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Fairway

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Valhalla Fairway

An overhead view of a fairway makes it easy to see.

David Cannon / Getty Images
Definition: The fairway is the closely mown area that usually runs between the tee box and putting green of a golf hole, and is the target for golfers on all holes other than par-3s (where you take aim at the green).

Another way of stating it: The fairway is the ideal landing area off the tee, and the pathway from the starting point of the hole (the teeing ground) to the end point (the hole on the green).

Something that might surprise you: There is no official definition of "fairway" in golf. The Rules of Golf do not define the term. However, greenskeepers - those invaluable members of the golf industry who tend our golf courses - do define the term. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America defines "fairway" thusly:

"... fairways are those areas of the course that are mowed at heights between 0.5 and 1.25 inches, depending on grass species and the cultural intensity desired. Fairways normally are about 50 yards wide but vary from about 33 yards to more than 60 yards, depending on the caliber of the golf course involved and limitations imposed by architecture or terrain."

Fairways are always included on par-4 and par-5 holes, but may be absent from par-3 holes (since those are short enough that the golfer's goal from the tee is to hit the green).

What does "closely mown" means as it relates to fairway grass? LPGA Tour agronomist John Miller gave us some ranges for different types of turf:

  • Bentgrass: 7/16 to 1/2 inch
  • Ryegrass: 3/4 to 1.25 inches
  • Bermuda: 1/2 to 3/4 inch
  • Fine fescues: 7/16 to 1/2 inch

Ralph Dain, a field rep for the GCSAA, says most fairways are maintained from 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch.

The fairway height at any specific course depends on the type of grass in use, soil conditions, local weather, player expectations and course budgets (maintaining lower fairway heights is more costly).

Back to Golf Glossary index

Examples:
"He striped that drive right down the middle of the fairway."

"She hit 12 of 14 fairways in the third round."

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