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How long does 18 holes of golf actually take?

Know how long 18 holes of golf takes so the group behind you doesn't become your enemy

A group of friends playing golf.
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Watching a sport on television and playing it in person are two different things. If you want to see how long your game takes compared to greats like Scottie Scheffler or Bryson DeChambeau, we get it. Whether you need to fit a round into your schedule, make it a weekly habit, or be able to invite friends for a game, you need to know your time limits. How long does 18 holes of golf take? Don’t worry about how long it takes a pro to play through. There is a realistic time frame anyone can work with.

What affects how long 18 holes of golf will take

A person crouching to place the ball on a golf course.
Luis Villasmil / Unsplash

The answer to how long a round of 18 holes takes isn’t as simple as with other sports. With games like basketball and football, there are timed quarters to keep you on track. Golf doesn’t follow a set clock. There are variables to take into consideration. We know — doing math isn’t the fun part, but it’s the best way to narrow it down.

Factors to consider

  • The number of people in your party.
  • How many groups are playing on the green at the same time.
  • Where you are in that line of people playing.
  • How large the course is.
  • What par each hole is.
  • What hazards are on the green, and what is the course difficulty level?
  • What the weather is like.
  • If you are walking to driving that golf cart in style.

Think about it — if it’s windy, that will be a delay. If it starts to rain, you have to dry the ball and your clubs, and who knows what kind of puddle the ball will land in.

If you play on a course with a higher par at each hole, that takes longer than playing on, say, an executive course. Each stroke will add time at each hole — that’s just how it goes.

Another time factor will be if you walk to get those steps in or drive a cart around like the royalty you are. No one walks too fast, especially while carrying a golf bag full of clubs. And if you are with friends, joking around in between holes, that will eat up more time than going by yourself.

How long one round of golf should take

Men drinking and playing golf.
Sugar Golf Balls / Unsplash

Let’s say you did the math for all of those factors. You know the size of the course, what par each hole is, and if you’re playing for fun or if there will be no friendly chitchat while walking from tee to tee. A golfer with average skills should be able to clear an 18-hole course in around 90 strokes.

Time to do the math

You choose to walk the course, and because no one is speed walking out there, it would take between an hour and a half and 2 hours. You should be able to swing in a few seconds (the official time given by the USGA is 40 seconds), 10 to 15 if you need to really focus. If it takes 90 swings for a round, figure 25 minutes on the high end to give a little wriggle room. If you play in a group of four, with each player taking 25 minutes for swings, add another hour and 40 minutes.

No one will play a round without doing things like going to the bathroom, getting a drink, scrutinizing the shot, talking about the weather, or trying to find a missing ball. We’re realistic, so throw in another 30 minutes for all that.

Tally it all up, and a round of 18 holes of golf should take a group of four just under 4 hours to complete. But something always happens, right? A tangent about a shot: no one can decide where to eat after, the group ahead of you isn’t moving as fast as you’d like, and there will be an issue that adds time. Round up for a clean 4 hours of play.

Weekends and weekdays will run differently for time

A person about to swing on the golf course.
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If you are out golfing on a Tuesday, you might pick up the pace knowing you have work the next day. When you are out on the green on a Saturday and life is great, you will relax more. Maybe appreciate the scenery. Maybe take a few extra breaks. For weekend play, add another 30 minutes for meandering purposes, bringing your weekend warrior total time to 4 hours and 30 minutes.

How to cut your time down

If everyone is more focused, you could get that time down by 30 minutes pretty easily. Watch each other in the warm-up to see who will be the one losing balls left and right and who needs the most time to set up for a shot. If each player tracks their score at the next tee versus the one currently being played, that could move things along more.

If you find yourself taking longer than around 4 hours to play through, think of it as something to work towards. We don’t care if it takes you 5 hours for a round or 2 hours — we want you out on the course. But knowing a respectable time for how long to play 18 holes of golf is will leave the group behind you happy.

Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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