Pace of Play in Golf

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Pace of Play in Golf

Being a golfer for most of my life, there are aspects of the game that I have come to love and other parts that I do not enjoy as much, like the slow pace of play in golf.

I love being outside in the nice weather, so playing golf on a beautiful day is one of my greatest joys in life, especially when I get to play with my loved ones. But as much as I love the game, I also don’t want to make it a full day event on nine or 18 holes.
There are many times where I have gone out golfing only to be delayed by a foursome or twosome who wouldn’t let us play through. It can really put a damper on your game, and take a lot of the enjoyment out of golfing.

Maybe it comes with having kids and that my time is more limited, but the pace of play greatly affects my patience and my love of playing golf. There may not be a clock in golf that counts down the minutes, but for the sake of etiquette and those around you, it is important to remember the pace of play on the golf course.

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As a woman golfer, I do know some men who get a little worrisome when they find themselves behind a woman player. Fears of multiple duffs, long practice swings and intense green reading seems to cross the minds of those who don’t often play with women golfers. In my experience, I have also seen my fair share of guy golfers do the same, so no one gender is guilty of playing slower than the other. The best thing one can do is learn some techniques on playing the game at a faster pace without sacrificing your enjoyment of it as well.

It is estimated by the USGA that 18 holes of golf should be played in a little over four hours (about 13-14 minutes a hole) per person.

As someone who has played golf with a variety of people, I can help shed light on what can make your round a little faster (and enjoyable) for yourself and your team.


1.) If someone is riding your tail

Let them play through: Don’t take it personally, some people may have lessor golfers in their group, or they just move quicker for whatever reason.  If they are on your tail every hole, just let them play through. They will appreciate the gesture and you will appreciate not having someone right behind you on every hole.


2.) It’s not a treasure hunt – Golf balls are made every day

I had a friend who said that her father never gave up on a lost golf ball. I cringed inside thinking of playing with that person, because golf balls aren’t rare objects, and I don’t want to waste my time on a shot that wasn’t good anyway. If you are going to use expensive golf balls or have a fond one that you hate to lose, then keep it in your bag and not on the course. They make golf balls every day, so losing one is not a big deal. If it costs you a stroke in the game, it’s not the end of the world and you always have the next hole to look forward to.


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3.) Only take a few practice swings

Some people like to warm up and take a few practice swings to get the ‘feel’ of their shot before hitting their golf ball. However, it will definitely slow down the pace of play if every shot is practiced, or practiced intensely.  I’m all about taking a practice swing, especially if you have to play an uncomfortable lie, but you can only practice so much before you have to hit the shot. Keep it simple and not too long when ‘practicing’ on the course.


4.) At some point, you may have to pick up and forget about the hole

A Bad Attitude is Worse Than a Bad Swing

If you’re a beginner and just learning the game, I think it’s great to get out on the course and play (that’s how you learn, right?). I also think that if you duff your shot over and over again, at some point it’s okay to say, “I’m going to try the next hole or just try to putt up at the green.”

Golf is frustrating, I know that for a fact, so don’t be discouraged by having to forego a hole. It will all be a distant memory once you get playing the game enough and your shots get better and better. For help in remembering that, just think of the quote from the late (and great) golfer, Payne Stewart


5.) Reading the greens – They are a puzzle, not a Rubik cube!

You know those Rubik cubes, the ones where it takes forever to line up all on the same colors on each side? They are challenging and you may never figure it.  Golf greens are also intricate puzzles; each one is a riddle that never ceases to confuse those that play them. Unlike the Rubik cube, we don’t have the time to devote to one single green.  You can use the time while others putt to see the line that you think the ball should follow. It’s not worth it to stare at the green for ages, because in the end all you can do is putt and pray that it makes it in or near the hole.


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Golf is meant to be enjoyed, and everyone enjoys it at a different pace. These tips can help those that are learning, or even those that struggle with making a round of golf an all-day event.  Just be cautious of those around you, because a golf course is meant to be shared and played by all types of golfers.  You may find out that nine holes of golf can actually go pretty fast, especially when you are having fun and moving along.

You can find more tips on improving Pace of Play at the USGA. There is an entire 6-part video series on “Pace of Play”, so be sure to watch all of them listed to get the full explanation.


Got any tips on the pace of play in golf? What are your thoughts on playing? Is it good etiquette to play fast or should everyone just slow down and enjoy the game?
I would love to hear your thoughts!!


By |2017-01-01T09:02:29-05:00December 31st, 2016|Beyond The Green, Golf Tips|6 Comments

About the Author:

Summer Anderson is a mother, wife, writer and long time lover of the game of golf. Anderson currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and golf partner, Bob and two wonderful children, Heath and Autumn. - -


  1. Steve & Kris January 9, 2017 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Pace of play can be such a contentious topic. Everyone has there own idea what is acceptable. I played a lot of golf in my day, and I liked to play fast. I played a lot with just one other person, so that makes the round quicker. Most people were pretty cordial, and would let us play through. Usually if you are going to have a bad hole, it’s when you are playing through and trying to rush. Been there a few times as well.

    The thing that used to frustrate me the most though, was when beginners, who belonged on the driving range, would not let us play through. It’s all part of learning the game though.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Summer Anderson January 18, 2017 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Hello Steve:

      Thank you for reading the article!

      I can emphasize with everything you mentioned: having a bad hole after feeling rushed, playing through slower golfers, etc. My husband and I have also skipped holes if we knew the course well enough to do that.

      I do understand that feeling of following golfers who are just beginning to play. I try to remember that we were all there at one point, and that everyone struggles when they first start out playing golf. I also hope that they let the faster players through so that the whole course isn’t held up. 🙂

      Happy golfing to you!!

  2. Brad January 2, 2017 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Fantastic post! I played most of my golf in Florida and as you can imagine…there are a variety of skill levels on the course. Male and Female.

    While there are rangers….they cannot be everywhere at all the time. Your tips are extremely useful. Now….share some tips about being in a 4-some where your other players are wicked slow! That would be magical.

    • Summer Anderson January 4, 2017 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Thank you, Brad! I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed the article.

      Yes, my husband and I played in Florida and experienced some of the slowest golf you can imagine. We live in PA, so we only get to golf a few months out of the year and we don’t get to see all the different types of golfers out there.

      Our golf course got rid of rangers due to the money of paying them, so we have to honor the rules on our own. Like you said in your post, they can’t be everywhere at all times.

      As for playing with slow golfers that’s the hard one…my only advice would be to play with them once a year. 🙂

      Happy Golfing to you!

  3. Mary G.P. January 2, 2017 at 12:51 am - Reply

    I have had an interest in golf for a long time. But it seems like a sport geared more towards men. At work, it’s the men’s club the golfing together during lunch, after work and on weekends. I like the recommendation on lady friendly courses. I really like the clothing recommendations. You have a lot of really good information and assistance for a beginner to get started. Thank you.

    On the pace of play in golf, I’ve been rushed by people behind me and that makes me uncomfortable. Your article and the videos at USGA were great in understanding how to move better around the course so it’s more fun for everyone. I shall heed these suggestions!

    Thanks again

    • Summer Anderson January 4, 2017 at 8:50 am - Reply

      Hello Mary!

      Thanks for taking the time to take a look around the website and to read the article.

      I hate to be rushed in golf (that is one thing that is tough about the game), and I also get uncomfortable when people are riding my tail. You are not alone in that. 🙂

      I am glad these tips were useful for you in understanding the pace of play. Hopefully the next time you go out you won’t have to worry about being held up or feel uncomfortable about those behind you. My best piece of advice is to let them play through or to just pick up your speed in little ways (not looking for every golf ball or not reading every green extremely thoroughly).

      Best of luck and happy golfing to you!!

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