What Is A Fairway In Golf?

Here we consider the fairway in golf. How exactly should fairway be defined and why is it important to find as many of them as possible.

what is a fairway in golf
Pristine fairway at Oak Hill CC
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For those who play golf, this might seem an obvious question, but how exactly would and should you define a fairway?

The fairway is the closely mown area of grass between the teeing ground and the green on a golf hole. It’s the target from the tee for golfers when driving off on a par-4 or a par-5 hole. 

The grass on the fairway is cut shorter making it the ideal ground from which to play a second shot towards the green on a par-4 or short par-5, or into position for approach with a third shot on a longer par-5.

The fairway stands out as it tends to be surrounded by a first cut of rough, or semi-rough, and then the deeper rough further out. On some courses, the fairway may be lined by trees or bushes. The fairway defines the ideal route from the tee to the green.

What Is The Difference Between The Fairway And The Green?

Gleneagles

Gleneagles

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The fairway is closely mown and traces a path from the tee to the green. The green is even mown more closely than a fairway and tends to be firmer. The fairway is the target from the tee on par-4s and par-5s whereas the green is the target from the tee on par-3s.

If your ball finds the fairway, your next shot will be played with an iron, hybrid club or fairway wood and will be played in the direction of the green. If your ball finds a green then your next shot will be with a putter, played with a view towards rolling the ball and trying to find the hole in as few strokes as possible.

What Does It Mean To Hit The Fairway?

Royal Liverpool

Royal Liverpool

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hitting the fairway means that your tee shot on a longer hole, a par-4 or par-5, has found the closely mown target area. It will have been a good, probably straight, shot that has landed on the correct strip of ground – You have avoided the rough and any other trouble like bunkers or penalty areas. Your next shot should be played from a good lie and should be a more straightforward one than if you had missed the fairway.

In the professional game, statistics are kept that show how many fairways the players hit on average per round. The more accurate drivers of the ball will find upwards of 70% of the fairways they aim at.

The more fairways you find when golfing, the more chances you should give yourself to hit greens and make eagles, birdies and pars.

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?