Joey West
The Art and Etiquette of Yelling "Fore!"

For the sake of each of us I take this opportunity to review the art and etiquette of yelling "Fore!" on the golf course. I don't presume to know anything about yelling it off the course, but having been decked three times I feel I'm an expert on the subject.

The origin of the word "fore" is about as dubious as the origin of the universe. The latest theory has it coming from a 17th century British artillery warning "Beware, before," warning soldiers to watch for incoming flak from exploding cannon shells. How appropriate. An errant Topflite is certainly as dangerous as an incoming chunk of hot lead. From a good player it can be just as deadly.

Few of us who have played have not at one time or another barely escaped getting conked on the noggin -- or some place even worse. I'm willing to bet that the number of golfers killed or seriously maimed by golf balls each year is ten times more than those who are stuck by lightning.

In the prefatory instructions on golf etiquette in the official Rules of Golf, players are admonished to act with due consideration for other golfers. As you know, this rule as about as flagrantly ignored as other rules. But ignoring a flying ball is not only serious but potentially actionable. Legal precedent places liability on a golfer who fails to warn fellow golfers of a dangerous shot. Whether or not other golfers can be held liable for the shots of a player in their group is still undetermined, but considering how clever some plaintiff's lawyers can be, I personally wouldn't want to risk it!

Yelling "Fore!" should be done quickly and loudly whenever there is a foreseeable possibility that a person might be struck by a ball, even when the shot is not your own. Smart golfers should play heads up at all times. Being half hearted or knee jerk about it is as bad as ignoring the custom all together. Sounding the alarm is good sense and good golf.

Even on a perfectly struck ball the golfer is obligated to yell "Fore!" Not long ago I hit into a foursome on a par five I've never reached in two before. I neglected to remember that we had teed up from a temporary teeing ground 50 yards forward of the usual markers. My ball rolled on to the green and no doubt disturbed the group ahead of mine. While it was not dangerous, it was clearly discourteous. It reminded me that while golf is not an inherently dangerous game, it is fraught with dangerous conditions. It is up to each of us to take sensible precautions when this is so.

We should also be wary of being targets for players who fail to practice this courtesy. Pay attention to where you are at all times on the course. Some golf courses are so narrowly designed the very layout escalates the danger. At other times we are forced to enter the province of holes being played by others. In all such instances, we need to keep our eyes and ears open. A little precaution will always save a lot of pain and suffering. Alerting others of potentially dangerous situations is no vice, and beaning them in the face is no virtue.


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