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Why Do Golfers Yell "Fore"?

One possible origin for the term "fore" is the seafaring term for "front."
A person playing golf.
A golf course.
Shouting "fore" when hitting golf balls helps alert other people to watch for incoming balls.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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There are a variety of explanations as to why golfers yell "fore" when hitting a golf ball. While no one is exactly sure where the term came from, it is now a commonly used way to warn other people on the golf course. Some experts suggest that the term has been used for hundreds of years, since at least the 18th or 19th century.

One possible explanation for the term is that it is meant as the seafaring term for "front." On a ship, mariners do not say "front" and "back," but rather "fore" and "aft." Shouting this term in golf is a way to warn those in front of you to look out, so this explanation certainly makes some sense.

Another explanation is military in nature. During the time period when golf was taking hold in the United Kingdom, artillery such as cannon was a mainstay of battle. As infantry traditionally marches in front of artillery, the shooters would shout warning before firing by saying "beware before." As infantrymen would need as much time as possible to tray and take cover, the term was shortened. Eventually, this may have become used on the golf course, to warn those ahead about incoming golf balls.

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Other suggestions for the term include various corruptions of the word "before," as in the theory above. One interesting suggestion involves a port town called Leith in Scotland, where a defensive fort was built right above the local golf course, the famous Leith Links. During artillery practice, some experts suggest that gunners would shout "fore" as warning to the golfers below, which could explain how the term moved from a military use to a golf phrase.

According to some expert sources, such as the British Golf Museum, the term may also have developed from an early member of the golf team, the forecaddie. This man was charged with running ahead of the golfing party to mark where the golf balls landed. It is suggested that either the golfers would shout warning to their forecaddie when they were about to shoot, or the forecaddie would shout to warn anyone ahead on the course of the incoming players.

"Fore" is usually shouted when a ball has gone astray from its intended path. It is not typically used whenever a golfer shoots, just when he feels the shot will go off-target. Anyone who is on a golf course and hears someone call out should look for any incoming golf balls. Being hit by a golf ball can cause bruises, concussion, or possibly even brain or bone injuries, if the ball is traveling fast enough.

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Discuss this Article

JimmyT
Post 9
@Izzy78 - I really think that it has to do with fore caddies, which although rare today, were commonplace in the beginning stages of golf and lasted well into the early 20th century.

I remember hearing stories about how golfers would yell at their forecaddie if a wayward shot is going offline and that they need to watch it closely, because they cannot see it from the tee.

If the golf needed to yell I imagine he would say "fore caddie" to call on him to do his job while the shot is in the air and that somewhere along the line this got shortened to "fore."

This is just my theory on the matter and I find it as valid as the others. I am wondering what other thoughts people may have?

Izzy78
Post 8

@TreeMan - I agree. I always figured that the word "fore" was something created a long time ago in the game of golf and was an acronym that went along with something in the game.

For years and years the standard thought about what "golf" stood for was that it was an acronym for "gentleman only, ladies forbidden and I always figured that "fore" meant something along the same lines and was an acronym for something related to the game.

However, the golf acronym is only a legend and cannot be substantiated, so my theory on "fore" is probably similar.

TreeMan
Post 7

I have always thought that the reason why golfers yell is because a lot of the time a golfer that hits a wayward shot only has a split second in order to say something.

A lot of times a golfer will hit a shot towards someone and not be able to say "watch out" or "look out" or will not be able to yell it loud enough for the other golfers to take notice in time.

I have always thought that yelling "fore" is very appropriate simply because anyone can yell it quickly and with ease and the word itself seems to echo and reverberate in such a way that it is unmistakable when it is yelled.

How it became the universal message to warn a golfer of a hurtling, wayward shot seems to me like a golf legend that just was created over time and the beginning probably has many theories, but in reality is not really exactly known.

anon283214
Post 6

It really is spelled "fore," not "for."

anon92710
Post 4

It's not that they are saying "Fore", but rather "For" - as in "Watch out *for* the ball". By the time someone gets knocked out by a ball to the head, all they remember hearing was "for". That's why, to make it more likely that a potential victim will duck or cover their head, they summarize it and only yell "For".

anon92102
Post 3

i am very grateful for knowing this.

anon91840
Post 2

Thanks a lot.

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