love for a living. It is not easy to be a professional as it requires the players to pass different qualifications to get a professional golf player card.

Professional golfers use professional tournaments as an opportunity to make a living as the main source of income is through prize money, endorsements, and sponsorships. Since these players have a slightly higher skill set than amateur golfers, they are not allowed to play in amateur events to promote fair play.

A professional golf tournament usually lasts for four rounds and is played over four days, as this allows them to average the players’ performance to ensure any exceptional performance on a given day was not a fluke. The structure of these tournaments usually involves having four rounds that consist of 72 holes, with 18 holes being playing each day.

The purpose of having these tournaments for days is to ensure the best golfer has been identified on the green. In any given week, most of these tournaments start on Thursday and end on Sunday, which is common for the major tournaments, including The Masters, The PGA Championship, The US Open, and The British Open.

Another major reason these tournaments last four days is that it allows organizers to make higher profits by selling four days’ worth of tickets, allowing fans to see their favorite players whenever convenient.

Sponsorships are also easier to obtain as the four-day coverage justifies any investment, and as most tournaments end on Sunday, there is a possibility of media coverage and broadcasting providing publicity to the event.

The PGA Tour is the most coveted professional tour.  This tour is where the best golf in the world is played every week.  Most of these events are four rounds long, with players playing the first two rounds and then only the best scores from those rounds get to play the final two rounds.

Amateur Tournaments

Amateur players play golf for the fun of it, and because they enjoy it as an activity, whether it gives them an adrenaline rush or a sense of calm, these players use golf as an opportunity to fill their spare time. They can also play golf in an effort to spend time with their colleagues and friends enjoying the outdoors playing a sport.

Monetary prizes are not the primary motivation for golfers, and they cannot receive any prize from playing golf. These players are only allowed to play in amateur tournaments as they do not qualify for professional-level tournaments. However, if any player chooses to ignore these rules, they can be banned from playing at an amateur level as well.

amateur golfers round of golf

These tournaments are structured differently from the professional ones as they usually involve a different number of rounds depending on the tournament. 

For example, the US Amateur includes playing two days of 18 holes, and then they follow match play until there’s a winner. The US Amateur also expects players to have a handicap of 2.4 or lower to enter the tournament and to make the competition more interesting when only two golfers remain; they play a 36-hole round to crown the champion. 

The winner also receives an exemption from the US Open and The Masters in Augusta. This tournament requires the amateur players to stay sharp and at the top of their game even if the tournament is not as long as the professional one.

There is a lot of variance in amateur tournaments, which can have 1-9 rounds in the USGA US Amateur tournament. These tournaments range from 1-3 days, depending on the rules set by the governing body. 

The shorter duration of these tournaments means that the game can be finished much faster, but there might be some discrepancy if it’s a one-day tournament as it does not average the performance over a couple of days which doesn’t necessarily mean that the best player wins.

College Tournaments

College golf tournaments are usually structured differently from Professional Golf events. These tournaments are normally held over two days. A college golf tournament usually will comprise of either 36 or 54 holes.  

For a 54-hole tournament, some players are required to play 36 holes one day and then 86 holes the next day. For 36 whole tournaments, players are required to play 18 holes per day.

Selection for college golf tournaments involves colleges selecting their five top players to compete with other institutions. After each round, the scores are determined by the lowest four scores from the five-player team. 

At the end of the tournament, the points are accumulated, and the college with the lowest overall score wins the game. It is also important to note that since this is not a professional tournament, handicaps are not factored into the score.

High School Tournaments

High school tournaments are a type of amateur tournament where boys and girls from different state high schools play in teams. The typical high school golf tournament can have 18, 36, or 54 holes played over 1-2 days. 

Winning the tournament depends on the lowest cumulative team scores after the tournament has concluded. These tournaments are usually played in either spring or fall, and the team sizes vary between two to four players.  

Kids Tournaments

Kids tournaments are played to develop golf players at an early age. These tournaments usually consist of 9 or 18 holes, depending on the child’s age. 

Children as young as five years old can play in these tournaments. According to the age groups, the yardage is also defined to ensure age does not become a limiting factor for any player.

Weekend Local Tournaments

These tournaments are usually played by golfers who wish to have a weekend of fun and sharpening their skills. Typically, these tournaments have 18 or 36 holes to ensure the game can be wrapped up within 1-2 days.

Most golf courses have these types of events.  They are most often one day events, with varying formats.  These tournaments are usually a fun round of golf but can sometimes have some vary slow play.  

They also often use a variety of different tee box, allowing players of all abilities to play.  Even those with a crazy weird golf swing!

Tournament Eligibility

The main differentiating factor in the type of tournaments you can play in depends on your skill level. Golf tournaments focus on fair play, and golf bodies have clear rules that distinguish between professional and amateur golf. Professional players cannot take part in amateur tournaments to promote fair play.

If you’re a professional player, hold a membership in a Professional Golfers’ Association such as the PGA Tour, enter competitions as a professional, play for prize money, or give financial compensation instruction, you are not eligible to play in amateur tournaments. 

If you meet the criteria listed, you are more suited to play in professional tournaments as amateur competitions are normally for players enjoying the game and enhancing their skills, not big money or recognition.

If you’re thinking about entering a tournament or even going to see one before you decide to participate in the competition, it would be fair to assume that you would be spending the entire day playing or watching golf.   

Golf tournaments can last for days, and at the least, they are a day’s commitment, but it is an excellent experience and opportunity to hone your skills play with fellow golfers who have a similar love for the game.

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