how long does golf take

The Rules of Golf changed a lot on 1st January 2019 with many of the new rules intended to improve the pace of play at all levels of the game. But why were golf’s rulemakers interested in this? As a result, we conducted some study to determine how long it takes golfers to complete a regular round of 18 holes.

So how long does a round of golf take?A round of 18 holes of golf is anticipated to take no longer than the following times:

No. of players 18 holes Par 5s Par 4s Par 3s
1 2 hrs 30 mins 10 mins 8 mins 7 mins
2 3 hrs 12 mins 10 mins 8 mins
3 3 hrs 30 mins 14 mins 12 mins 9 mins
4 4 hrs 16 mins 13 mins 10 mins
Source: R&A

However, as every golfer knows, these ‘anticipated’ timeframes are not always the case. Slow play may result in rounds lasting more than 5, and occasionally up to 6 hours. But according to those who have studied the pace of play, it is not players who are mainly at fault for slow play. Overcrowding on the course is the most typical reason of excessively extended rounds.

10 key factors affecting how long a round of golf takes

There is no definitive statistics on how long a round of golf takes on average. There is also no clear regulation on what constitutes a ‘acceptable tempo of play’ among the game’s legislators. A Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) global survey of over 56,000 golfers across 122 countries in 2015, however, showed a clear majority – over 60% – would enjoy the game more it took less time to play.

Simply put, improving the overall tempo of play and resolving the following issues has a benefit in terms of enhancing player pleasure.key factors identified by the R&Aaffecting how long a round of golf takes:

  1. Time between groups teeing off– If not enough time is granted between groups, the course may soon become congested, resulting in increased waiting and lengthy rounds.
  2. Number of players in groups– A group of 4 golfers will certainly take longer to play a round than a group of two or three. However, substantial delays are caused by inadequate management of the mix of these various groups throughout the day.
  3. Types of play– On any given day, the sort of game picked has a direct influence on the tempo of play. Strokeplay, in which golfers must finish every hole in order to get a legitimate score, is often the slowest. In contrast, foursomes golf, in which partners exchange strokes, is the quickest.
  4. Teeoptions– A lack of teeing alternatives to accommodate various levels of golfer and/or striking distances may result in delayed play since players have fewer options to avoid using less lofted, more challenging clubs and playing over obstacles like as water hazards and bunkers.
  5. The length of the rough– Severe rough often results in sluggish rounds due to extensive durations spent seeking for balls. Grass which is too long around greens can also cause problems as even if balls are not lost the difficulty of the resulting chip shot can mean two and sometimes three chips are required to reach the nearby green.
  6. Green conditions– very quick or difficult greens are two further examples of course characteristics that might result in lengthy round durations. The pace of play is also impacted when greens have severe slopes and the holes are cut on, or near, the slopes.
  7. Distances between greens and tees– Long walks or driving cart lengths from one green to the next can greatly increase the time required to play. The shorter these distances are, the faster the game will go.
  8. Obstacles on the course– Most golf courses will have a mix of some or all of the following – rough, bunkers, water hazards, trees, bushes and other obstacles. The more of them there are, and the more difficult it is to recover from them, the slower the game is likely to be.
  9. Weather– Golf is a difficult sport to play. Add in somerainand/or severe winds, the situation worsens. A poor weather day can, as a result, have a major impact on the length of time it takes to a complete a round.
  10. Player behaviour and ability– Poor player behavior in respect to the speed of play (for example, not being ready to play or not understanding the rules) may definitely cause pace of play issues. Similarly, a player’s talent will undoubtedly influence the amount of time it takes to complete a round, since four players shooting 90 strokes, for example, would surely take longer than four golfers taking 70 shots.
The more barriers there are, and the more difficult it is to recover from them, the slower the game will go.

As we can see, assuming that sluggish play is solely the fault of the players is a typical error. There are a large number of factors which can contribute to a slow round and many of them are there before the players have even arrived at the course and had an impact.

20 ways to reduce the length of time a round of golf takes

  1. Empty starting intervals or starter gaps– Delays caused by any of the aforementioned variables may be lessened or even eliminated by using empty’starting intervals’ or’starter gaps’. Without the empty starting interval, the likelihood is that waiting on that hole will increase as the day goes on.
  2. Different starting options– Using other choices to begin play may also aid in the delivery of speedier rounds. ‘Two tee starts’, where groups start from 2 different tees at the same time, or ‘Shotgun starts’, where groups start simultaneously from multiple tees are two options to get more players round more quickly, simply because more of the holes are utilised from the start.
  3. Restrict the number of players in groups– A easy technique to shorten the amount of time it takes to play a round is for course administrators to limit the number of players in each group.
  4. Mix up different groups –Significant delays may occur if the timing of when various sized groups – two, three, and four-balls – begin their round throughout the day is not handled, since quicker groups will want and expect to be allowed through before bigger and slower ones.
  5. Establish a ‘time par’ for each hole– Similar to the concept of the ‘scoring par’ for a hole, ‘time par’ is the name for the standard length of time a group is expected to complete each hole. This therefore offers groups a guideline for the anticipated tempo of play, which may be put on scorecards for easy reference.
  6. Make good use of golf course staff or volunteers– Golf course employees and volunteers may all help to increase the pace of play. Check-in personnel at the pro shop and starters, for example, might provide advice on the speed of play expectations at the course. Caddies also, if available, can help keep an eye on how quickly their group is playing.
  7. Positive communication with players– Good and clear communication with participants through all available channels is critical to ensure rounds do not run too long. Every member of a course’s management team (committees, professionals etc) can help ensure all golfers have clear, helpful and friendly guidance on pace of play expectations.
  8. Deter slow play and incentivise ‘good paced’ play– Courses may also consider instituting fines and punishments for sluggish play, as well as incentives for fast play. Penalties might include being asked to leave the course or being required to attend a lesson on how to improve one’s rate of play. Incentives could include a free drink at the bar, a discounted item from the professional’s shop or even a reduced green fee for the next round.
  9. Provide a variety of tees– A variety of tees, not labelled as ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’, but able to be used by players according to their ability and /or hitting distances can help the pace of play. There is also evidence that this boosts player satisfaction.
  10. Increased fairway widths– Wider fairways may lead to more easier shots for players from fairways and less time spent seeking for lost balls in the rough.
  11. Make the rough easier– Extending the first cut of rough (the grass directly alongside the fairway) and shortening it overall to increase the likelihood that players will locate their ball are two more possible strategies to assist speed up play.
  12. Good and clear course signs– Simple and unambiguous signage guiding golfers, especially tourists, around the course may guarantee that everyone follows the fastest path around the course.
  13. Players maintaining ‘position’ on the course– Players should constantly strive to keep up with the group ahead of them. A group, for example, should not have an empty par 4 between them and the group ahead of them. If they do and are also delaying the group behind they should invite the players behind to play through (i.e. go past them).
  14. Pick up balls when appropriate– If a player can no longer contribute to the game on a specific hole (i.e. their score no longer counts for that hole), they should pick up to assist the tempo of play.
  15. Be ‘ready to play’– This simply implies that a player should make themselves’ready to play’ while waiting for other players, as long as they do not bother another player or jeopardize anyone’s safety. This entails the player analyzing and deciding on their next shot, making a club selection choice, or setting up the putt.
  16. Play ‘ready golf’– Distinct from ‘ready to play’ is the idea of ‘ready golf’. This expression refers to a variety of behaviors that may both individually and together speed up play. Examples include hitting a shot before helping another player looking for a lost ball, short hitters playing first if longer hitters are forced to wait and putting out even if it means standing close to someone else’s line. ‘Ready golf’, on the other hand, is not acceptable inmatch play.
  17. Position of bags or carts– As players approach the green, golf bags or carts should be placed so that they may travel quickly and efficiently off the green and to the next tee.
  18. Play a ‘provisional’ ball– Ball searches and lost balls are typically unavoidable, but they add time to the process. A player who thinks they may have hit a ball out of bounds or lost it should play a provisional ball. This eliminates the need for the player to walk or drive back to the location of their previous shot if the ball is actually lost or out of bounds.
  19. Choose the right type of game at the right time– Golfers are usually in command of who they play with, what they play, and when they want to play. All these decisions have an influence on how long a round will take. If players prefer to play strokeplay for example, the slowest form of the game, then ideally they should not play in a group of four. If golfers want to play fast, they might choose a calmer time of day when the course may be underutilized or has not yet filled up.
  20. Watch every ball possible– As previously stated, searching for misplaced balls causes delays. This problem can be reduced significantly however if all players make an effort to watch both their own shots and each other’s as carefully and as often as possible.
Good, clear, and straightforward signage instructing golfers, especially tourists, helps guarantee that everyone follows the shortest path around the course.

How will the new rules reduce the length of time a round of golf takes?

The speed of play has long been a source of concern for golf’s rulemakers. Surveys and research have shown that increased times to play a round of golf both stops current golfers playing more often and also new people taking up golf.

As a result, together with a large number of other changes, effective from 1st January 2019, a number of rules have been introduced to help speed up play. A few examples are as follows:

  • Search time– The time it takes a golfer to find their golf ball has been cut in half, from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.
  • How to ‘drop’ the ball– Instead of dropping the ball from shoulder height, golfers may now drop it from knee height, barely a few inches above the ground. This is aimed to speed up play by increasing the chances of the dropped ball staying within the permitted two-club-length drop area on the first try and not needing to be re-dropped.
  • a) a) b) c) b) c) b) b) b) b– The new rules take away the previous penalty for hitting a flagstick left in the hole while putting on a green. The regular removal and replacement of flagsticks might formerly create delays in a game of golf.
  • Embedded or ‘plugged’ ball– Prior to 2019, when a ball got stuck in its own pitch mark, you could only take relief when the ball was in the fairway. Now golfers are permitted to drop the ball precisely behind the location the ball was embedded irrespective of where on the course the ball landed (e.g. the rough).
  • Pace of play recommendations– In addition to explicitly proposing several of the features of’ready golf’ mentioned above, the new 2019 regulations also propose that a player take their shot no more than 40 seconds after the period when they should have been’ready to play’.

Final thought

There are many reasons why you would wish to shorten the time it takes to play a game of golf. Greater players satisfaction and increased participation, both by current and new players, are two of the key ones we have highlighted here.

As a result, it seems to be in everyone’s best interests for all of us who like the game to keep the tempo of play up and not keep everyone waiting.

Related questions

How long does it take to play nine holes of golf?9 holes of golf should take no more than 1 hour 15 minutes for one player, 1 hour 30 minutes for two players, 1 hour 45 minutes for three players, and 2 hours for four players.

How long does a round of golf take at the Masters?There is no official statistics on the duration of a round at the Masters, one of golf’s four major championships. The estimated average time for a round of golf at a professional tournament is 4 hours 45 minutes to 5 hours 30 minutes per round.

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