What Does ‘Fairways Hit’ Mean? (Explanation; Importance)

There are a lot of different statistics that are recorded and measured in golf.  One of the most important things to track for a golfer is how accurate they are at driving the golf ball into the fairway.  A fairway is the area on a golf course that is mowed the shortest and usually runs from the tee box all the way to the green.  One statistic that helps track driving accuracy is ‘fairways hit’. What does ‘fairways hit’ mean?

A golfer hits a fairway when they get their golf ball to stop in the fairway on their first shot on a golf hole. When this occurs it is then recorded as a ‘fairway hit’.

Let’s discuss further why hitting the fairway is important and other golf statistics that apply to driving the golf ball.

What Does Fairways Hit Mean?

As we discussed above, a golfer hits a fairway when their golf ball stops in the actual fairway on their first shot for a golf hole. Driving accuracy is an extremely important stat.

When golfer hit fairways they give themselves more frequent and better quality chances to attack greens. If they are in good position to attack a lot of greens during the course of a round, this will increase the amount of birdie chances they have, and ultimately impact their score in a positive way.

How Are ‘Fairways Hit’ Tracked?

Understanding a Typical Golf Course

A typical golf course is made up of four par 3’s, four par 5’s, and ten par 4’s. This adds up to a par 72 for 18 holes. There are not fairways on par 3’s, so on a typical course there are 14 holes that golfers have the opportunity to hit a fairway. 

Not all golf courses are the same on the PGA Tour. Some courses may have a par of 70, while others may be as high as 73, but most will be either par 71 or 72.  Depending on the course makeup, there will be somewhere around 14 holes that players will have an opportunity to hit a fairway. 

The PGA Tour will then track how many times a player hits a drive and has the ball stop in the fairway on those eligible (non par 3) holes.  If the ball finishes 1 inch or 100 yards away from the fairway, the stat is simply recorded as a missed fairway.  The distance of the miss does not factor into the stat, even if it just barely missed.

At the end of the round, they will have an official count of how many fairways the golfer hit and how many fairways the golfer missed.  Sometimes this statistic can be misleading if a player gets unlucky and has a few balls that just barely miss the fairway.

What Is A ‘Fairway in Regulation’?

Golf announcers will sometimes use the term ‘fairway in regulation’.  This simply means hitting the fairway with your drive.  This term is synonymous with ‘fairways hit’. 

The acronym for fairway in regulation is FIR.  So whenever you see FIR, they are just referring to how many fairways a player has hit in a given round or tournament.

What Is A Fairway in Golf?

A fairway is the area on a golf course that is mowed the shortest and usually runs from the tee box all the way to the green.  This is the target area for all golfers on Par 4’s and Par 5’s. 

Golf courses will often have the fairway be a different grass than any other grass on the golf course.  There will be different types of grasses used for fairways from course to course depending on the course budget and how the course designer wanted to course to play. 

Often times grasses used for fairways will be a grass that grows very close together so that when a golfer hits the ball in the fairway, the ball will be sitting on top of the grass so golfers will have great lies when they hit the ball in the fairway. 

On both sides of the fairway there will usually be an area that is slightly taller than the fairway but is shorter than the rough.  This area is known as the “first cut”.  When a golfer hits it in this area, it will be counted as a fairway missed, but usually this area is not much different than the actual fairway. 

After the first cut, then there will be an area known as rough, or essentially taller grass. The rough affects negatively how the golfer will be able to play their next shot.  Golfers do not want to be in the rough.

Why Is It Important to Hit Fairways?

Hitting the fairway guarantees a golfer will have what is known in the golfing community as a ‘clean lie’.  This is when the golf ball is sitting on top of the grass and the golfer can cleanly hit the back of the golf ball. When a professional golfer has a clean lie, they can consistently hit the ball where they want it to go with the appropriate amount of spin. 

The goal in golf is to finish 18 holes with the least amount of strokes possible, and the best way to do that is to hit your approach shots into the green as close to the hole as possible.  When golfers are hitting fairways, it gives them the greatest chance at being able to hit the ball close to the hole with their next shot. 

Not only does missing the fairway make it harder to hit the ball close to the hole with your next shot, there also are often hazards on both sides of the fairway that need to be avoided.  Some hazards, such as a bunker, just make it more difficult to hit the next shot. Other hazards, such as water, make a golfer take a penalty stroke if they hit there. 

Hitting the fairway with the drive is going to give a golfer the best chance possible to hit their next shot on the green and close to the hole.  There are courses where the fairways are really wide and make it very easy for a golfer to hit their drive in the fairway.  These courses usually are easier to play and make the round more enjoyable. 

Professional golfers tend to play on courses where the fairways are considered narrow. On these courses you have to be really accurate to consistently hit drives in the fairway. 

There are also courses that don’t have much rough, so missing the fairway doesn’t carry as much consequence.  Again, these courses are usually easier.  But, with that said, sometimes these course will have other obstacles other than rough that make the course harder, such as trees or water hazards. 

So, depending on layout, it is much more important, on some courses, to hit the fairway than it is on other courses.

Fairways Hit by Handicap

An accurate professional golfer will hit around 75% of fairways in regulation depending on the courses they play.  As handicaps go higher, usually the percentage of fairways hit will go lower. 

In general, low handicap golfers (golfers that have a handicap of single digits) should be trying to hit the fairway 60% or higher.  Middle handicap golfers (golfers with a 10 to 20 handicap) should be trying to hit 50% or higher.  Golfers with a handicap of 21 or higher should be trying to hit fairways 40% or higher. 

These are rough estimates based off being around the game of golf.  Golfers may be hitting a high percentage of fairways but struggling at other portions of their game, so their scores are not getting any better.  So depending on your game, if you’re looking to improve, you will want to seek advice from a PGA Professional.

What Is A ‘Green in Regulation’?

As with hitting fairways, if you are watching golf you will hear a golf announcer talk about how many greens a player has hit in regulation.  So what is hitting a ‘green in regulation’?

Hitting a ‘green in regulation’ is a golfer getting the ball on the green while still having 2 strokes or more left to make par on the hole.  So if a golfer is playing a par 4, they must get the ball on the green with their first or second shots to record a green in regulation.

Hitting a ‘green in regulation’ is often referred to as a ball-striking statistic.  This means it is a statistic that is measuring how good a golfer is at striking the ball and having it go where they want it to.  Let’s discuss ‘greens in regulation’ a bit further.

How Are ‘Greens in Regulation’ Tracked?

‘Greens in regulation’ are tracked simply by how many times a golfer hits the ball on the green while still having 2 strokes or more left to make par.  The PGA Tour will record these statistics for professional golfers and record how many greens a golfer hits in regulation every round.

‘Greens in Regulation’ is a simple count of how many times they either get the ball on the green in regulation or not.  Similarly to ‘fairways hit’, it doesn’t matter if a golfer misses the green by an inch or 100 yards the statistic would still be recorded as a miss.  So, because of that, sometimes the statistic can be misleading. 

A perfect example of this is when a golfer hits the ball on the fringe.  The fringe is the area that is just around the green that is mowed slightly higher than the green but is practically the same thing.  When a golfer hits their ball on the fringe, it is considered a missed green, even though it may be closer to the hole than someone who has hit the ball on the green.  So although hitting greens in regulation is very important, sometimes this statistic alone can be misleading.

Why Is Hitting the Green in Regulation Important?

Since the goal of golf is to play a round in the least number of strokes possible, a golfer will want to give themselves the best chance at making par or better on every hole.   The best way to do this is to give themselves the opportunity to have one putt or more for birdie on every hole (which is hitting the green in regulation). 

Professional golfers rarely take 3 putts to get the ball in the hole once their ball is on the green.  So if the ball is on the green and they have 2 putts or more to make par, they will rarely fail to make par on the hole. 

Naturally, golfers are better at putting when they are closer to their target.  So not only is hitting the green in regulation important, it is also important to hit the ball close to hole.  So combining statistics such as ‘greens in regulation’ with how close to the hole golfers are hitting their approach shots will give you the best evaluation of whether or not a golfer is playing well.

Joshua Lloyd

Joshua is lead content creator for basketball and golf at Sports Fan Focus. Golf is a passion of his and he enjoys both playing and watching golf in his spare time. To read more about Joshua, visit the SFF About Us page.

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