Why Do Golfers Yell Fore? (Plus What It Means)

why do golfers yell fore

Meet Jake

Jake was a competitive golfer for over a decade dating back to the days of being the Captain of his high school golf team. He has played more than 200 courses across 32 different states in the US. Now semi-retired, Jake continues to golf 3-4 days a week with a current 2 handicap, gives golf lessons to his friends and family, and provides a wealth of knowledge to Golf Circuit from his competitive playing days. Jake combines practical expertise with technical knowledge to create golfing strategies and training techniques for both beginners and scratch golfers.

You may be tagging along while a family member or friend goes out golfing and they suddenly yell out, “Fore!” and may even start frantically pointing in the direction of the shot.

No, they are not estimating how many strokes they may need to complete that particular hole.

Yelling “Fore” is used as a warning to other golfers that an errant shot might be making its way toward their head. 

But why do they do it? Both novice golfers and pros alike might not know. “Beats me…” they may shrug their shoulders.

Not us. We are here to answer the question, “Why Do Golfers Yell Fore?” 

Where Did The Term ‘Fore’ Come From in Golf?

People have traced this to being a Scottish term, “Afore”. meaning up ahead. Some think that there was a gentleman named John Knox who lived there in the 15th century.

He was a reformer and he would say “Ware Before” as a way to warn others to look around.  There are conflicting theories, though.

Some see it as being a military phrase that soldiers would yell to those in the front that something was coming.

Basically, “Duck if you don’t want gunfire upside your head.”

There is no definitive answer and it seems to have taken on a “chicken or the egg” level conundrum.

Others think the phrase started around the Middle Ages. No, not by middle-aged men.

If you read Shakespeare, you might recognize words like ‘foretold’. They might have shortened it as a warning about a projectile that is about to hit someone right smack dab in the head. 

While some wonder why another word might not have been added, that extra second of an extra word being said might mean the difference between being able to move and having a giant knot on one’s forehead.  

Another theory might be that the predecessor of the caddie was known as the forecaddie, who would help golfers during the 1700s.

Back in those days, golf balls were expensive things and losing one was a major blow to the  player’s budget.

So they would yell “Forecaddier!” at the forecaddie to alert them that the ball was about to be hit and to be ready to track the flight of the ball.

Back then, they didn’t have TV replay. So they used the forecaddie. Apparently, it got shortened to  “Fore!” at some point in time. 

While we are glad to provide a written explanation, there is also a helpful YouTube video.

It’s 7 minutes long, but you just need to watch the first minute and a half talking about the history of “Fore!” and its use: 

You can watch it to learn other things about golf, like why they play 18 holes in a round. It’s great to learn about the history of the sport. 

Unfortunately, it seems like a more popular search phrase on YouTube is “Fans Being Hit with a Golf Ball” and that tends to show up alongside the other results.

You can decide what kind of a person you are before electing to click on those.

What To Do If You Hear “Fore!”

The people who were shown in the aforementioned videos did not follow these instructions.

The first thing you should NOT do is try to locate the ball in the air.

Although television seems to show the ball hanging in the air for what seems like forever, you do not have the luxury of being able to look up and spot a tiny white golf ball against a blue or white background.  

No. What you want to do is cover your head and your face.

Duck if you hear someone yell “Fore!”

Crouch low to make yourself a smaller target. Are you near your golf cart? Use that as a barrier. The key is to protect your head and your face. 

You need to be paying attention at all times. That means no looking at your phone while a game is going on around you.

Being distracted means that you could miss hearing the “Fore” warning and be caught completely unawares.  

Keep your head on a swivel and pay attention to the golfers at all times. That way you will know exactly what is happening and be ready to move. 

When Do You Say It? 

Now you need to know the proper etiquette for saying this phrase. Golf is a sport that prizes itself on its following the rules and having good manners.

Golfers do not cross in front of each other’s shots on a putting green, for example. So the last thing you want to do is make yourself seem like a buffoon on the golf course.

You can leave that to the “GET IN THE HOLE!” fans. 

This is a phrase that you should only yell if you realize that the shot you just took is on track to hit another golfer or spectator.

It is not something that you say each time that you tee off. That is just going to annoy everyone around you.

Don’t just yell “Fore!” and stand there.

That offers no clue to the people around you where the ball is going. Point at the direction the ball is going. That will give the nearby people warning so that they try to protect themselves.  

Hopefully you have learned a lot about this common golf phrase and its history.

Then you can consider yourself “fore”-warned before you grab your golf bag and head out to play a round of 18 holes. Everyone will appreciate your taking the time to learn about this.

Especially if you do wind up being able to avoid being hit on the head with an errant golf shot. 

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