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Rulebook: Speak Up – When Silence Isn’t Golden

MONTREAL - SEPTEMBER 29: Tiger Woods of the U.S. Team shouts 'fore' as he hits his tee shot to the ninth hole during the third day morning foursome matches at the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal Golf Club September 29, 2007 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

With Rich McLean, Golf Canada Rules Official (@LobWedge)

There seems to be a misconception that since there is no longer an “Etiquette” section in the rulebook that there is no longer a need to be courteous. Au contraire, mes amis. Rule 1.2 now specifically lays out the baseline behaviours expected of all golfers, including “looking out for the safety of others.” 

The concept of “fore” has been part of golf’s lexicon since at least the late 1870’s, and if you’ve played any amount of golf yourself I can say with certainty that you’ve either heard this word echoing across your local links or have belted it out yourself. Short for “forewarning”, it’s a signal to other golfers or spectators that a ball in flight is veering off-line and in the general direction of others. A safety-cry to others that a dimpled spheroid projectile is headed, at great speed, toward the vicinity of where soft tissue and bone are located. In fact, in the early days, fore was usually called out before the golfer made their stroke as a friendly warning to keep those ahead aware of the possibility of an incoming projectile. 

Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a golf ball strike knows how painful and dangerous it can be. Simply barking “FORE” can give anyone in the firing line time to react, and possibly mean the difference between a near miss and serious or even life-threatening injury. And yet to my ears, and more recently to the ears of many TV viewers of late, fore seems to have become more of the exception than the rule. 

What could be the reason for the decline in its use? Are we suddenly hitting the ball straighter than before? Not likely. Are we less concerned about where our ball goes when we hit it? I don’t think so. Are we expecting someone else to yell it for us? Well if I’m not yelling it, chances are the other person won’t either. Are we just not considerate enough of others around us on the golf course anymore. Boy, I sure hope that’s not the case. Is it not “cool” anymore? News flash, we’re golfers. We’re not really all that cool to begin with. Just look at what we wear… 

Whatever our reasons might be, they’re simply not good enough. Known fact, sound travels much, much faster than a golf ball ever could, and short of being unable to speak, there’s no good reason to not warn others ahead of you that they’re in the line of fire. (I swear I could hear my grandfather’s voice as I wrote that. I miss that man.) Sure, it can be embarrassing to yell fore. After all, it usually means that we’ve messed up the shot. But, consider the alternatives for a moment. By not yelling it at the appropriate time, embarrassment could become the very least of your problems. 

Pop refresher quiz! 

1. You hit your shot offline towards a group in another fairway. What do you do? 

a) Inspect you club for obvious damage. b) Check the shape of your divot. c) Yell “FORE!” 

2. In a tournament, you hit your drive off-line towards a group of spectators. What do you do? 

a) Chew out your caddie for screwing up the wind direction. b) Re-check your alignment. c) Yell “FORE!” 

3. You skull your approach over the 18th green towards the clubhouse patio. What do you do? 

a) Let go of your club at the top of your finish. b) Stare in disgust at your “terrible lie” and curse out the greens staff. c) Yell “FORE!” 

I think we get the message. 

I’m not preaching from the pulpit of perfection here either. I was once on the “giving” end of a ball strike. You’d better believe I yelled fore as loud as I could, but the ball still hit the other guy. It’s a horrible feeling. I apologized profusely, and the guy was sore, but he was also glad that he had a chance to get ready for it because he heard me yell. 

Most of the time we’re expected to keep the noise down on the golf course, but when it’s time to warn others of a mistake, don’t take the chance. Fill your lungs and let it fly. 

FORE!!