What does fore mean in golf?

If you go to a golf course, you’ve likely heard someone shouting “FORE!” but do you know what it means?

Fore

People shout “fore” quite often in a golf course and you see people duck or move away in panic from time to time. Here in our article, you will find out what it means, what it stems from and more.

What does it mean?

“Fore” according to the Oxford Dictionary dates back to the late 1800s and it derives from “before”. So, the etymology of this golf term is quite simple but one thing we can say about the term is plain. You should watch out if there is a ball coming your way. But more importantly, you should yell “Fore” if you hit an aberrant shot.

What to do when you hear it?

Well, you merely duck and protect your face. If you are an experienced golfer, you can look for the ball and check its direction; however, sometimes there is no time to do so. So, it is better safe than sorry.

If you are the one who hits an errant shot, you should not be wasting time before it hits other golfers. Most of the time yelling once is enough but if you see a group of golfers that might be in danger, you can yell several times.

Why is it important?

Golf ball with fore! written across itIt most vitally protects your and other golfers’ health. Yet, it is not the only thing to be considered. It quickly became a tradition and part of the golf etiquette. In addition to these factors, shouting “fore” can save you before a judge.

A case between two golfers in 2009 proved that. Anand v. Kapoor case showed that a golfer cannot be held liable if the other golfer ignores a “universally recognized” tradition of golf. In this case, Dr. Anand lost his left eye, unfortunately.

Where does it come from?

One thing we do not know about “fore” is that we do not know much about its etymology. However, there are three explanations where the term might have derived from. Let’s begin with the least likely one.

Ware Before

I must admit that it is beyond the bounds of possibility. A 16th-century protestant preacher, John Knox, tells about artillery term: Ware Before.

Just like today’s military, artillery in those ages were also at the back of the massed formation. Thus, artillery soldiers used to shout “Ware Before” right before their shooting so that there would not be friendly fire. The gunners at the front hit the deck and the artillery fired.

So, “Ware Before” changed in time, eventually became “Fore” to warn other golfers. As we said before, it is a slim-to-none chance.

Musketeers shooting and shouting “Fore!”

United states golf association logoThe second explanation is given by the USGA, United States Golf Association. It also relates this golf term to a military term. When there were musketeers, the first rank was firing then the second then the third. While the back ranks were shooting, they were shouting “Fore” to make sure that the ranks before lowered their heads.

However, this theory is an implausible one as the historians see it as out of the question. The reason behind that is that there is no relation between this military term and the Scottish golf connection. Though, as we said, USGA sees it as a proper explanation so we add it in our list of possible explanations.

In relation to Forecaddies

Forecaddies are the people who go ahead of golfers to see where the balls fall. So, this explanation is the most probable one. Basically, golfers started to shout at their forecaddies to let them know that the ball is heading their direction. Where they fall was important as the golf balls at the time were expensive.

So, they yelled “Fore-caddies” and the yell shortened to “Fore” in the course of time. We think this is the most probable one as there are still forecaddies doing different things for golfers as well as spotting where the balls fall.

Conclusion

To sum things up, the etymology of why the fore is used is not so clear. However, if there is one thing you should know is that you need to keep your and other golfers’ safety up. Protect your head and face as soon as you hear someone shouting “fore”. Watch out, people! The golf ball is coming!

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