If you are a golfer or have watched golf before (even in movies), then you have probably heard people yell “fore!” before. For many golfers, especially beginners, it may be unknown as to why golfers do this or where this tradition began.
You may have been able to figure out when and why golfers yell this, but this article will go over more than just that. We will, of course, explain the meaning behind it, but we will also take a look at the history behind it and why that phrase is used. Let’s take a look at the use of ‘fore’ in golfing.
Why Golfers Yell ‘Fore’
‘Fore’ is a way of yelling “ahead” or “forward”. It is a shorter and easier way to tell someone to watch out. So when is the appropriate time to yell this out? Well, if a golfer hits a shot that goes completely off course or is headed toward an area that it was not meant for, then they will want to warn other golfers around them (and especially where the ball is headed). It is a way to let them know that the runaway golf ball is coming toward them and that they should be careful so that it does not hit them.
Some professional golfers also yell “fore” when they’ve hit a ball that could potentially hit someone watching in the gallery. They will oftentimes yell the phrase and the direction in which the ball is headed so as to make it clear in which direction the shot is going and to let the people who need to pay the most attention know.
Golfers will sometimes will also point in the direction that the ball is going so that people who may be too far away to hear them yell can at least see them pointing and know to look out for an incoming ball. However, some golfers will only point and will not yell, which is in poor etiquette. Even if people are far away, you should always yell “fore”, even if you aren’t sure they can hear you. This way, perhaps someone closer can hear you and help to spread the message that the others need to be careful.
Why The Word “Fore”?
Now that we’ve looked at what “fore” is used for, let’s take a look at why this word is used. What does it stand for and how did it come to be so widely known? Well, the honest answer is that no one knows exactly how this term came to be a universal golf warning.
While no one is sure where exactly the term came from, we do know that it has been used for a very long time and that there are many theories. The British Golf Museum cites a reference to the term from 1881. Also, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that the term got its start in 1878, but there is some debate over that date.
One specific theory is that a Scottish protestant reformer and writer told people in his town to “ware before”, meaning to get out of the way of friendly gunfire behind them. The theory is that this phrase got shortened to the term “fore” as a way of telling people to be aware. He was defending a Scottish town called Leith which did have a golf course in it, so this theory could hold some truth.
Another theory states that the term was derived from “forecaddie”. This is the person who accompanies a group of golfers around the course, going ahead on each hole to pinpoint locations during a group member’s shot. If the player hits a wild shot, the forecaddie is responsible for tracking down the ball and letting the golfer know its location. Back then, golf balls were very expensive, so losing one was a big cost that most people did not want to have. Therefore, the forecaddie’s role was very important.
The theory states that when the golfer would hit a shot that went astray, the golfer would yell out to the forecaddie, and eventually the term was shortened to “fore”.
There is another popular theory that states that the term “fore” comes from a military origin. In the 17th and 18th centuries golf was very popular in Britain and there was, of course, warfare going on as well. During this warfare, infantry formations advanced while artillery batteries fired guns from behind them over their heads. The artillery men are said to have yelled “beware before” to alert the infantrymen to drop down so that they did not accidentally get shot.
This phrase is said to have carried over into golf when players would misfire their shots and have to alert others and was then shortened to “fore”.
As you can see, no one actually knows the real story behind the term, but what we do know is that the term stands for “before” or “ahead” and is used in golf to ensure that people do not get hit by stray balls flying at them. Using this phrase is good golfer etiquette and should be one of the first things beginner golfers learn.
If you are a beginner golfer, then you know that sometimes your shots don’t come off exactly as you planned, so ensuring that you yell “fore” and indicate which way the ball is headed is very important so that others don’t get hurt.
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