A typical round of golf is comprised of 18 holes. The majority of courses have 18 holes; some share fairways or greens, and a subset has nine holes that are played twice per round. Par-3 courses are made up of nine or 18 holes, each with a par of three strokes. Many older courses are links, often along the coast.
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How the Old Course Worked
The standardization of 18 holes as the length of a “regulation” golf course did not occur as a result of a momentous decision reached by a large group of people. It was more by chance and haphazard developments over time.
The links in St. Andrews, Scotland, are the world’s oldest. It isn’t called “The Home of Golf” for no reason. Golf was played in St. Andrews as early as the 1400s. But no one built the golf course; it grew naturally on the seaside linksland. Locals played from dune to dune, and those became putting greens; the grassy paths that existed naturally between dunes became fairways. This is how links golf evolved.
As a result, the number of holes at St. Andrews has changed over the centuries. The links at St. Andrews had 22 holes by the mid-1700s. The four short holes that began the course were then combined into two longer holes around 1764. In addition, the four short holes at the course’s end were combined into two longer holes. As a result, the St. Andrews links (now known as The Old Course) were reduced from 22 to 18 holes.
The R&A designated 18 holes as a round
Eighteen-hole golf courses did not become the norm until the early 1900s, but from 1764 onward, more courses followed the St. Andrews 18-hole model. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews then issued new rules in 1858.
“In 1858, the R&A issued new rules to its members,” Sam Groves, curator of the British Golf Museum, explained. “Rule 1 stated that ‘unless otherwise specified, one round of the Links or 18 holes is reckoned a match.’ We can only assume that as many clubs sought advice from the R&A, this was gradually adopted throughout the United Kingdom. As a result, by the 1870s, more courses had 18 holes, and a round of golf was accepted as consisting of 18 holes.”
As a result, 18 holes became the standard in golf.
How Long Does it Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf?
The speed of a round of golf is determined by the player’s skill, course traffic, course size, group size, and mode of movement around the course. For a foursome of average players, 18 holes of golf take about four hours.
A typical golf hole will take a group of professional golfers about 10 minutes and a group of average amateurs about 15 minutes to complete. This equates to an 18-hole round of golf lasting between 3 and 4 1/2 hours.
If you’re playing in a foursome, the round could last up to four or five hours. When playing with only one or two other golfers, there is less waiting time and the round can be completed in as little as two hours.
Walking vs. Riding
Riding a golf cart allows you to reach and find balls much more quickly. A round of riding can take anywhere from 3 1/2 to 4 hours. A round of walking can take up to five hours.
Types of courses
A full par-72 course will take about four hours to complete, but a par-3 course with 18 holes will take about two hours.
Skill Level Good players who shoot at or near par can finish 18 holes with a foursome in as little as three hours, even if they walk.
Traffic on the course
On a busy course, players may have to wait up to five minutes on each tee box before starting the hole. Adding this to the standard 10 to 15 minutes for each hole can result in a round lasting up to 4 hours.
How much does an 18-hole round of golf cost?
According to a Golf Channel survey, the average cost of an 18-hole round at a public golf course is $36 with the cart. Private clubs are more expensive, with annual membership dues and additional fees ranging from moderate to six-figure initiation fees.