Why Do Golfers Yell Fore?

Golfers often shout fore to warn players or others ahead of them when they hit a wayward shot. It is a warning for them to look out and not be struck by a golf ball. It is a common golfing term but many people are not aware of the origins and might well wonder, why do golfers yell “fore!”

What Is The Origin Of The Term “Fore”?

While there are a few theories, the most accepted understanding comes from the use of forecaddies which dates back to the 1700 and 1800s. These caddies would stand ahead of the players to spot where the ball lands after the tee shot. These days, we call them spotters.

A forecaddie will help to speed up the game, help the player locate the ball when it goes off track, and reduce 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.

The origin, like the sport itself, is Scottish. The term “fore” is a prefix that has been used since the Middle Ages and is used to indicate something that is ahead.

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

Other Theories On The Origin Of The Term

Not everyone agrees with this theory. Some claim that the term 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.

Modern Use

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 as to 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 the range of a golfer. Your left or right is not the same as theirs if you face them.

Sadly, some golfers fail to use this warning and that 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 to look directly towards the call as this could result in an even worse hit. Duck, take cover and access the situation. Always try to be aware of the players behind you.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Next time someone shouts “fore!” 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 Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.

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