Golf clubWe’ve all seen Sunday League footballers do the old Ronaldo celebration after scoring. We’ve also seen them attract a touch from a defender before throwing themselves to the floor looking for a penalty. The least said about all that the better! At any age, amateur sports people naturally try emulate professionals even when what they are copying is perhaps something negative.

Golf is no different in that regard, with many amateurs stopping to think about shots as though they are Bryson DeChambeau and taking hours to finish a round. The question really though, is just how long should a round of golf really take?

How Long Should a Round Really Take?

Group of 4 golfers

Each individual golfer has control over their own play and the speed at which the game is played. If you and your pal are the only people out there then, of course, play quickly or stroll around and chat as slowly as you please.

We do have a duty, however, to keep the game moving when other people are on the course and, if average round times keep going up, it does nothing to attract new people to the sport during an era in which concentration spans are becoming shorter and shorter. There is no scientific answer to all of this, of course. There are no penalties for amateur golfers who go out there on their own and cannot finish their round within a certain time limit. There are, however, a few numbers we can throw at this.

What the Numbers Say

We will make an assumption here that we’re dealing with an empty course. Golfers playing in a foursome who are first off on the tee. Equally, we are not factoring in the rating of the course or its topography as studies have shown these have little effect on how long a round should take. For the purposes of this, imagine if you will a typical 14 or 15-handicap player. Such a player will typically need 90 or so shots to get around the 18-holes of a normal golf course.

The average player can drive the ball around 210 yards. A typical 6,000-yard course is manageable and that’s what we’re using for this exercise. That 6,000-yards only takes into account the 18 different hole measurements. Naturally, you’ll be walking up to the tee, taking different routes to the green, missing some shots and putting up with many other things. With this, we’ll just assume you are actually going to cover 9,000 yards or so. Studies show that’s a fair assumption.

That leaves us walking around 5½ miles to cover those 18 holes of golf. Average walking pace is 3mph, meaning it would only take 1 hour, 45 minutes to cover the journey. Remember those 90 shots we expect a player to take. A diligent player will be thinking about their next shot, assessing the distance and the line needed all while playing partners are taking their shots. This cuts down on some time.

Be Thinking About Your Next Shot Before It Is Your Turn

Having made the relevant assessments, a player now needs to play the shot. Taking too much time at this point is a bit of a no-no in golf. Nobody wants to stand around and wait while you make it all about yourself. The better players envisage what they need to do, get set and go for it. Hit it, watch the shot and then move down the fairway. 15 seconds or so should be enough time to get set and then hit the shot, according to most regular players.

Using that figure, 90 shots taking 15 seconds each comes to a total of just over 22-minutes. Bearing in mind a player could be put off by something, we can increase that time to 25 minutes for the purposes of this piece. 25 minutes, in theory, should be more than enough time to line up and play 90 shots.

Expect Somewhere Between 3.5 to 4 Hours for 4 Golfers to Complete 18-Holes

Remembering here that we’re dealing with the typical foursome, we have to consider 25-minutes for each player. In this case, that means 1 hour and 40 minutes of shot playing between the group. We also chalked up 1 hour and 45 minutes walking the course which now puts us at a total of 3 hours and 25 minutes.

There must be more to the game than lining up shots and walking, however. This is a social sport and a fun one. Even without considering the fact that business may be being discussed during the round of golf, other things will be as that is why the majority of people go out there to play.

A bathroom break may be needed, something may be forgotten or dropped from a bag, a player has a story to tell, etc. We can add at least another 10 minutes on for these perfectly acceptable things, taking us up to 3 hours, 35 minutes. You may also lose a ball. A playing partner may lose a ball. Something or someone could interrupt the round. 20-25 minuets can easily be added for this, taking us right up to the four-hour mark and that’s just using average timings. So, it is quite conceivable that a typical round of golf for four people can take four hours.

How Long Do the Pros Take?

Professional golfer

Typically, professional golfers take around ten minutes per hole. That means they can get around in 3 hours, though it often takes as much as 4½ hours depending on how many players are in the group among other factors.

The point is, you shouldn’t base how long it takes you to play a round on how the pros do it. Take your time if you need to but equally, don’t hang around if you are more comfortable playing a little faster. How long your round takes can depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Group size
  • Other players on the course
  • Skill level
  • Weather