How long does it take to play 18 holes

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As an amateur, fitting in a quick round of golf is likely to take some planning. Mostly because a round of golf is UNlikely to be quick at all.

So how much time should you set aside?

There are various factors to consider.

How Much Time Do You Need To Play A Round Of Golf?

How long does it take to play a round of golf?

One round of golf consists of 18 holes. Now, if your partner wants to know for how long you will be gone, they will have to understand that this is hardly an exact science.

The average is about three to five hours. This does not take into account bathroom breaks, potentially closing a business deal or enjoying ice cold refreshments. 

The following variables, however, will determine the exact amount of time you need to have available. 

We do think it’s simpler to just plan to spend the day – good times should not be rushed. But here are the influencing factors.

The size of your team

This is kind of obvious, but take into account the number of people that will be playing. The more people there are, the more time you need to wait for everyone to hit their shot.

If you choose to play by yourself you will be able to finish off the holes quicker, but it might happen at times that you have to wait for a group in front of you.

Odds are though that they will let you pass so they can continue playing at their own pace without having you breathing down their necks.

A single player that is fairly skilled can finish 18 holes in two hours or less. For two people, you can add about 30 minutes. Three people can take over three hours, and four people can take four hours or more.

How you get from A to B

One would think that using a golf cart to get from one hole to the next will be quicker than walking, but surprisingly that isn’t always the case. If walking slows you down, it’s usually only by a few minutes.

If you are walking, you could be distracted by the scenery and the things happening around you, causing you to lose focus on your game. But, for some, walking is part of the appeal of a game of golf. 

Walking lets you enjoy nature while getting some light exercise – a sure way to get the feel-good hormones flowing. 

A golf cart is an option for getting around on the course, but it’s mostly recommended for senior citizens or people with mobility issues.

Getting into a golf cart does not magically turn the course into a raceway, you are generally restricted to stick to very slow speeds. The cart can also slow you down if you are a large group, such as four people.

Depending on the terrain, the golf cart can be dangerous. Be careful, as accidents can seriously slow you down or even put an end to your game.

The nature of the golf course

Your round of 18 holes will take longer to complete on a longer golf course, because it will take you longer to get from one hole to the next.

The actual surface of the course also affects playing time. When there are a lot of hills, hazards or less direct walking routes it will take you longer to move around.

Similarly, if the surface is flat and basic you will be able to move around quicker.

The playing speed of your team

Some players, for various reasons, take a long time to hit their shot. This is often unnecessary and slows down the whole team.

How NOT to waste time on the golf course

Or, as GolfDigest International calls it, the “sins of slow play”. Are you guilty of one of the following?
If you have a little ritual you like to do before you take your shot, give some consideration to whether everyone needs to watch you do it while they wait their turn.

Things like calculating yardage, lining up a putt or taking a practice swing can be done during someone else’s turn, you don’t need an audience for it.
Bag mismanagement. Leave your bag in strategically chosen spots to prevent you from having to walk up and down to get it.
Cart mismanagement works almost the same as bag mismanagement. Don’t park the cart on the cartpath, and then not take everything with you that you will need.

No one is amused at you having to walk all the way back.

Yes, golf is great for catching up, but be smart about it. When someone is lining up a putt, it’s not the time to start telling an elaborate story that’s going to take a while.

Remember that the game of golf is supposed to be moving forward, so don’t let socialising interfere with that.
Lack of skill can also hold up a team. If you are not yet on the same level as your teammates, that is fine, but own up to it.

Pay attention to where your ball goes so that you don’t have to waste time looking for it. Also, there is no shame in just picking up the ball and moving on if you keep slapping it around the hole.
Cellphone abuse. Need we say more?

The skill level of your team

Mediocre golf players will take more shots to get to the green, and more shots to get the ball into the hole, thus taking longer to play the game. 

As mentioned above, they are also more likely to get into a situation where they have to search for a lost ball. For every player that isn’t all that skilled yet you can add extra time to complete your round.

Linked to this is the difficulty of the course. A difficult course would take longer to complete than an easy one.

Course traffic

The busier the course is, the more likely it is that your team will have to wait their turn, thus adding a considerable amount of time to your round.

The amount of people on the course is influenced by both the time of week and the time of day. You will soon notice that certain times of day are busier than others at the golf course.

It goes without saying that golf courses will also be busier during weekends. 

The weather

If you don’t let something trivial like a bit of rain keep you away from the golf course, do know that it will slow things down.

Rain will add steps to your pre-shot routine, not to mention the extra equipment, such as towels and umbrellas, you will need.

Are you playing in a tournament or casually?

A tournament round will generally take longer than a casual round. This is because players are a bit more serious, which causes them to take things slower.

Furthermore, you have to finish every hole and make every putt in a tournament, adding time to your round.

4 ways to speed up your game

Playing eighteen holes will take a certain amount of time, but there are things you can do to save time.

  1. Stay away during peak times. If you have a flexible schedule, aim to enjoy your round of golf at a less popular time.
    Early birds who get to the course first will enjoy the extra advantage of not having any teams in front of them that could possibly hold them up.
  1. Be part of the solution. Take a good look at your own game, and become mindful of things you might be doing to slow things down. Only by being aware of our mistakes can we fix them.
  1. Play the appropriate tees. Play from the tees that match your age and ability. You will be able to play faster from shorter tees.
  1. Play a short course. If you simply don’t have time to fit in 18 holes, you still have options. You can play nine holes instead of 18, or opt for a par 3 course which is even smaller.


Avoiding slow play is part of basic golf etiquette. From the time you select your club until you hit your shot should not take you more than 30 to 45 seconds.

So don’t be that guy – the one who spoils it for everyone. Move swiftly, keep the game going and make the most of your time away from the rat race.

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Young talented golfer and writer and top rated weekend golfer. He's favorite player is Tiger and he spends most of his spare time on a golf course.

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