How Long Does A Round Of Golf (18 Holes) Take?

How long does a round of golf take? This is a hotly debated topic in the golfing world especially in the professional game where the slow play tag continues to plague some of the world’s best players. 

Below we will take a closer look at the rules of golf in terms of pace of play and we will also break down how long 9 and 18 holes take to play on an average day. 

Pace Of Play Rules Of Golf 

The rules of golf governed by the USGA and the R&A stipulate the following when it comes to pace of play in rule 6-7. “The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines that the Committee may establish”. The penalty for a breach of Rule 6-7 is loss of hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play, and for a repeated offense, disqualification.

However, Note 2 under Rule 6-7 states: “For the purpose of preventing slow play, the Committee may, in the conditions of a competition (Rule 33-1), establish pace of play guidelines including maximum periods of time allowed to complete a stipulated round, a hole or a stroke”.

Professional tours and amateur golf associations have strict pace of play guidelines that are enforced by rules officials during tournaments. The majority of golf courses around the world also have pace of play guidelines but these guidelines are much harder to enforce outside of a tournament setup. 

PGA Tour Pace Of Play Guidelines 

PGA Tour pace of play guidelines stipulates that a player shouldn’t take more than 45 seconds to hit a shot. If a player takes more than 45 seconds to hit a shot on numerous occasions during a tournament they will be added to an observation list. 

Players on the observation list will be timed individually if they exceed 60 seconds on any given shot throughout the tournament. For groups that are out of position during a round the allowed time to hit a shot drops down to 40 seconds. 

Players that breach the PGA Tour pace of play policy will be subject to a hefty fine based on the offense. To learn more about the PGA Tour pace of play policy click here.

Pace of play guidelines on other major professional tours is similar to that of the PGA Tour with the main difference being the amount fined. 

Pace Of Play Controversial Moments 

Every golfer has their own story to share when it comes to slow play and as golf fans, we have seen some controversial moments in recent years relating to this topic. Rory Sabatini and Ben Crane caused quite a stir when Sabatini famously stormed off and hit his tee shot on the next hole while Crane was still putting out on the previous hole. To view the incident click here

LPGA player, Klara Spilkova, was assessed a two-shot penalty for breaching tournament pace of play guidelines during the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Spilkova missed the cut by 1 shot and the incident was hotly debated in golf circles since her infringement led to an on-course penalty and not a fine. 

Bryson Dechambeau continues to disrupt the game of golf but he did it for all the wrong reasons at the 2020 Northern Trust Open when he took nearly 2 minutes to hit an 8-foot birdie putt. 

These controversial moments are only a few that highlight a bigger problem faced by professional golf tours around the world. 

Factors That Influence Pace Of Play 

Course Layout 

Average pace of play differs from one golf course to the next. For instance pace of play is quicker on a par 70 versus a par 72 layout, playing a longer golf course takes longer and the walking distance between the green to the next tee box also makes a massive difference. 

Group Size 

Recreational golfers normally play in groups of 4, tournament play however is normally in 3 balls and 2 balls are common on professional tours once the field has been cut after the first two rounds. The size of the group makes a big difference in terms of pace of play, round times can vary up to more than an hour between a 2 and a 4 ball. 

Course Difficulty

Tricky course layouts with thick rough, fast greens and penalizing bunkers such as pot bunkers affect pace of play considerably. Over the last couple of years, the time that a player is allowed to spend looking for their golf ball has decreased from 5 to 3 minutes in an attempt to speed up play but tough golf courses still take longer to play. 

Player Skill Level 

A player’s skill level makes a big difference as well in terms of pace of play. More shots hit means more time spent playing. 

Weather Conditions 

Weather conditions can also have a severe impact on pace of play. Windy and rainy conditions increase the level of difficulty which can slow down pace of play and when playing in the rain pace of play slows down drastically while players struggle with keeping themselves and their clubs dry. 

How Long Does It Take To Play A Round Of Golf? 

By now it is clear that there is no right or wrong when it comes to answering this question. The time it takes to play a round of golf will differ but on average when playing in a 4 ball it should take roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes to play 9 holes and 4 hours and 30 minutes to play 18 holes.

Final Thoughts 

Pace of play has and continues to be a hotly debated topic. For the average player pace of play shouldn’t ruin their round but good pace of play does make a round of golf more enjoyable. 

How long it takes to play a round of golf differs, regardless of whether it takes 2, 3, or 4 hours, always try to keep within the general rule of taking a maximum of 45 seconds per shot, this will ensure a good pace of play and an enjoyable experience for all out on the course. 

This article was last updated on November 23, 2021 .

Bertine Strauss
Written by
Bertine Strauss
The Golf Blog