How long does it take to play 18 holes of golf?

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How long does it take to play 18 holes of golf?

Whether playing 9 or 18 holes of golf, the game always is more enjoyable when you can play at a fairly steady pace. The golf course and game itself are difficult enough to make a satisfying round of golf at least somewhat of a challenge for most golfers. That is why regular practice helps to produce much more satisfying rounds – when you can complete them in a timely manner.

Many golfers know the best times to get in a quick round at their favorite local courses. But crowded tees inevitably occur and slow down the game. When the game slows down, so does the general enjoyment of those playing it. The question of how long does it take to play golf requires understanding playing conditions to get a good idea of what it takes to reasonably complete a round under those conditions. Here is a closer look at the many factors that affect how long it should take to play a round of golf.

General Player Preferences

When playing conditions are ideal and pressure is light on the golf course, most golfers surveyed by the USGA say about four hours is the ideal amount of time to complete 18 holes of golf. Specifically, three hours and 54 minutes came out as the average preferred ideal length for an enjoyable round playing 18 holes of golf. The figure does not say whether that is walking the course or using a cart but likely means using a cart – especially for 18 holes.

While players say they prefer about four hours for 18 holes and about two hours to complete nine holes, they do have some flexibility on how long it takes before they become annoyed. Most golfers are fine with rounds that take more than four hours to complete, the closer that window gets to five hours, the more golfers become irritated at the relatively slow pace.

Average time to play 18 holes of golf

While the ideal playing time for 18 holes of golf is just under four hours (par 3 and Executive Golf Courses excluded), the actual playing time generally is longer. The median time to complete 18 holes is four hours when playing during the week and 4.5 hours when playing during the weekend, the USGA says. Most golf courses say players begin losing enjoyment of the game when it takes at least five hours to complete 18 holes and about 2.5 hours for nine holes.

Golfers who play at public courses say it takes longer to complete 18 holes than golfers at private courses. Play on public courses generally takes about 25 minutes longer for 18 holes than it would at a private golf course, according to the USGA. In general, older and more experienced golfers reported being more tolerant of delays while playing than their younger counterparts.

A significant factor in playing pace is how long it takes one playing group to move out of range on some par 4 and par 5 holes. More than a third of golfers queried by the USGA said they find it more bothersome to wait for others to clear out of the way on some holes. Less than 20 percent said they found it bothersome when an entire round of golf takes longer to play than they prefer.

How to Speed Up Play

The easiest way to quicken any game is to use a cart instead of walking the course. The next quickest way is to practice and improve your game. Most golfers already are very aware of both of those options, but many also overlook some simple steps that they can take to make the two-hour average for nine holes and four-hour average for 18 on weekdays go more quickly. They also can help to ensure you are not among those playing groups that are slowing the pace and annoying the group following you. 

Quickly obtaining the accurate distance for each shot can also help speed up your day.  This can be done with the use of the yardage markers on the course, or with the use of a golf rangefinder. 

Practice and identify your exact wedge distances, hitting good shots from 100 yards and in will lower your scores and speed up your rounds. 

Ready Golf

There is no need to play by strict golfing rules that determine the order of who has the next shot. That is meant for tournament play. During a leisurely golf game, the players who are ready to swing should be able to do so while one or more players are still approaching their respective balls. There is no sense in one or more players standing idle on the fairway while another takes longer to reach a further shot.

Predetermine Your Gimmes

Putting is a critically important part of the game. But when the ball is so close to the hole that the golfer most likely will sink the putt, the hole will go much faster by just lettering that golfer pick up the ball and record the hole as if he or she sank the next putt. You could choose a commonly accepted maximum distance, such as half a club length from the cup, and the golfer can just pick up the putt once the ball is within that range while still trying to sink longer putts.

Do Not Make the Course Longer

Pride might cause many golfers to use tees that really are meant for much better skilled golfers. Hitting from tees that are further back than you realistically can hit to reach the fairway or green slows down the playing pace while adding strokes to your game.

You should use the tees that truly work with your range, including beginner tees if you really need to work on your golf game. At least using the intermediate tees instead of the ones furthest back when you really are not a long driver should help to reduce the number of strokes needed to play 18 holes.

Quick Stops at the 9th Hole

After your group finishes the 9th hole, it is customary to take grab a quick drink, use the restroom and pick up something you might need for your game, like some more tees and a box of balls. The shorter you make the stop, the faster you can complete the round while also speeding up the playing pace. The other option is to let others play through while your group takes an extended break.

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