The History of the Golf Term “Fore”

Golf, just like any sport has got various terms it uses. They include birdie, par, eagle, double eagle, bogey, double and triple bogey and fore among others. If you are a golf player or an aspiring one, it is important you understand what these terms mean to avoid confusion.

Fore, which originally was a Scots interjection was used as early as 1881. Fore is used to warn people moving or standing in the flight of a golf ball. Some theories believe that it originated from the military term ‘beware before’ which was yelled by a soldier about to fire to alert nearby people to drop to the ground.

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Keep reading as we delve deeper into the ‘fore’ term as used in golf.

Image Source: Southampton Golf Club

When Is ‘Fore’ Used?

Fore in golf is used to warn whoever is moving or standing in the flight of a golf ball. It is a word that means ‘head’ or ‘forward’. 

It is originally a Scots interjection which was mentioned in the 1881 British Golf Museum and hence was used as early as then. A golfer going to make a shot will yellforeto mean ‘watch out ahead’ or ‘watch out before’. 

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In other words, it is to forewarn other golfers on the golf course of a coming shot. As a golf beginner, the first thing you learn is to scream ‘fore’ after making a bad shot that could be dashing towards a group of or a single golfer. 

Similarly, when you hear a golfer screaming ‘fore’ you should duck. Therefore, ‘fore’ is a warning cry in golf of an upcoming shot.

When Was It First Used?

Various theories are attached to the origin of the term ‘fore’ but a lot is not known about how it turned out to be a golf term

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It has been used by golfers around the world and is believed to date back to 1881 where it is mentioned in a golf book, the British Golf Museum. This indicates that the term was already in use by that time.  

As much as the Merriam-Webster dictionary says the ‘fore’ term was first used in 1878, we believe the word goes back farther than that.  Therefore, it is prudent to say ‘fore’ has been a part of golf for a long time.

Origins

Forecaddie

The British Golf Museum’s historians and other golf enthusiasts have concluded that the ‘fore’ warning term in golf developed from ‘forecaddie’. A forecaddie or a Caddie is a person that accompanies golfers around the golf course

As he escorts golfers, a forecaddie goes forward on each hole so that he is positioned to pinpoint the locations of the shots of his group members. In case a group member hits an errant shot, it’s the role of a forecaddie to track down the ball and informs the golfer about its location.

Golf in the early days used handmade balls that were custom-ordered and expensive. Therefore losing a golf ball would be a big hit to the pocket. As a result, the forecaddie’s role was very crucial in saving balls from getting lost. 

Another theory suggests that ‘fore’ is a short form for ‘forecaddie’. When a golfer shot an errant shot, he would yell to the forecaddie to ensure he is watching and tracking. So possibly ‘fore’ is a shortened version of ‘forecaddie’.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Military Origin

Another theory for the origin of the term ‘fore’ is that it has a military attachment. In the 17th and 18th centuries (when golf was taking hold in Britain), the infantry advanced its formation as artillery batteries fired from behind over the top of infantrymen. 

Therefore, a military soldier about to fire would yell ‘beware before’ to alert nearby infantrymen to drop to the ground to keep away from shells screaming atop their heads. Similarly, when golfers shot an errant missile (a golf ball), they would scream ‘beware before’ that was later shortened to ‘fore’.

Conclusion

Fore is a golf term used as a warning or to alert people on the golf course of an oncoming ball or of a shot you have made. It is believed to have evolved from forecaddie, a term that describes the person that walks with golfers checking each hole to pinpoint a golfer’s shots. 

Also, it is believed to have a military origin where an artilleryman would yell ‘beware before’ so that other artillerymen would drop to the ground.