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Why do golfers yell, “Fore!” when they hit an errant shot?

Golfer yelling "fore" cartoon

When I ask golfers where they think the term “fore” comes from and why we shout “fore” when we hit a bad shot, I am met with blank looks. I mused to a good friend of mine how interesting it is that we use the term so often (some of us more than others) but nobody seems to know where it came from. He quickly shot back, “Well, smartie pants, where DOES it come from?”    Um…….don’t know.  Time for some research.

Based on the variety of answers I found it seems as though we can’t be completely certain.  There are many theories.

Some believe it comes from a shortened version of ‘before’ or ‘afore’ and is an old Scottish warning which means “look out ahead.”

Others believe the word ‘fore’ originated in military circles, where artillery men used the term to warn troops in forward positions they were about to fire. The belief is golfers in the 18th century adopted this military warning and started to use it on the links.

Still others believe that ‘fore’ is short for ‘forecaddie’, which was someone who would stand out in the fairway and wait for balls to be hit from the tee, keeping an eye on where they landed so they could help the player find their ball and speed up play.  When the player would hit their ball, either the player or the caddie on the tee would yell, “fore,” which was a shortened version of ‘forecaddie,’ to advise him the ball was on its way.

All of these explanations seem feasible and tend to make sense. Whichever scenario we choose to believe, let’s just hope we don’t need to use the term ‘fore’ very often!

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