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Golf Fairway Definition

by William McCoy

    In golf, the fairway is the grassy area situated between the tee box and the green. The grass on the fairway is cut short enough to make shots off it easier to hit, but it is not cut as short as the grass on the green. The Rules of Golf defines the fairway as a "closely mown area." The goal is to hit your tee shot onto the fairway to avoid the longer grass, called "rough," and such hazards as water and sand.

    Grass

    The grass on a golf-course fairway is not the same type of grass you might have in your yard. Even though this grass is not as specialized as the grass that makes up the green, it is typically warm-climate grasses such as Bermuda and rye or a cool-season varieties such as bluegrass or bentgrass. Northern golf courses require grass that is more resistant to cold weather. The length of the fairway grass is typically kept at 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch, depending on the turf species.

    Conditions

    The width of a fairway ranges according to the difficulty of the hole and the style of the course as a whole. The wider the fairway, the easier it is to hit. To make golf courses more challenging for tournaments, groundskeepers often cut the fairways more narrow. Doing so requires a player to be more accurate off the tee or risk having his golf ball land in the rough – longer grass on both sides of the fairway that makes it more difficult to hit the next shot. In the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur tournaments, the fairways range from 27 to 35 yards wide.

    Clubs

    In most cases, it's possible to use any of a long list of clubs to play a ball sitting on the fairway. Depending on your proximity to the green, fairway woods, hybrid clubs, irons and wedges are all acceptable to use. Most players won't use their drivers for a shot from the fairway, although doing so is technically possible. The fairway grass provides little resistance to getting the golf ball airborne, meaning that use of a low-lofted club is possible.

    Exceptions

    Although the majority of holes on golf courses have fairways, not every hole does. Some shorter par-3 holes, for example, consist of a tee box, a green and a large hazard such as water or sand. A notable example of this is the 17th hole on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This hole spans only 137 yards from the farthest tee to the green, but the green is an island surrounded by a large water hazard.

    References

    About the Author

    Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as health, nutrition and sports. He has spent much of his career in community news, including at "Nepean This Week" newspaper, and has written for "Canadian Sports Collector" magazine. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.

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