What Is A Fairway In Golf – What It Means to Hit the Fairway

You kind of know that fairways are a patch of land, with closely mown grass, between the place from where you tee off and the greenside of the golf hole. Meaning the fairway is the very target of your tee shots in the case of par-4 and par-5 holes. So that’s what is a fairway in golf!

Fairway grass is shorter, thus perfect for playing second shots in the direction of the greens on short par-5 or regular par-4, or for playing the third shot on longer par-5.

So how about I explain the fairway meaning in more detail, and also discuss all that’s relevant for when hitting fairway shots (and that means talking about fairway woods!).

Fairway – What Does It Mean?

Fairways on golf courses can be described as…

  1. That tightly mown land (very short grass) between the putting green and tee box. Or…
  2. The perfect landing ground for off-the-tee shots.

In the case of the former, the fairway is your target for every hole during your round of golf except for the par-3 hole cause that’s when the green is where you’re supposed to be aiming.

As for the second definition of fairway, the fairway is the path between that teeing ground, i.e. starting point, and the hole, i.e. end point. Although it’s quite surprising to know that both R&A and USGA have no official definition of the term ‘fairway.’ Instead, they often refer to the fairway as through the green, so it covers both rough and fairway.

Once more, the fairway consists of, or rather is marked by, grass very shortly cut or “closely mown.” Now you should know that a hole’s rough area, in comparison to fairway grass, is higher. That’s how the rough is often known to frame the fairway, which means that fairways usually stand out. They’re the connection between the teeing range and putting green.

Par-5 and par-4 holes have fairways, but not par-3 holes. And why not? It’s because par-3 is not long enough, simple.

Why “Fairway”?

Why call it a fairway when the official, original term is actually “fair green.” It was in the 19th century that the word ‘fairway’ started to be used more commonly. Before the 1800s, when there were no lawnmowers by the way, the groundskeepers at golf courses across the world did not know how to make the playing area smoother.

“Fairway” was actually nautical terminology that referred to a customary course or navigable channel. And now for golf, the same original meaning can be applied, since fairways on courses act as a pathway that you take to reach that putting green from your tee box zone.

How Do Fairway Woods Compare to Irons?

In comparison to golf irons, fairway woods are built with a higher loft, shorter shaft, and the ability to produce greater backspin. Hence, hitting a fairway wood is so much easier than hitting irons. And that’s despite their relatively smaller size than golf drivers.

So if you’re wondering why are fairway woods better to hit in comparison to irons, it’s because woods are a lot easier to play than irons.

For instance, in the comparison of 3 iron vs 5 wood, the fairway wood is bound to generate a more sweeping shot that goes flying off in the direction of your target, whereas the iron compresses the ball by hitting down and through.

Therefore, there are players, mostly advanced and pro-level golfers, who prefer irons over fairway woods because the former prioritizes control and accuracy over distance.

What Do Fairway Hits Mean? What Does It Mean to Hit the Fairway?

Over 70 percent of overall accurate drives land in a position on the fairway where attacking the green becomes a much easier task. The higher your chances of hitting greens, the more likely you are to score birdies, eagles, and pars. In short, to achieve lower golf scores.

Hitting down the fairway simply means tee shots finding that closely mown “fairway” target area on longer holes such as par-4s and par-5s. This way, the rough, hazards like sand bunkers, and penalty zones are successfully avoided. So the next shot you play is made from a more advantageous lie more effortlessly than when you miss the fairway.

Difference Between Fairway and Green

The closely mown path between the tee and green is called the fairway. Whereas greens are even more closely mown (meaning the grass in this area is cut even shorter) and that makes them firmer than fairways.

From tees on massive par-4s (for which, a 7-wood is the most ideal for launching higher more easily) and par-5s, the target is the fairway. While from tees on par-3s, your aim is the green.

Once on the fairway, the next shot is hit with your iron, hybrid, or wood toward the green. And when on the green, the next strike is made using a putter (blade or mallet – what should you pick?).

Is 3-Wood A Fairway Club?

Yes, the 3-wood is labeled as a fairway club, and it has proven to be the best driver alternative for off-the-tee shots and from good lies on fairways.

In comparison to drivers, woods feature a higher angle of loft. As for a 3-wood, it has a loft of 15-18 degrees, while a 5-wood is lofted at 20-22 degrees. 3-wood vs 5-wood, find out which one should beginners choose!

3-wood is actually an extremely versatile golf club that you can use for not just tee shots, but also from the fairway and for those around-the-green bump-and-run shots.

What’s Better to Use, Fairway Wood or Hybrid?

With a fairway wood, you can make the golf ball travel farther with minimal spin, thus it’s made for distance gains. On the other hand, hybrids are clubs specifically crafted to replace long irons and for increasing ball spin.

With a hybrid, you can get the golf ball to stop on greens faster through a higher trajectory. There are hybrids for beginners and hybrids for seniors that are designed mainly to replace long irons or even fairway woods if the irons and woods are comparatively more challenging to hit.

How to Choose the Best Fairway Wood?

Key points that you should take into account…

  • No matter the golf club, features like shaft length, material, and flex are the most important, along with the lie angle also in the case of fairway woods.
  • With fairway woods, you should be looking for that perfect combination of wide sole and low center of gravity – all factors explained in the comprehensive guide of the best fairway woods.
  • Even adjustability of loft and lie angles seems to be crucial in the sense that it opens the door to handling different types of lie, weather, and turf conditions.
  • Always remember that fairway woods need to be able to hand out more versatility since they’re used in a tightly mown area, i.e. the fairway, around the green. They are indeed the best to play for your tee shots on par-4s and par-5s.

Time to Wrap Things Up!

All the way to that putting green from the tee zone – that’s the fairway on a golf course!

The grass in this area is closely or tightly mown, which just means shortly cut. Actually, the length and width of the different kinds of grass on fairways can vary. Hence, the need for the most versatile mix of fairway woods that you can depend on for making those shots easier to hit.

The fairway wood you use at this point should be designed to maximize forgiveness, thus distance gains achieved with the least amount of difficulty!

Photo of author

Jim Furyk

One of the PGA TOUR’s most recognizable and talented golfers, Jim Furyk was born on May 12, 1970 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It seems like Furyk was born to play golf; his father Mike as an assistant pro at Edgmont Country club, and young Jim was raised into the game. Jim Furyk’s only golf instruction came from his father; and many note that might account for his unusual—yet effective—swing. In addition to Edgmont Country Club, Mike Furyk also served as head pro at Uniontown Country Club.

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