Average round of golf in America in 4 hours 17 minutes
Keep up with the group in FRONT of you
Playing golf at a better pace is not about rushing or hurrying around the course. It’s about being more efficient with your valuable time, as well as everyone else’s. Avoiding slow play is proper etiquette and a key to maximum enjoyment. If one player on a team spends just 30 extra seconds per hole, which isn’t hard to do, that’s nine minutes per round.
The average round of golf in America takes 4 hours, 17 minutes, according to Lucius Riccio, Ph.D., who analyzed 40,460 rounds. Dr. Ricco’s study also found the first group out each morning is 3 hours and 46 minutes. His findings revealed that length and Slope Rating has little to no correlation to pace. But the only significant variable is how busy a course is. He suggests two changes for golf course owners:
Increase tee-time intervals
Golf courses that increase tee-time intervals by just a couple of minutes (for instance, from 8 minutes to 10 minutes) reduce their average round times significantly. Traffic flow improves. Less waiting occurs. Faster rounds equates to more players going later in the day before twilight rates kick in. More players know they can finish before dark.
Managing the tee placements on busy days and weekends improves the flow per round. By pushing tees back on par 5s and reachable par 4s, this deters longer hitters from waiting to have a go at the green. Moving tees forward on par 3s results in more greens in regulation for everybody. By making every hole transition to a short par 3 at some point improves the flow of a round.
As a golf marshal at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf and Country Club, near San Antonio, Texas, one of my primary duties is overseeing the pace of play at our two signature 18-hole golf courses, Blackjack Oak and Live Oak. Both courses historically averaged 4 hours and 8-10 minutes per round. Lately, we are averaging closer to four hours per round. Why?
Director of Golf Phil Wiese, Head Golf Professional Berny Wise and the golf staff have spent more time educating and informing members of “Ready Golf” approaches to their play.
Superintendent Craig Felton and his crew improved course conditions and expanded the areas and frequencies of maintaining the rough and surrounding environments. Players now spend less time searching for balls and enjoy more enhanced views with these improvements.
Good golfers begin by confirming their tee time in advance and make it a point to arrive at the tee early with golf equipment in order, ready to begin. They remember essentials like extra balls, tees, gloves and appropriate clothing according to weather conditions.
Here are actions and tips to boost enjoyment at a proper pace of play on the golf course:
On the Tee
- The player who is ready should hit.
- Shorter hitters should hit first.
- Tee-off as soon as the group ahead is clear.
- Carry an extra ball in your pocket.
On the Fairway
- Hit when ready and safe; do not use the honor system.
- Take appropriate clubs to your ball and hit without delay.
- Have your group watch where each shot goes.
- Limit search for lost balls to 3 minutes.
- Pick up and place ball on green upon reaching double par.
On the Green
- Place your clubs between green and next tee.
- Study your putt while others are putting.
- Continue putting until holed out.
- Leave the green immediately after holing out and proceed to the next tee. Complete your scorecard after you’re off the green.
On Par 3 Greens
- Upon reaching the green, if the group in front of you is waiting to hit on the next tee, stand in a safe area and have the group behind you hit.
- Mark your score on the way to the next tee.
- When driving a cart, drop your partner at his/her ball, then, continue to yours.
Your correct position on the course is immediately behind the group in front of you, not immediately in front of the group behind you.
Other tips to play smart.
“Tee It Forward” unless you are consistently able to reach greens in regulation from the back tees.
In other words, play from a set of tees that is comfortable for you – one where you are more likely to hit lofted irons into greens instead of hybrids or fairway woods. It is acceptable for players in the same group to play from different tees. (The USGA Handicap System provides a formula for adjusting handicaps from different tees.)
Minimize your time on the tee
On the tee it is usually acceptable for players to “hit when ready.” You can also save time by playing a provisional ball (Rule 27-2) if you think your original ball might be lost or out of bounds.
Plan your shot before you get to your ball
Once you are off the tee, think ahead. Determine your yardage and make your club selection before it is your turn to play. Very often, you can do this while others are playing, without disruption. If you take your glove off between shots, have it back on before it is your turn to play. Even a small step like this saves time.
Keep your pre-shot routine short
Pick your line of play once and trust yourself. Try to take no more than one practice swing, then set up to the ball and play your shot. Most importantly, be ready to hit when it is your turn. Be efficient after your shot too. Start moving toward your next shot promptly.
Aim to play in 20 seconds
From club selection to pre-shot routine to execution, strive to hit your shot in 20 seconds when it is your turn to play. Help keep play moving at a brisk pace.
“When marshaling, I often count the seconds it takes each player on a team from the time they place their tee to the moment the ball is hit. The average is 14-17 seconds. Often, the weakest player performance comes from those who take over 20 seconds with a long pre-shot routine.” –Jack Dennis
Develop an eye for distance
You don’t have to step off yardage for every shot. If you need to determine precise distance, try to find a yardage marker before you reach your ball, then step off the yardage on the way to your ball. Or, consider investing in an electronic range-finder or global positioning system for golf and use it when permitted by Local Rule. If others you are playing with are not familiar with the course, the Rules permit players to exchange yardage information without penalty.
When sharing a cart, use a buddy system
Don’t wait in the cart while your cartmate hits and then drive to your ball. Get out and walk to your ball with a few clubs. Be ready to play when it is your turn and then let your cartmate pick you up. Or, drive to your ball after you drop your cartmate off and then pick him or her up after you hit.
Be helpful to others in your group
Follow the flight of all tee shots, not just your own. Once in the fairway, help others look for their ball if you already know the location of yours. Volunteer to fill in a divot or rake a bunker for another player if needed. Be ready to attend the flagstick for others.
Keep up with the group in front of you
Your correct position on the course is immediately behind the group in front of you, not immediately in front of the group behind you. Arrive at your next shot just before the group in front leaves the area in front of you. If you are consistently not able to keep up and a gap opens in front of you, invite the group behind you to play through, irrespective of the number of players in the group.
Be efficient on the putting green
Mark your ball and lift and clean it when you arrive at the putting green so you will be ready to replace it when it is your turn to play. You can usually line up your putt while others are putting, without disturbing them. Leave your clubs on the side of the putting green closest to the next tee, and leave the green promptly after holing out. Wait until the next tee to record your score.
Remember that picking up your ball is permitted by the USGA Handicap System
If not in an individual stroke play competition, it is generally OK to pick up your ball and move on to the next hole if you are “out” of a hole and want to maintain pace of play. This applies in match play and many forms of stroke play, including Stableford and best-ball play.
Don’t Have Time? Play Nine!
You won’t always have time in your schedule for an 18-hole round of golf. But you can still enjoy the game by playing nine. It’s fully compatible with both the Rules of Golf and the USGA Handicap System. And when it comes to golf, nine is better than none.