Why Do Golfers Yell Fore?

If you’ve spent any time around a golf course, you’ve probably heard golfers yelling, “fore!” Your immediate reaction may be to wonder why, which is what you’ll learn now.

So, why do golfers yell fore? Golfers shout fore as a warning if they hit a wayward shot. There are a few theories why. Some think it’s similar to “forecaddie” (means spotter). Others think fore goes back to the Middle Ages. It’s also similar to the artillery term, beware before (or watch out). Either way, the term fore has been used for centuries.

While that covers the meaning of fore in golf, there’s quite a bit more to dig into with this topic. In the rest of this article, we’ll cover:

  • The importance of yelling fore in golf
  • The origin of fore in golf
  • Popular theories behind the term
  • What to do if you hear someone shout fore

You’ll want to stick around until the end to get all the information. Keep reading to learn more. 

Why Do Golfers Yell Fore?

Knowing the definition of fore in golf will put you on the level with most golfers. Let’s cover some additional information about why golfers yell fore and the importance of it. 

You want to ensure other golfers and bystanders stay safe when you’re out on the golf course. The sport of golf doesn’t always seem super intense from the outside looking in. 

However, getting hit by an incoming ball can lead to serious injuries. It’s why anyone from amateurs to professional golfers alike use the term. 

How Bad Is It To Not Yell Fore?

It can be very bad to not yell fore. The average professional golfer hits the ball at a speed of around 170 mph. According to PGA tour data, many pros get up into the high 180 mph range. With that data, It can be estimated many amateurs can even get hits close to or slightly above 100 mph. 

Studies on golf-related injuries have found that being hit by a golf ball can lead to:

  • Emergency room (ER) visits: 16% of annual golf-related ER visits are due to being struck by a golf ball. 
  • Serious head and neck injuries: Trauma to these areas is most common from being hit by a golf ball. 
  • Sprains: This can happen if the ball strikes delicate body parts like hands/wrists. 
  • Serious bruising: This can happen when struck anywhere on the body. 

Given all this data, you should be able to tell that yelling fore is a must in golf. It keeps everyone safe, so we can enjoy the game without worrying. 

Want To Know All The Golf Terms? Read the full article.

What Do Golfers Say When They Hit the Ball Toward Someone in a Golf Cart?

If you’re wondering if the terminology changes when a ball is hit in the direction of someone in a golf cart, it doesn’t. The term fore can be used for that situation as well. It’ll get the person’s attention, so they can move themself or their cart out of the ball’s path. 

Why Do Golfers Yell Fore Instead of Duck?

You may also wonder why golfers choose to shout fore instead of a more common term like “duck.” The primary reason for this is that ducking your head down might not help avoid the ball in all situations. There’s still danger if a ball strikes someone in the arm or other body areas. So moving completely out of the ball’s path is the best plan. 

The second reason why the term “fore” is specifically chosen is due to tradition. Golf has many traditions, from players taking their hats off to shake hands to how they dress when going out on the course. The term fore is the same way. It comes from many of the first origins of the sport itself. 

What Is The Origin Of The Term “Fore”?

ancient man hitting golf ball on course

While there are a few theories, the most accepted understanding comes from the use of forecaddies which dates back to the 1700 and 1800s. 

There are 3 theories why golfers use the term fore. 

  1. Forecaddie Theory
  2. Middle Ages Theory
  3. Beware Before Theory

1. Forecaddie Theory of Fore

The term forecaddie stands for: caddies who stand ahead of the players to spot where the ball lands after the tee shot. These days, we call them spotters.

Having a forecaddie point in the ball’s direction speeds up the game. It helps the player locate the ball when it goes off track and reduces the number of balls lost during a round. Golf balls were expensive back then.

If the player was concerned that the ball might strike one of the forecaddies, he would shout out “fore” as a warning. This would, hopefully, give them time to avoid being hit by a fast-moving ball. Initially, so we are told, the players would shout “forecaddie” as a warning. This was later shortened to fore.

2. Middle Ages Theory of Fore 

Another theory could answer our question, where did the word fore in golf originate? The origin, like the sport itself, is Scottish. The term “fore” is a prefix that has been used since the Middle Ages to indicate something ahead.

The first record of the use of the word dates back to 1881 and can be seen at the British Golf Museum.

Many golfers think, probably Scottish golfers especially, think this is the root meaning of fore in golf. 

3. Beware Before Theory

Not everyone agrees with these theories, so here’s another one. This popular theory is derived from a military background. 

According to this theory, artillery forces had to fire over the heads of the infantry soldiers and would shout out “beware before” to warn them of the incoming artillery fire. This was in the 17th and 18th centuries.

At this time, golf was rapidly growing in popularity in Britain and was often played by senior military officials when not on the battleground.

There are a few other theories, and we will probably never be able to say with certainty which one is correct. What is important is that people understand the meaning of the warning and take action to avoid being struck by a golf ball.

Still, it makes for an interesting debate.

Read more: What Are The Best Golf Training Aids For Game Improvement?

Modern Use Of The Term Fore in Golf

Incheon_AsianGames_Golf man hit driver with uncertain face
Korean Culture and Information Service (Jeon Han), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While initially, the alert was only used for tee shots, it is now used to warn anyone ahead that they are at risk of an errant ball. Despite being small and light, no one wants to be hit by a golf ball. Even a relatively soft shot can cause a lot of damage. It is dangerous to the person being stuck and also distressing to the player.

Even pro golfers use the term considering the size of the gallery and how close they are to the green or along the fairways. Even the best players hit the odd errant shot, and a fair warning is only right.

Some golfers even try to give a direction or position of the threat so that the people in front are clear about where the risk might be. You might hear the player shout “fore right” or “fore left,” for example.

Keep your wits about you if you are in a golfer’s range. Your left or right is not the same as theirs if you face them.

Sadly, some golfers fail to use this warning, which is not good sportsmanship. Apart from the injury or even just the fright that the “fore” person might experience, it is bound to put you off your game a bit. Good etiquette is part of the game.

What To Do If You Hear A Shout Of “Fore!”?

Well, this all depends on how aware you are of the situation and the environment. It is an important warning. 

The last thing you want to do is look directly at the call, which could result in an even worse hit. Duck, put your hands over your head, take cover, and access the situation. Always try to be aware of the players behind you.

Read more: Why Are There 18 Holes In Golf? The Tradition Explained


What Does Fore Mean in Scottish?

In Scottish English, “fore” is typically used as a shortened version of “before.” It can also be used to refer to the front part of something, such as the “fore part” of a ship or the “forehead” of a person. In some Scottish dialects, “fore” is also used to mean “away” or “out of sight,” as in the phrase “fore the noo,” which means “away for now.”

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. That’s everything you need to know about the question, “why do golfers yell fore?” Next time someone shouts “fore!” in golf, you will understand the meaning and origins of the term. If you happen to be ahead of the person shouting it, be sure to take cover.

As a player, hopefully, you do not have to shout it too often, but if you do hit a shot that could potentially hit or even land near someone, it is the right thing to do. Don’t hesitate and loudly shout “Fore!” to warn the person or people. Either that or, keep it safely in the middle of the fairway or, better still, on the green.

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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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