Forget the pros, here’s how long it should take YOU to play a round of golf

August 12, 2019

These are fractious times. The nation is divided.

But at least there are two things on which we all can agree: presidential campaigns drag on far too long, and so does Bryson DeChambeau when he’s lining up some shots.

As DeChambeau made clear is in his testy, press conference self-defense at this past week’s Northern Trust, where he was more than once mistaken for a lawn statue, slow play is a multi-headed monster. No single player — or factor — bears all the blame.

But as individual golfers, each of us has control of our own conduct; we can be part of the problem, or aid in the solution.

Which leads us to an age-old question: How long should it take the average golfer to play 18 holes?

We’re not scientists. But neither is DeChambeau (he only plays one on TV), so for the good of the game we’ve reserved the right to hash out some rough numbers and come up with an answer.

For starters, let’s assume an empty golf course. It’s just you in your foursome, playing in the first group out. Let’s forget about the slope and rating of the course, which have been shown to have a negligible impact on how quickly players get around.

When we say that you’re an average golfer, we mean “average” according to the numbers: a 15-handicap, destined to take around 90 shots over 18 holes.

As an average golfer, you drive it an average of 208 yards (that’s according to a 2017 USGA study). Given the distance you hit the ball, you should be playing a 5,400-yard course (that’s according to PGA of America recommendations).

But knowing your ego, we recognize that you’re probably not going to tee it that far forward. So, let’s assume you’re playing from 6,000 yards instead. Still with us? Off we go.

Six-thousand yards = 18,000 feet = 3.4 miles. That’s how long your golf course measures, assuming that you walk it in a straight line. But since we can’t assume that (you’re going to miss some shots), let’s increase that number by 50 percent to account for all the zigzagging you’re going to do.

With that adjustment, we expect you to walk about 5 miles over 18 holes. Assuming a gentle walking pace of 3 miles per hour, that’s a distance you should cover in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Along the way, you’ll be taking 90 shots. Once you’ve gauged the distance and chosen a club (which is something you should be doing while your playing partners are assessing and hitting their shots), you’re going to need some time to play your shot. But not too much time. Dallying over your ball isn’t just bad etiquette. It’s bad strategy. The longer you take, the more you scrutinize a shot, the worse you’re going to hit it. Don’t believe us? Play a round of speed golf and see how dramatically your ball-striking improves.

Anyway, 15 seconds is plenty of time to waggle and swing. That’s how long Brooks Koepka says he takes over his shots, and it seems to be working pretty well for him.

So, 90 shots at 15 seconds per shot. Over the course of your round, that amounts to 1,350 seconds, or 22 minutes and 30 seconds. But since we’re feeling generous, we’ll give you extra time and round that number up to 25 minutes.

That’s nearly half an hour! You can watch a sit-com in that span. It’s plenty of time to hit 90 shots.

So, 25 minutes per player, and four players in your group. That’s 1 hour and 40 minutes in shot-preparation.

Add that to the 1 hour and 40 minutes it takes to walk the course, and we’re now at 3 hours and 20 minutes.

We understand that you’re not robots. You’ll be doing other things aside from walking and swinging. You’ll be taking bathroom breaks (we’ll allow 1 minute per player per round for that); lighting cigars (15 seconds per player per round); and telling bad jokes (30 seconds per player per round; if it takes you longer than that to tell your jokes, you should not be telling them).

Which gives us:

—4 additional minutes for bathroom breaks;
—1 additional minute for cigar-lighting;
—2 additional minutes for joke-telling.

Add that to our total, and we’re at 3 hours and 27 minutes.

You’re also going to lose some balls. Studies have shown, in fact, that the average golfer loses 1.3 balls per round. So, we’ll give you time to ball-hawk: 5 minutes per player per round should do it. Tack on another 20 minutes.

Which brings us to our grand total. It should take your foursome 3 hours and 47 minutes to play 18 holes.

Without rushing.

And if we’re playing behind you, we’re probably going to ask you to pick it up.