Why I Love Taking 5 Hours to Play Golf

spiritualgolfDo you know one of the reasons why I like playing close to Thanksgiving in New England? I usually have the whole course to myself (save for a few wandering souls here and there). I enjoy my round just a little bit more when I don’t feel rushed (or, conversely, if I’m waiting 4 foursomes deep on the tee).

Yep, this time of year, I can squeeze-out 18-holes in about 5 hours.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Five hours!? Are you crazy!? What are you, a tortoise? With no one in front of me, I could finish a round WAY faster than that!”

Yep, I surmise you could. But if you find yourself alone; on a perfect day; on the golf course; at the end of the season; and you blow through your round in 3 hours…I have news for you: You’re an idiot.

What is this fascination we have with haste? Why, when we set out to do something, must we do it in the fastest way humanly possible? How can this possibly make sense for everything we do? I mean, I understand haste when the situation warrants it: “Holy…My sleeve’s on fire! Quick, splash me with that bucket of water as fast as humanly possible!” Completely understandable. Or: “Can you lift this boulder off my leg as fast as humanly possible?” Again, nothing strikes me as odd there.

How about this one: “What a beautiful day to be out on the golf course! There’s cool breeze, warm sun and it appears we’re the only group for several holes! Let’s play as fast as humanly possible.”

Sounds ridiculous, right? See? That’s my thought exactly. Yet, there are many, many golfers who are off to the races the second they step foot on the first tee – like it’s a challenge to finish in record time. You know, they have a golf variation for that – it’s called Speed Golf, and you can read about it HERE.

Think you’re not a speed golfer? Consider this: How do you feel about a 5-hour round? Do you cringe at the thought? Maybe you just think: “Gee, that’s an awful long time for a round of golf.” In either case, you’re doing yourself a disservice. After all, this is a game you love. You’ve waited all week to play; confirmed (three times) with your significant other that you’ll be on the course Saturday; and spent an outrageous sum of money on new golf balls. Face it, you love it. Soooooooo…WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU RUSHING FOR?

I blame the courses. Think about why 4 hours is the norm. It’s not because old Tom Morris had to rush home and mow the lawn! No, it started because golf course managers figured out they could make more money if they got people to play faster! It’s basic economics. There’s only so much daylight and the quicker they can shove people through the course, the more greens fees they can collect. So now the problem is everybody thinks golf was meant to be played in 4 hours!

Obviously courses can and do put you on the clock – I understand that – they have to make money to stay in business. But I don’t have to accept that as the norm – which is why I thoroughly enjoy when no one is around me – because I can play at a comfortable pace. Have you ever timed what your foursome’s “comfortable pace” is on the course? You know – if you really take your time and appreciate where you are. Unless you’re a bunch of speed golfers, I bet it’s close to 5 hours.

Look, no one likes to wait on every hole, but there’s a difference between waiting and slowing down and enjoying. Next time you’ve got a few holes open behind you, slow it down and enjoy – you’ll find 5 hours isn’t so bad after all.


  1. Amen. I played this past weekend and the course was nearly empty. It was a great round. No pressure (outside of your own scorecard), relaxed atmosphere, good times, and beautiful November weather.

  2. You are so right. I love playing on a Sunday afternoon, because I can play golf and not worry about who is in front, or who is behind. If I want to take a second or third tee shot, or perhaps try a couple of shots out of a bunker, then so be it. I can.
    If I am playing with friends, we try to play to 4.5 hours, it’s a target, but it isn’t cast in stone.

  3. Greg, do you know what I tell people when they ask me why I like a boring game like golf?

    I tell them that I get to spend 4 hours in beautiful surroundings, getting some exercise with friends I want to hang out with, and nobody else can get to me. I tell them that, if you’re out on the golf course and you hear somebody on a cell phone, then you know that’s someone who doesn’t understand golf.

    And you know what? They almost always look at me for a moment, then smile and say “Yeah, I can understand that.”

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who “gets it.”

  4. sorry but this is bullcrap. I can walk 18 holes on a 6800 yard course with out rushing and shoot in the 80’s in about 3 hours, 3.5 hours max. Now that allows me plenty of time to play ANOTHER round! 5 hours is inexplicable. I agree, I love the game, Ienjoy the surroundings but I’m there to play the game, not to look at the surroundings, when I want to look at the surroundings, I take my bicycle out and go for a ride! if you want to play a 5 hour round, great, but have the decency to let me play through!

  5. Golf vs Bowling
    Some consider the comparison between the two games a left brain – right brain sort of thing. If you have a left and right brain, you would choose bowling. If you have no brain, you would go for golf. Here’s why:

    Although both offer the opportunity to drink beer seconds before playing a shot, more cold beer is only steps away at the alley’s bar instead of waiting on the beverage cart.

    1.Scoring over 100 is a good thing.
    2.The playing area is perfectly flat and never has a tree or bush in your way.
    3.The two “traps” flanking an alley are very narrow and easily seen. If your ball goes into either trap, there is no extra penalty and your ball is returned to you from where you played it.
    4.It is impossible to cheat in bowling
    5.You do not have to worry about your opponent’s score keeping, a computer keeps the suckers running total on every shot
    6.You do not have to hit your bowling ball with a club nor does it ever get lost.
    7.After two tries, you move on to the next frame.
    8.You do not need a bowling umbrella.
    9.It is unlikely the people playing next to you will put their ball onto your playing area.
    10.None of the alley’s employees are ever in your line of fire.
    11.Your numb nuts playing partner will not walk down the alley forgetting it is your turn to play.
    12.It is never cold or hot while bowling
    13.You do not need 40 bowling shirts
    14.There is never a need to wear a floppy hat or use sunscreen.
    If there was only some way bowling could give you the same feeling you get when you drill a long one straight down the middle!

    Happy Holidays golfers.
    Play the Truth!

  6. I can relate to the joy you speak of just being on the golf course. I have many happy memories of playing golf with friends, family, and even by myself on occasion over many years. Golf is one of the things in life I enjoy very deeply.

    Everyone plays at different speeds for different reasons. For me, I tend to play a bit quicker; left alone I can comfortably play 18 holes walking in less than 3 hours and still walk casually to my ball. Also, I play to a 4 handicap and like most low handicap players I tend to be be on greens in regulation on most every hole. The point isn’t to gloat, it is to illustrate for some players like me it just doesn’t take a long duration to play a hole.

    Another factor for me is how hard it is to turn my brain off to play really good golf and it becomes difficult to stay in that mind set for 5 hours or more of time. Trust me I have to work at this because I am a very technical guy who has had to learn to practice golf on the range as a left brainer and play golf on the course as a right brainer so that I can score well.

    So if I were to play a round alone and it started to run long my round can go from bliss to frustration as I lose focus which breaks down rythm, timing, and relaxed swings. All that I hope is that others realize that and allow players like me to politely play through. In return I am very careful not to press up against slower players. Since I can hit the ball very long I take care to let slower groups have more room so they won’t be nervous. I also hope that better players would never try to press slower golfers by trying to hit quickly when slower players are finishing out a hole, it is rude and dangerous. It is also against the nature of golf, which to me is a gentleman’s game.

    So, I think gentleman should have respect and courtesy towards each other on and off the course. I can be patient with a slow day, they happen, but I sure wouldn’t want to get stuck in slow days everyday or I might as well forget trying to play well.

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