How Long Does It Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf?
One of the most incredible things about golf is that every round is different. You won’t know the outcome until the final putt because of the combinations of possibilities from weather conditions to tee boxes, pin placement, wind, rain, and turf. Every shot you take and every spot your ball lands is probability and outcome. Sometimes we find water, sometimes sand, and occasionally greatness.
Those same things apply to how long a round of golf takes, plus more. The United States Golf Association computes that the average 18 holes of golf runs four hours and five minutes Monday through Friday, five hours and thirty minutes on weekends. That tells you the crowds you’ll find on busy weekends and holidays have a significant impact. And what about the capability of the course?
Course management and design also drive the average time groups complete play. Rancho Park Golf Course in Los Angeles, a wildly popular 100,000-round-per-year municipal, had easy 3.5-hour early rounds but plodding 5.5-hour rounds late in the afternoon. To combat the problem, they switched from 6-minute tee time group intervals to 8-minutes.
Although counter-intuitive, the change prompted players to be on time and got them off the tee quicker, so each coming group could tee off on time instead of encountering a jam at the first hole.
Other factors that come into play include course layout and length, group sizes, walking versus carts, and things simply out of your control, like weather conditions and pin placement. As for course layout, the USGA has advised that in practice, “the slowest holes are the ones with the longest approach shots, especially long par 3s and reachable par 5s.” Having to wait for your second shot on a par 3 while the group ahead finishes bottles up the hole since those on the tee are waiting for your group too.
Playing By Yourself Vs. Playing in a Group
Most players first experience golf on a miniature golf course. With any luck, it’s a memorable half-hour of fun, but it also makes us think golf is fast, and it’s not. The trick course managers have is to accept the time involved while keeping delays to a minimum. Four and a half hours is fine if you’re playing straight through.
A near-empty golf course offers a chance for a quick round, especially if you are playing by yourself, but perhaps not so if you’ve got a slow player right in front of you! Playing alone can be a rare treat, and you might fly through a decent round in about two hours. As a single player, you’ll tend to get waved ahead or through a tee box, so enjoy!
It's the starter’s job to balance groups going onto the course, and most are great at it. A group of two is likely to be left alone, and you’ll get your round done about a half-hour slower than a single player, but that’s going to depend on the course and your skill level. Any two and a half to three-hour round can feel like heaven.
If you’re on a busy course after seven AM, it may be too late to go off as a two-some, and you’ll get connected to make a group of four. No worries. That coupling can make for faster rounds for everyone but expect your outcome to be closer to four hours, even five hours later in the day.
The dreaded group of six almost always consists of six players and six hours of golf. If you’re part of the group, enjoy yourself. If you’re behind the plodders, don’t be afraid to ask to play through. If you don’t, you’ll fume and fret and ruin your day. Just ask; they know they’re slow.
Golf Cart Vs. Walking
Riding golf carts were invented for ease and speed, but in practice, they don’t always pay off unless you're playing alone. There are no carts at Erin Hills in Wisconsin (home of the 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur), and the loopers handle the bags. That’s a good thing because, at 7147 yards from the blue, it’s tough enough carrying bottled water and much more so with a complete set of clubs. Either way, cart or no, you’ll get plenty of fresh air and exercise.
Still, playing with a walking cart can be transformative to your game, and you’ll likely find that your focus is sharper while walking. The synergy of experiencing distances, the lay of the course, and spending your time thinking about your next shot instead of maneuvering the cart path behind the wheel of a riding cart is time well spent and critical to your game.
Factors You Can’t Control
You can’t control your tee times in many instances or the pace of play and who ends up in the group you follow. At the 2019 Northern Trust, PGA star Bryson DeChambeau took 140 seconds to read an 8-foot putt and got called out mercilessly for his slow play, so it even happens at the pro level. But you can make sure it’s not you causing delays by being ready for each shot when you’re up.
That’s another nice thing about having an electric push cart; you’ve always got your clubs with you! You don’t have to walk back to your riding cart or wave frantically at your playing partner to head back when you find you need a change of clubs. And you can speed up play by following “ready golf” - you’re not "playing out of turn.” It’s alright to shoot next if it doesn’t inhibit your partner’s play and they aren’t ready!
Much as we’d like, we can’t control the weather, and even a little rain is likely to slow things down. Having the proper outdoor footwear is helpful, but it’s the wind that takes some adjusting for many golfers, and your original thought of how to hit your approach can change after you get to your golf ball. Using the right club at the right time means fewer shots and faster rounds!
Course difficulty is also out of your control but knowing the course and studying the scorecard helps. Walking the course and gaining a feel for just where you can hit your tee shot and where you’d like to be after a follow-up helps too.
How to Improve Your Game
Nothing improves your game more than practice, and while mini golf might not help much, arriving early for your tee time and grinding it out on the putting green tells you about green conditions, speed, and your touch. It’s easier to adjust there than on the fly after the fifth hole.
If the course has a practice green with a sand trap, you can also read the moisture content. Hit some balls out and adjust for dry and wet sand. Dry takes your normal swing, but wet sand is tricky.
A good golf tip for wet sand is to keep your downswing steeper because there will be more friction when the blade of your wedge hits the sand. Keep the clubface square, with your weight on your front foot, but swing easily while striking the sand about one inch from your ball. You can do it - it’s not as tough as it sounds.
If you’re trying to improve your overall game, the driving range is your friend, and so is a golf simulator if you’ve got the room! Swinging a club every day keeps you tethered to your game.
Don’t forget to visit your local pro shop to keep up with the latest golf accessories, bags, and carts. They might not have all the latest items that make owning a golf cart so enjoyable, but not to worry.
Cart Tek prides itself on finding innovative ways to make even a great golf outing more enjoyable, and much of that starts with the carts themselves!
Electric push carts take the worries out of playing and lead to a faster pace by keeping you in touch with everything in your bag. You won’t have to run back to your riding cart because of a lost ball or a losing battle with a water hazard. You get more exercise, connect better with the course, and improve your game by keeping all your tools at hand. And you won’t leave a wedge on the back of the green!
Another great advantage of coupling your game with a cart, especially a remote-control caddy, is that you’ll spend less time worrying about your cart and clubs by setting the pace of the cart automatically. Cart Tek’s rugged construction focuses on longevity with high-efficiency electric motors, so the carts traverse harsh terrain, climb slopes smoothly, and descend hills quickly with ultimate downhill speed control.
One of the biggest factors in golf is your state of mind. It’s an emotional and challenging game that takes body control and great concentration. With a Cart Tek remote control caddy, you can spend your time interpreting your options, choosing the right club, and concentrating on your game.
Instead of being slow, you’ll be the one playing ready golf - and shooting better than ever. So, take advantage of one of the best ways to improve your game, and you’ll enjoy every outing.
By the way, Cart Tek has a 97% customer satisfaction rating, and buyers rave about both the quality they’ve found and gaining a better feel for the course using the best carts on the market. And don’t forget, the remote carts come with a generous accessory package!