Golfing is a sport with a long history stretching all the way back to Scotland, where it was invented. Although a golfer dedicates a lot of time to their improving golf swing, we give a lot less thought to what some of the most common golf lingo actually means. Take, for example, the popular bellow “Fore!” — if you’ve ever been on a golf course, the chance is almost zero that you’ve not heard someone yell it after delivering a hardy and maybe erratic whack to their ball.
The Disputed Origin of “Fore”
“Fore” first appeared in the Oxford Dictionary in 1878, but there is ample evidence that it was used long before that — for example, an 1857 glossary of golfing terms includes this mysterious term and the term “fore-caddy” appeared in an 1824 copy of “The Rules of the Thistle Golf Club.” Of the prevailing theories for the origin of this word, two are front-runners for the most likely.
The first is very straightforward. Once upon a time, golf balls were extremely expensive, so losing one was kind of a big deal. Golfers employed fore-caddies, whose job was to stand between the player and the green to watch where the ball dropped. These fellows were at great personal risk, so instead of just pelting them with golf balls, their employers would shout to them when a missile was launched in their direction.
The general consensus is that the phrase shouted was “Forecaddie!” which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. It’s certainly more attention-drawing of a phrase than, say, “Get me a sandwich!” Anyway, over time, this three-syllable phrase was shortened to the single-syllable phrase we know today.
That’s the plain and simple answer to the history of “Fore!” but things aren’t always as simple as we wish they’d be. Some historians contend that golfers in the sixteenth century may have spent a lot of time playing just outside of forts and military structures, like Ramsay’s Fort near Edinburgh, Scotland. Back in those days, gunners shouted “Fore!” before they fired practice volleys with either muskets or cannons to let everybody know to watch out for incoming rounds.
It sounds a little far-fetched, but there’s absolutely no reason that a mischievous Scot might not have adopted this phrase to warn other golfers about incoming balls, especially when soldiers and golfers were in such close quarters. What started out as a half-serious joke could have turned into one of the most recognizable proclamations in golf. You never know.
Next time you and your buddies are out on the course, you’ll be able to pass on a little well-researched golf trivia and sound like a true golf guru. You’ll further improve your standing in your golf clique when you upgrade to one of the newer adjustable TaylorMade drivers available at www.3balls.com, where we’ve got everything you need for a perfect day on the course.