The Apron in Golf: Where Fairway Meets Putting Green

From behind the green, looking across the green to the apron and fairway.

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On a golf course, an "apron" is an area of grass in front of some putting greens where the fairway transitions into the putting green. The apron grass might be the same height as the fairway grass or it might be slightly lower than fairway height — a transitional cut from the fairway to putting green height.

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of American defines apron this way:

"The fairway area close to and in front of the putting green, adjoining the putting green collar. This area is normally mowed at fairway height but sometimes is mowed slightly closer."

The apron is not a part of the putting green. It is either cut lower than the fairway but higher than the green (such as the fringe or collar around the green); or it is the same height as the fairway grass and is therefore part of the fairway.

Think of it this way: It's not the apron of the putting green, but the apron to the putting green.

An apron is a design choice on golf courses, which is to say it is something that the golf course architect or the golf course superintendent chooses to put in play — or not. So an apron may or may not be present in front of any given putting green depending on the golf course.

For an apron to be present a golf hole must be designed with the front of the putting green open to the fairway. Which is to say: no bunkers, no rough, no water separating the fairway from the green. If an apron is present on a hole, it means the golfer has the opportunity to try to run the golf ball up the apron and onto the green, rather than being required to fly the ball all the way to the green's surface.

Playing from the Apron

As a standard, players may mark, pick up, clean, and replace their golf ball on the putting green. None of that is allowed during normal play from the apron. As we've established the apron is not part of the putting green (and is also not a false front). Therefore, if your golf ball is on the apron it is treated as if it was on any other part of the fairway, and the same rules apply.

A golfer whose ball is on the apron may choose to pitch or chip the ball up onto the green, but using a putter and putting stroke from the apron is also a frequent play.

Stat-Tracking from the Apron

If you pitch or chip the ball from the apron, you'll be feeling great if you knock the ball into the cup. But most golfers in that position are just hoping to the get the ball up-and-down. That means using two strokes to get the ball into the hole: one stroke to play the ball from the apron onto the green; a second stroke to putt the ball into the hole. Up-and-down percentage — how often you succeed in getting the ball up-and-down from chipping distance — is a stat that many golfers track.

Another stat frequently tracked is number of putts. If you use a putter and a putting stroke when playing from the apron, does it count as a putt? If you want to follow the same guidelines the professional tours do in their stat-tracking, no. Only balls putted from the surface of the green are counted as putts.