Luke is an avid weekend-warrior golfer from the East Coast who plays golf more than he cares to admit.
Golfing is a popular sport played all around the world, but there are many terms used within the sport that are still alien and unusual to a lot of people. One such term is ‘fore’, often shouted by golfers before they take a swing.
But what exactly does ‘fore’ mean, and why do golfers shout it?
What Does ‘Fore’ Mean?
Fore might be a term recognized by most people, namely due to the fact that it has become something of a golfing cliche over the years. But what exactly does it mean?
The word fore is actually a Scottish interjection, used to warn people when a shot is taken, so as to cover their heads, or watch out for when the ball might be coming their way.
This has historically been used as a courtesy to other players and spectators, and is especially used when harder centered golf balls are in play – i.e. ones with a harder inner core that could cause some serious damage if they made contact with a human being.
While the origins of the word are not entirely known for certain, many have speculated that it comes from the name ‘fore-caddie’ – that is, the caddie who waits further down the range, and who might be at risk of being struck when the shot is taken.
The term ‘fore-caddie’ was originally shouted as a warning for incoming golf balls, eventually being shortened to ‘fore’ as the game and ensuing years progressed.
There has also been speculation that it stems from the Gaelic cry ‘Faugh A Ballagh’ – which translates to ‘Clear The Way’. This is a term still used in ‘road bowling’, a regional sport that takes inspiration from the earlier forms of golf.
Why Is Shouting ‘Fore’ Important?
As mentioned, shouting fore is important in the game of golf – especially games where large crowds of spectators may be present, or on communal ranges.
The speed at which golf balls can travel means that they can be very dangerous – potentially causing injury, or even death, depending on which part of the body they connect with.
What Happens If You Don’t?
While there are no penalties or points deducted for not yelling fore, it is part of golfing etiquette, and considered bad form in some circles. This is because you are potentially endangering people’s lives, and being highly irresponsible.
Golf is thought to be a noble game by those who play it, and as such the way one conducts themselves on the golf course says a lot about that person and their character.
How Fast Are Professional Golf Shots?
While most amateurs might not be able to swing a shot that quickly, the professionals play at the level they are at for good reason.
During professional golf games, the average speed that a ball travels at is 170 miles per hour, meaning that they can do a substantial amount of damage when in the right (or perhaps wrong) hands.
This is why proper golf safety is so important, and why during games words like ‘fore’ are shouted, and numerous signs and warnings are presented to spectators and fans.
Who Shouts Fore During The Game?
There are several different people who might shout ‘fore’ during a game of golf. This entirely depends on the type of tour the golfer is playing on, and the level at which they are playing.
On the PGA and LPGA tours, it is the golfer, the caddie, or other officials present who shout ‘fore’ when a shot is taken.
However, during amateur golf games, it is only the golfer themselves who shouts this warning before a shot.
What To Do When ‘Fore’ Is Called
When a shot is taken and the word ‘fore’ is shouted, it is best to duck or cover your face just in case of a stray ball. The natural inclination might be to look up and see where the ball goes, but this could prove disastrous depending on where you are standing.
By ducking and covering, you create less surface area, and make yourself less of a target to be hit.
What If ‘Fore’ Is Yelled But Someone Is Hit?
Of course, even with the best intentions, accidents can still happen, and they are not always anyone’s fault. At the 2018 Ryder Cup, Brooks Koepka shouted ‘fore’ and then hit a wayward shot into a nearby crowd, blinding a spectator.
This was not directly Koepka’s fault, nor was it the fault of the spectator, and there are no official penalties, punishments, or legal actions taken if this happens. This is because spectators are encouraged not to look at the ball as it is struck, particularly if they are in the way, and there are numerous signs on most courses, warning spectators that accidents can happen, and what to do when shots are taken.
Does ‘Fore’ Get Yelled Everytime?
The word ‘fore’ only needs to be yelled when there is a distinct chance that someone might be struck by the ball – i.e. if you are taking a shot in the direction of other golfers, spectators, or officials.
If the shot is being taken in the opposite direction where no one is standing, then it is not necessary, and is considered perfectly fine form to just take the shot without shouting ‘fore’.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about the word ‘fore’, and why it is yelled during games of golf.
With any sporting event, safety is paramount – both for the players and the audience – which is why words like ‘fore’ have always been used to ensure everyone knows the dangers, and to make sure they can react in the best way possible.
So if you happen to find yourself watching a game of golf, and someone shouts ‘fore’, you might want to cover your face and brace for impact.