How Long are Golf Tournaments? 5 Best Tournament Types Reviewed

how long are golf tournaments?

How long are golf tournaments?

Golf tournaments can be a one-day event or last five or more, depending on the number of holes, rounds and ties.

The length of a golf tournament varies depending on the tournament type or even the weather. Some events are shorter than others. For instance, a local amateur tournament will be much shorter than a major professional event.

If you’re interested in watching or playing golf, it’s important to understand how tournaments work and what to watch for. In this blog post, we’ll see a breakdown of different types of competitions and how long these tournaments usually last.  

You’ll also see some tips on how to watch a golf tournament properly and what to look for as the competition progresses. Read on.

How Long Does A Professional Golf Tournament Last?

Before answering that question, we first need to consider the type of event we’re judging. 

The four major tournaments on the professional circuit—the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the U.S. PGA Championship—are all 72-hole competitions that are spread out over four days. 

Other tournaments are only 18 holes and are completed in a single day. The length of a golf tournament is largely determined by the number of holes and rounds that need to be played. 

 Let’s see different types of tournaments, how they work, and how long they last. 

PGA Professional tournaments

The PGA Tour is the elite level of men’s golf. These tournaments usually last four days, with four rounds of 18 holes each day. The winner is the player with the lowest score over 72 holes. This is what is known as “stroke play,” where the goal is to end the tournament with the lowest number of shots or strokes.

These professional tournaments typically start on Thursday through Sunday, though some tournaments may extend to Monday because of ties or weather.

Professionals may tee off from the first and tenth tees as early as the morning. After every two players tee off, one group is allowed to play while the other waits. This way, there are always two golfers teeing off, one group waiting, and one group playing through.

When every golfer in the field has completed his round, the tournament is over for that day. The exception to this rule occurs on Saturday when the field is cut down to the low 70 scores and ties after 36 holes. If more than 78 golfers make the cut (amateurs not included), then there is a second cut after 54 holes that reduces the field to the closest to the lowest 70 scores and ties.

Something to note is that the 2018 US Open was the first to utilize a tiebreaker procedure. The round originally included an extra day for ties after 72 holes, but this rule was changed in 2018 by the USGA.

This modification introduced a 2-hole face-to-face After two holes, the player with the lowest score wins. But if they remain tied, they will go to a 3rd hole playoff until one player is victorious.

While most PGA tournaments run for 4 days, there are others that only last for 3 days, like the President’s tournament or the Ryder Cup, for instance.

Senior amateur golf tournaments (PGA Tour Champions)

Golfers who are at least 50 years of age can participate in these types of tournaments. They are usually three-round competitions that include 54 holes, with the exception of bigger events like the U.S. Senior Open, founded in 1980, the Senior Players Championship, founded in 1983, or the Senior British Open. These events are all played in four rounds with 36-hole cuts.

There is one extra event that plays four rounds. It’s the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, played in late October or early November each year.

These amateur golf tournaments have different formats that include stroke play and match play. The most common format is stroke play, where golfers compete against each other to get the lowest score possible over the course of all three or four rounds.

Match play is a more unique format where golfers compete against each other in individual matches, with the winner of each match advancing until there is only one golfer left standing.

Junior golf tournaments

These types of tournaments are for golfers between the ages of 12 and 19. Participants must be under 19 in order to participate and must not have started college.

Junior tournaments usually last between two and four days, with the exception of the U.S. Junior Amateur, which is a five-day event held in late July. Examples of 3-day junior events are the Junior Presidents Cup held in September or the PING Invitational Junior helping in early October.

Another important junior event is the U.S. Girls’ Junior, which are both five-day events.

Most junior golf tournaments are usually stroke play events, but there are some that are match play. The format of the tournament will typically be listed on the tournament’s website before the competition starts.

Olympic Golf Tournaments

Olympic golf events are played every 4 years when the Olympics occur. They usually consist of 72 holes played over 4 rounds with no cuts or eliminations. So all 60 players will make it to the end.

After two rounds, the tee times are designed in reverse order of the scoreboard, with the highest scores starting first.

What happens if players are tied for a medal position? In this case, golfers play a 3-hole playoff to determine the winner. If they remain tied, they will then play sudden death.

This is quite a special event since it only happens once every 4 years, and only four players will represent their country.

Usually, the way players qualify for the Olympic tournament is by following the Official World Golf Rankings for men and the Rolex Rankings for women.

College Tournaments

Typically, college golf tournaments are two days of 18 holes each day. For a total of two rounds. Like in any other tournament, bad weather can be an important factor in deciding how long the tournament will take, and event organizers could suspend or delay the game.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship is a 72-hole stroke play event held over four days in late May or early June. The event is open to any Division I golf team, and the field is typically made up of 30 teams. Each team is composed of five players, and the top four scores from each team are counted towards the team total.

There is also the women’s NCAA Division I Golf Championship, which consists of a 72-hole stroke play event held over four days during May or early June.

What to expect on the first day of a golf tournament

For every major tournament, there are some consistent rules or routines that align the event staff with the players, caddies, and other team members. 

One of these routines is a meeting held by the tournament organizers with players and team members where the officials go over the rules during the event and also deliver the badges and credentials for the specific event. 

Players typically have a practice round to get used to the course. Every course is different, and warming up and prepping for the weekend is essential. Knowing the ins and outs of every hole, the blind spots, and the best way to approach each shot can really make a difference in the heat of the tournament. 

During a practice round, players will also scope out where they want to place their shots and which clubs they will need to get there. This is all part of the strategy that goes into playing a solid tournament. 

In some tournaments, there is also usually a pro-am event held one day before the tournament starts, usually on Wednesday. This is where ordinary golfers get to play with PGA golf professionals and sometimes even celebrities. Most of the time, a good chunk of the event’s prize goes to 

This is a fun event for the crowd and gives the players a chance to loosen up before the tournament starts. 

So on the first day, you can expect to check in, attend a player’s meeting, pick up your badge, and warm up on the range.

Tournament Scoring and Format

The format of a golf tournament will determine how the event will work, how long it will last and how many rounds of golf will be played. The most common formats are stroke play and match play.

  • In stroke play, the winner is the player with the lowest score after all rounds have been completed. This is the most common type of format in which tournaments are played. Players compete through the entire round of holes and keep a scoreboard for each individual hole. The player with fewer strokes wins.
  • In match play, the winner is the player who wins the most holes over the course of the event. Unlike stroke play, in match play events, players face head-to-head and win 1 point when they win an individual hole. It didn’t matter if they got 1 or 6 fewer strokes. The winner is the player that is winning by more holes than there are remaining to be played at the end of the tournament. 

The format of a tournament will also determine how many players will make the cut and how long the event will last. In stroke play, the cut is typically made after two rounds and the field is cut down to the low 70 scores and ties.

In match play, all players compete until there is only 1 player left who has not lost a match.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does it Take to Play 18 Holes of Golf Alone?

Generally, if you are playing by yourself, you can expect to finish a round of 18 holes in about 3.5 – 4 hours. But this can depend on how much time you take on each shot, the distance between holes, and whether you’re using a golf cart or not.

How Long Does it Take to Play 18 Holes with a Group?

Group play will surely stretch your average game time. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for jokes, deep conversations, and other random things that can easily add 45 minutes to an hour and a half altogether. It isn’t uncommon at all for four people in a group to need five hours or more before they’re finished playing, so be ready if you plan on going with your buddies!

How to know if a tournament is going to be an easy win or a grueling challenge?

Surprises can hit any professional event. A less-known player can have the game of their life and win, or a top-tier player can have an uncharacteristically bad weekend and lose. However, there are some tell-tale signs that can help give you an idea of how tough a tournament is going to be.

Consider how many professional players are currently on a hot streak.

How many of these ‘hot’ players are joining the event? If there’s only one at the moment, that increases the chances of that golf player winning, and the tournament might be easier overall. If there are several, that top spot will be fiercely contested!

What are the best time slots to watch golf tournaments?

When it comes to golf, the earlier start times tend to be more popular as they offer viewers a better chance of catching all the action. Checking out golf tournaments on cable TV can also be a great way to watch them—but beware of long commercial breaks. The later start time slot is usually reserved for big events like the PGA Championship or The Open that may have been geo-restricted in other countries.

What is the longest PGA golf tournament?

If you’re curious to know what has been the longest tournament in golf history, it was the 1931 U.S Open edition. Billy Burke beat George von Elm in a 72-hole playoff that lasted for 5 days and featured a whopping 144 holes. That’s a good amount of golf!

What is the best time to play golf?

Depending on where you live or where you’re playing a round of golf, the best time can be when it’s the hottest hours of the day (at noon) because it’s freezing cold. Or it could be when it’s the coolest, right in the morning, or in the evening when the sun is not that strong.


Golf tournaments can easily vary in duration, especially depending on the format and type of event. Local golf amateur tournaments rarely last as long as professional PGA events. 

So whether you’re planning to watch a game on TV or play with your buddies and play a round, you now know the different golf tournaments, their typical logistics, and the average golf game duration. 

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