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How Long Is A Golf Tournament

how long is a golf tournament
how long is a golf tournament

Does slow play drive you crazy? You aren’t alone. When I head out to play a round of golf, I only like to be able to move from one shot to the next without 3-5 minute waits on each swing. However, if you have ever played (or even watched) a golf match, you know they take a lot of time. As a former golf professional, I had to know a lot about the length of golf matches to ensure we got everyone off the course before the sun went down. Here is everything you should know about how long golf matches are and a few tips to help you speed up the pace.

How Long Are Golf Matches

An 18-hole golf match will take anywhere from 4 to 5.5 hours. If you get stuck in a really tough event with golfers with less skill, you may be looking at more than 6 hours of golf. Match play tends to be a bit shorter; sometimes you can get a match play event in about 3.5 to 4 hours.

Stroke play is longer, especially when a tournament or prize is on the line.

Professional Tournaments

Professional golfers take about 4.5 to 5 hours to play a round of golf. They take quite a bit of time to set up their tee shots, line up their putts, and make decisions about which clubs to use.

The pace of play in professional tournaments has sometimes been considered a problem. Some golfers like to play fast, and they are annoyed by players like Patrick Cantlay, who could not be much slower. Granted, different types of golf tournaments require more time and attention to detail, when you are playing for $7 million it’s hard not to take that extra second.

TournamentAverage Pace of Play (Hours)

Club Golf Tournaments

Most golf club tournaments take between 4.25 and 5 hours. Some golf clubs are very strict about the pace of play, and they will push you along. As a former golf professional, I can tell you that tee times and pairings are often created to ensure that pace of play is kept up throughout the entire event. Professional golf tournaments are the same, but at a club for amateur golf tournaments, attention is paid to who the fast and slow players are.

FormatAverage Pace of Play (Hours)

Public Amateur Tournaments

Public golf course amateur tournaments are probably the longest of the competitive golf events. Whether these are match play events or stroke play events, you may see the pace of play getting closer to 6 hours. The real issues here come down to the number of players and, of course the skill level of those players.

Casual Matches with Friends

A casual match with your friends should not take you more than 4 hours to play. Chances are you will be playing in a format where you can pick up if your shot is not a good one. Team events where only the lowest score for the hole counts, like a best ball match, can even be played in less than four hours.

Factors That Influence How Long A Golf Match Is

The average golfer playing in a golf match should not take 5 or more hours to play. Tournaments can be a little slower, but outside influences also significantly impact the pace of play. Things like tournament format, player skill level, course difficulty, etc, all play into the length of the rounds of golf you play.

Tournament Format

The more shots a golfer has to take on their golf ball, the slower the tournament goes. If you are looking to run a charity golf tournament or fundraiser, these formats are essential to keep in mind, as they can make or break the timing for your event. Professional players almost always play stroke or match play, but the most common format for amateur charity events is a scramble.

FormatPace of Play (Relative)

Skill Level

Higher handicap golfers are traditionally the slowest. However, this is not always the case. Some golfers, regardless of skill level, are just slower players. Sometimes, slow play is about how fast you move to your golf ball or how efficiently you maneuver the cart around the course.

My advice is that even if you’re a newer player or a handicapper, learn the tips and tricks to be a fast player. Playing fast makes the game of golf so much more fun for all who are involved.

Course Difficulty

It’s interesting after running hundreds of tournaments; you can always find a spot on a golf course that slows the pace of play down during a tournament.

This happens with a long par 3, a difficult second shot on a par 4, or a par 5 that is reachable for some of the longer hitters. In addition, courses with challenging greens and more advanced slopes tend to take amateur golfers longer.

Long rough is another culprit that will slow down the pace of a golf tournament as people look for their golf balls.


If you want the length of a golf tournament to be a little shorter, a golf ranger is a great idea. These pace of play controllers are sometimes called “player assistance” instead of rangers.

However, if you have been around the golf game long enough, you know their job is to keep pace moving. A ranger will ride around the day of the tournament or match, help golfers look for their balls, let them know they are out of position, and maybe even talk to a single player about their pace.

Bad Weather

Bad weather will always slow down play. Weather conditions, especially wind and rain, make it challenging to keep golf matches to their original time estimate. Players spend more time thinking, measuring, and keeping their golf clubs clean and dry. Sometimes, a tournament in bad weather is not about the best score but instead about the toughest player.

What’s On The Line

I enjoy winning a Sunday afternoon scramble format just as much as you do, but it’s not the same as trying to secure your first U.S. Open. Let’s be realistic about what is on the line regarding the tournament pace of play. The member guest and club championship may be a little slower, but the pace should be a little faster for basic match-play events or team member members.

Why Do Golf Matches Take So Long?

Golf matches take a long time because players take a lot longer to make decisions and execute shots when something is on the line. Tournament play is fun, but sometimes the pace is enough to keep players away. Tournament organizers and golf professionals will inform you about the pace before teeing off; it is one of your responsibilities, even while trying to play your best.

One of the questions I always find interesting is whether or not golfers play better when they play slow or fast.

I can tell you that there is a happy medium here. Fast play can undoubtedly lead to rushing and poor decision-making. However, slow play gives you too much time to think and overanalyze.

That 4.5-hour round pace is just about perfect in a tournament. If it is a casual round of golf with friends at a club, the 3:45-4 hour range is really where the pace of play should be.

How Can You Keep Your Golf Match Moving?

Don’t get into the habit of trying to control the pace alone. I’ve done this before as a high school golfer and again as a college golfer, and it hurt my game. Instead, follow these tips to ensure you are not the reason behind the slow play, and hopefully, the other people in your group will follow your lead.

  • Declare on the first tee in a stroke play or team event that you are OK with ready golf and playing whenever you are ready.
  • Pick up if you are out of the hole and playing a format where it doesn’t matter!
  • Park your golf cart in a position that makes sense, bring the clubs you need, and don’t be afraid to walk a little to your golf ball.
  • Always write down the score when you get to the next tee box, and leave the green as soon as you finish.
  • While other people are hitting, get your yardage, pick your club, and decide on a plan for your shot.

Final Thoughts

Golf matches take longer than casual play, but they are worth it. There are so many golf tournament formats to choose from; you can find something perfect for your needs and the time commitment you want to make. Throughout my college golf tournaments and beyond, I prepared to have a 4.5-hour round, and it was almost always the exact pace of play.