Why Golfers Yell 'Fore' in Golf and Its Origins

By Nick Heidelberger

Jon Rahm points after errant shot

If golf were a foreign language, “fore” would translate to: I’ve made a mistake that may cause you physical pain and suffering, and I wanted to warn you. Embarrassing as it may be, yelling “fore” in golf is a necessary part of golf etiquette for the safety of others on the course. Here’s a look at the history of “fore” in golf, what it really means, and how this four-letter word can protect you and other golfers.

Why Do Golfers Yell Fore?

It’s proper golf etiquette to yell “fore” when an errant shot is headed toward another golfer, group of golfers, spectators, or any other person on the course. Even if there’s a slim chance the ball will actually strike or injure another golfer, it’s courtesy to yell “fore” to give fair warning that a ball is headed their way.

Think of the groups surrounding you on the golf course as your neighbors. Whether or not you become best friends with your neighbors, it’s beneficial to have a good report with them. And whether or not you choose to yell “fore” when it’s necessary will heavily influence that report.

What Does Fore Mean in Golf?

If you’re looking for a tangible definition of “fore” in golf terms, consider it as another way to ask for someone’s “attention.” That translation holds water every April when golfers are introduced to the first tee at The Masters with their name sandwiched between four simple words: “Fore, please. Now Driving.”

The literal definition of “fore” is: “something that is located at or toward the front.” A forecaddie, commonly known today as a spotter, is a caddy who positions themselves in the anticipated landing area of a group of golfers on the tee. Traditionally, golfers would alert the forecaddie when shots were coming in by yelling “forecaddie” which has evolved to “fore” and become widely used.

When to Yell Fore

Fortunately, you don’t need to yell “fore!” after every bad shot, just the ones that are potentially headed towards other people on the golf course. If it’s obvious your ball is going to give a neighboring group a scare, yelling “fore!” is a no-brainer.

It’s also common to hit a shot off-line to an area that’s blind, or you’re fixated on tracking your ball to it’s landing spot to avoid a lost ball penalty, and elect not to shift your eyes to scan for potential victims on the ground and risk losing the ball altogether. In this scenaro, a just-in-case “fore” is appropriate. You don’t want to track that ball to the ground only to find an angry – or injured – golfer on the other end.

You can and should even yell “fore!” for a playing partner if it appears they won’t be yelling for themselves. Oftentimes, as mentioned above, the player who hit the shot is too busy tracking the ball to realize other golfers could be in danger. It doesn’t matter who yells, as long as somebody gives the heads up.

If you really want to cover all your bases with your “fore!” yell you can strike the pose as well. You know the one, arm fully extended to the side with a finger or two pointing in the direction of the miss. Maybe even throw your other hand on your hip and slouch your head to the side for extra effect.

What to Do When Someone Yells “Fore”

When you’re on the golf course and hear an adjacent group yell “fore” in your direction, your instinct might be to look up and try to spot the ball so you can be sure to get out of the way. Do not do this. Instead, calmly take cover and listen for the ball to land to ensure the threat has passed. If you’re near your golf bag, crouch down and use it as shelter. Otherwise, simply take a knee and cover your head for a few seconds.

A golf ball is only in the air for a maximum of six to seven seconds, by the time you’ve heard another group yell and taken cover, you should be all clear within about five seconds if you don’t hear anything.

Fore-Gone Conclusion

It may require you to swallow your pride just a little, but yelling “fore!” is part of the game, and ignoring this element of etiquette is a quick way to irritate those around you on the golf course.

About the Author

Nick Heidelberger is the Editor of GolfLink and an active member of the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA). He covers all things golf, from the professional tours to rules, equipment, style, and golf history. In the years prior to joining GolfLink, he worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America. Nick has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been an avid golfer for more than 10 years.