The question remains: what is a fairway in golf? As an avid golfer myself, the best way I can explain it to you is to consider a set of lines or boundaries within the realm of a typical golf game. The purpose of these lines is to mark the places where the player can stand on any course, of any length, whether playing the front nine, the back nine, or the full 18 holes.
So, what is it exactly? Simply put, the fairway is the portion of the golf course found between the green and the tee box.
You may hear different golf terms and references within the golfing vocabulary including words like fairway, rough, tea, and green. For someone brand-new to the game without too much golf knowledge, these terms might be brand-new and wondrous to you. Right now, we’ll take a much closer look at the meaning of the word fairway, types of grasses that make up fairways, and much more.
The Details Describing a Golf Fairway
Now that we understand more about the fairway, and realized that it’s the area of the golf course nestled between the green of the tee box, it’s important to discuss other details. After teeing off in a golf game, the fairway is specifically the part of the golf course that you’d prefer your ball to land on. Other areas including the rough, the sand trap, or the water, are certainly areas you would rather avoid. The typical length of a fairway last anywhere between 30-50 yards.
When you land on the fairway, you have a better chance at making par, birdie, or even an albatross.
The fairway grasses kept neat and mowed closely to the ground, wherein it’s typically only a half inch to an inch and a quarter in length, but this depends on the specific type or style of grass. Ultimately, by keeping the grass short it becomes a lot easier for players to better hit their golf ball.
The main goal of any golfer is to make their ball land on the fairway, because it’s the ideal landing spot and it’s the most direct path to the hole. Remember, they do not mow the rough at all, so the grass is overgrown and it makes it very difficult to hit your golf ball, as opposed to the obvious fairway path.
Interestingly, you’ll absolutely find a fairway on a par-4 or par-5 hole, but there is no guarantee that you’ll find one on a par-3 hole, because they are often absent. Ideally, on a par-three hole, it’s a short distance from the tea to the hole, so no fairway is needed because the golfer is much closer to the putting green.
You’ll discover that fairway widths will vary depending on the golf course. Other factors include the course style, the arrangement or set up, and other factors that definitely have an impact on the hole’s difficulty.
For example, narrow fairways impact the game by making shots much harder and more challenging. In this particular case, the player has to hit the ball incredibly accurately off the tee, because they could land in the rough otherwise, adding further difficulty to their next shot.
On the other hand, a wider fairway means it’s easier to make the shot because there’s a bigger margin for error for the golfer.
The Reason for Naming This Stretch of the Golf Course a Fairway
You may not realize this, but in the official golf’s lexicon and terminology, the word fairway doesn’t have a true definition within the golf handbook. Originally, golfers began using this term in a different way, because they called it the fair green. Eventually, the word fairway came into use much later at some point in the 1800s. Prior to the invention of lawn mowers, there was no way for groundskeepers to smooth out the playing area, so fairways technically didn’t exist until the lawnmower was created.
Nevertheless, the current term fairway was originally a term used in nautical settings, which described a navigable channel or customary course. When you think about it, this certainly fits quite well with a golf course fairway, because it’s the path of least resistance between the tee box and putting green.
Different Types of Fairway Grass
When you look at a golf course, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that their grass is much different than the grass in your backyard.
Why is that? The type and quality of grasses certainly has an influence on certain aspects of the golf game including the way players must hit the ball, the way the ball rolls on the grass, and other factors. That’s why golf courses usually use special grass on their fairways.
As you undoubtedly expect, the grass used on golf courses has to hold up to all of the foot traffic, club swinging, and other potential hazards. Grass will certainly vary from one golf club to another depending on the geographic location and how it responds to snow, rain, cold, or heat.
Depending on the golf courses location, some common types of fairway grass include the following:
- Bent grass – this particular grass species can be found all around the world and just about every country. It’s a good choice because it can withstand heavy foot traffic, which is why many golf courses use it for their fairways, greens, and tee boxes. The color of this grass is deep green in hue, plus it’s very springy and thick, which makes it easy to walk on. Sometimes, you’ll even find this grass on the neighborhood lawns. The specific type is great for cool summer weather and coastal locations, including coastal California, the mid-Atlantic coast, and the northern coast.
- Tifway 419 Bermuda grass – the most common name for this type of grass is better known as Bermuda grass, which is a native species to Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe. Since then, it’s certainly been introduced in the Americas as well. Bermuda grass is quite popular on sports fields far and wide including golf courses. This specific type of grass can quickly recover when it’s damaged, which makes it an excellent choice. It can also survive in warm climates, which is important as well. Golf courses far and wide believe Bermuda grass is a wonderful attraction for courses in the South and southeastern part of the United States. Bermuda grass is resistant to droughts, which also makes it the perfect choice for courses in Georgia and Florida.
- Rye grass – believe it or not, this grass is the number one choice for grazing animals in New Zealand, yet it’s found in the United States as well, typically an area where the summer weather remains cool in certain regions. Pebble Beach golf course is probably the most famous one of all known for its rye grass.
- Kentucky bluegrass – this may come as a major surprise to many of you, but Kentucky bluegrass isn’t actually native to Kentucky! Yeah, in fact it’s not even native to North America, which is quite shocking! Originally, the Spanish Empire brought this grass and others to Kentucky while America was first being formed into the nation that it is today.
- Zoysiagrass– the specific grass isn’t native to the North American continent as well. In fact, zoysiagrass is originally from Australia and Asia. It’s found on many of the different islands in the Pacific. It can tolerate a wide range of temperatures quite nicely, it’s resistant to diseases and weeds, and it also handles foot traffic quite nicely. That’s why it’s a great choice for tearing areas and golf fairways around the world.
You may not think about it, but choosing the perfect type of grass for your golf course is incredibly important. This is really true when it comes to the fairway, which we now know there are a number of options to choose from.
Final Thoughts on What Is a Fairway in Golf
The simple answer is this: a golf fairway is the area within two parallel lines that begin at the tee box and end at the putting green. These arbitrary lines will vary depending on the hole and the golf course itself, but they will be clearly marked for all to see.