Feb 07, 2023
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

Why Do Golfers Yell Fore?

Learning golfing etiquette is likely overwhelming if you're a beginner at the game. Every golf player works to improve on and practice their golfing etiquette - even those who have been playing for years. Whether participating in a friendly weekend game or a tournament, some rules are made to be followed. 

Maybe you’ve heard people yell “fore!” in movies or at a championship. Were you confused? You don’t have to be! Read on to explore the importance of ‘fore’ as a warning and a guide, as well as what to do should you hear it. 

Why Do Golfers Yell Fore on the Golf Course?

Though there’s much ambiguity surrounding the etymology of ‘fore,’ you’ll often hear golfers shout the word to alert their fellow golfers. What are they alerting them to? 

This one word is a warning to other golfers; it says, “get out of the way!” Have you ever hit or thrown a ball and yelled, “head’s up!”? This word has the same applicability. If you’re ever unsure where your ball will land and recognize it could hurt someone, that’s when you yell, “Fore!”

When Should You Yell Fore?

It’s thought that the term ‘fore’ was originally only shouted before a golfer was teeing off. However, it’s now called whenever a golfer hits an errant shot - especially if the golfer can’t see where the golf ball will land.

As we said, think of ‘fore’ as a friend to “Watch Out!” or “Heads Up!” It’s there to warn others at any point on the golfing course. 

While it used to be yelled out every time a golfer was teeing off, you can understand how annoying that could get to fellow players. These days, we recommend reserving “Fore!” for golfers at real risk of getting hit. To clarify things, continue the courtesy by pointing your club toward a potential landing. That’ll go a long way in helping people understand safety measures. 

And remember, a massive element of being a good golfer is adhering to golfing etiquette. Golfing etiquette refers to the standard and accepted behaviors on the golfing green. If you don’t shout “fore” out of nerves or shyness and a golfer’s hit, you’ve not respected or accepted golfing standards. 

As with many things, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

What Should You Do if Someone Yells Fore in Your Direction?

When you hear “Fore!” shouted, don’t waste time looking around or up, predicting where you think the ball might land. There’s no time for that, friend. With golf balls traveling increasingly fast, you don’t want to end up with a golf ball-sized welt on your face. As soon as you hear the term, immediately cover your face and head with your arms to protect against a potential blow.  

Even when a golfer warns others, serious injuries can still occur, so prioritizing safe play is crucial. While golf balls are small, the impact is mighty and would hurt should someone get hit. 

Be sure to crouch in a reasonably tight ball to make your surface area and chances of being hit as small as possible. Golf shots typically only last a few seconds, so protecting your head and face won’t disrupt your game. After a few seconds, if you’ve not come into contact with the golf ball, you’re likely safe to carry on. 

Where Did the Term ‘Fore’ Come From?

We may be biased, but we think the etymology of the word ‘fore’ is fascinating. While there’s a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the origins, keep reading for the many theories about the word’s origin story. 

‘Fore’ originates from ‘Forecaddie’

A common belief in the golfing community is that ‘fore’ derives from ‘forecaddie,’ meaning a person who assists the golfers by being employed to watch where the balls land, lessening the chances of too many lost balls. Even now, spectators find these helpers where golf balls typically fall to give players an accurate line of sight. However, they’re now known as ‘spotters.’ 

Thanks to the placement of forecaddies, you can imagine the considerable distance between them and the golfers. If a golfer hit a ball and it headed in the forecaddie’s direction, the golfer would shout “forecaddie” to alert them. Over time, golf historians believe this three-syllable word was shortened to the one-syllable ‘fore’ for ease and speed. When time is of the essence, “fore” does make more sense!

Military Links 

It might be a surprise to learn that golf lovers can also trace the word ‘fore’ back to military history. Artillerymen would call “Beware before!” or “Fore!” to warn other nearby soldiers to duck or lay low when firing was about to start. Sound familiar?

It's logical that ‘Beware before’ would get shortened to ‘fore,’ considering its length under such high-stake circumstances. The shortened phrase would give soldiers a quicker warning and more time to prepare for combat. 

Rooted in the Middle Ages

This is where it gets interesting. The etymology traces back to the Middle Ages. ‘Fore’ as a prefix can be seen in words such as: 

  • Foremost
  • Foretold
  • Forerunner
  • Foreman

These words generally indicate being ‘ahead’ or ‘in front of’ something. Unsurprisingly, the word ‘fore’ would warn of something ahead of you - something like a golf ball.

Scottish Roots 

There’s also a theory that the word ‘fore’ links back to Scotland. Some golf players believe the game originated in Scotland. While the predecessor involved sticks and pebbles, it isn’t surprising that many think the word ‘fore’ has Scottish links. 

In Scotland, ‘fore’ had similar meanings to those discussed in the Middle Ages, such as indicating something ahead. However, ‘fore’ was also used as a warning by the Scots hundreds of years ago. This warning meant, “Look out ahead!” 

Combing both meanings, and the origins of golf in Scotland, the theory that ‘fore’ derives from Scottish roots is plausible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do People Yell Out 4 in Golf?

It might sound like people are shouting the number ‘4’ on the golf course, but they’re yelling ‘fore.’ This warning indicates imminent risk may be present on the field.

What Does Fore Mean in Scottish Gaelic?

In Gaelic, ‘fore’ acted as a shortening of ‘before’ or ‘afore,’ which carries the exact definition as ‘before.’ It simultaneously meant ‘look out ahead,’ thus acting as a clear warning. 

What Happens if You Don’t Yell Fore?

Good question. If you hit an errant shot and don’t shout “Fore!” you risk injuring another golf player; they won’t have time to protect themselves from a head or limb injury. 

Yelling the word is also considered good golfing etiquette. Golf prides itself on being a “gentlemanly” sport, so not adhering to etiquette won’t make you many friends on the green. 

Final Thoughts

Should you ever need to, don’t be shy: call ‘“fore!” so every golf player is better prepared. Your friends will do the same for you. And should you hear someone shout the word, make yourself as small as possible to avoid any serious injuries.

Now that you have the handle on golfing etiquette, waste no time getting onto the grounds! Embrace the golfing spirit today, get out on the green, and shop at Stitch Golf for all your golfing gear and apparel needs!