Is ‘Fore’ Being Forgotten?

What is ‘fore’?

The word ‘fore’ is used to warn people there’s a golf ball heading in their direction and that they’re in danger of being hit. A golfer shouts it to alert others, usually when they hit a wayward shot towards another golfer or spectator.

But why the word ‘fore’ specifically? Let’s find out…

Where does ‘fore’ come from?

It’s not known for certain where the use of the word ‘fore’ comes from, but there are three common theories:

1. Fore simply means ‘situated in front’. So, ‘fore’ is an easy way of alerting those in front of you on the course that a ball’s coming their way.

2. It derived from the military. During the 17th and 18th century, the front line in battle would advance and artillery weapons would fire from behind, shooting shells above the soldiers. So, to warn the soldiers, the artillerymen shouted: ‘Beware before!’ It’s believed that golfers then adopted this term and it gradually evolved into ‘fore’.

3. It derived from ‘forecaddie’. In the 19th century, caddies were common in golf and were used by players to look for their ball and discover where it had landed. In fact, they’re still used nowadays in professional tournaments. Golfers would shout to their forecaddie to warn them to keep a lookout for their ball – and ‘fore’ was a shorter way of saying ‘forecaddie.’

Is ‘fore’ being forgotten?

Recently, the use of ‘fore’ has been a hot topic in the press and has provoked both anger and confusion. Shouting ‘fore’ in professional tournaments seems to be dying out. Instead, many golfers appear to have replaced it with a wave of their club in the direction of the ball. Of course, the limitations of this are obvious –not everyone will see this. Ideally, this gesture should be accompanied by the shouting of ‘fore’.

Here are some examples of when ‘fore’ has been neglected…

  • In the 2019 Open Championship, American professional golfer Kyle Stanley was criticised for not shouting ‘fore’ when he hit an errant shot. As a result, the mother of his partner’s caddie was hit by the ball. Fortunately, she wasn’t injured, but people subsequently highlighted the need to shout ‘fore’.

His playing partner Robert MacIntyre said of the incident:

“I said I wasn’t happy – and he didn’t really like my response. He’s the only one I’ve seen do that. It was straight into the crowd. It was into the crowd from the word go. And we’re expecting him to shout ‘fore’.”

  • Back in 2017, Pat Perez hit three spectators on different occasions at the Genesis Open– and didn’t once shout ‘fore’.

This incident triggered a series of tweets from other professional golfers, including Shane Lowry:

So, is shouting ‘fore’ expected?

Simply put, yes.

In professional tournaments, it’s clear that the majority of players, spectators and governing bodies expect players to shout ‘fore’ when they hit a wayward shot. If you’re a member of a club and don’t do this, your club could take action against you.

The PGA Tour has made it clear that players should use the word ‘fore’ to keep people safe and avoid accidents occurring: 

The European Tour also states that shouting ‘fore’ to warn others is expected and, in fact, etiquette:

The importance of shouting ‘fore’

Of course, shouting ‘fore’ might not be enough to prevent injury, but it’ll certainly give people the chance to move out the way.

After all, golf balls can cause serious injury. According to a new report from Golf Care, at least 30 golf injuries are reported every day in the UK – and just 10% of golfers surveyed said they shout ‘fore’ or an alternative warning while playing.

Statistics like these show how high-risk golf can be. So, it’s vital to do everything you can to prevent accidents happening, like saying a simple word that could save someone’s life.

Sadly, though, shouting ‘fore’ isn’t always enough. Take Brooks Koepka’s wayward tee shot at the Ryder Cup in 2018. Despite shouting ‘fore’ numerous times, he left a spectator permanently blind in one eye. On the golf course, serious accidents can happen and it’s important to expect the unexpected.

John Woosey, Founder and Managing Director of Ripe Golf:

“The consequences of a mishit shot can be severe. There’s the example from the 2018 Ryder Cup, as well as the mishit shot which led to a £397k court case after it struck another golfer in the eye.

These examples highlight why it’s up to golfers to protect themselves with specialist golf insurance. After all, shouting ‘fore’ doesn’t stop a claim being made against you if you injure someone while playing.

If you take into account the possible damage and cost a wayward shot can cause, having specialist golf insurance is vital.”


Specialist golf insurance from Ripe Golf

If you injure someone whilst playing golf, you need Ripe Golf’s Public Liability insurance. This protects your legal liability if a compensation claim is made against you for injury to another person or damage to another person’s property. Get an online quote today.

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