Fore! Definition of the Golf Term, Plus When and How to Use It

Patrick Reed of the United States hits off the 12th tee and yells fore
Patrick Reed of the United States hits off the 12th tee and yells fore during singles matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on October 2, 2016 in Chaska, Minnesota. David Cannon / Contributor / Getty Images

"Fore" — actually, fore! — is a word of warning yelled out by a golfer who hits an errant shot. If your shot is in danger of hitting or landing very close to another golfer or group of players on the golf course, you should yell "fore!" to warn players to watch out.

Yelling "fore!" is considered good golf etiquette, but it's not just a courtesy to other golfers, it can serve to prevent injury. After all, a golf ball striking a person can do serious damage.

We'll describe when to use fore, and also what to do when you hear someone else yell fore. But first, let's discuss the word's history.

How Did 'Fore' Enter the Golf Lexicon?

Why is the term "fore" used for this purpose and what is the origin of the term? There are several different theories. Two of the most commonly cited are that "fore" evolved from another golf word, forecaddie; and that "fore" has its origins in a military usage.

When You Should Yell Fore on the Golf Course

It's pretty simple: If you hit a shot and see that your golf ball is heading in the direction of other golfers —- and there's a chance, even just a slim one, that your ball will land among or close to those golfers — yell out "fore!" Yell it loud and yell it proud. Yelling it doesn't do anybody any good if you don't scream it loud enough to be heard, after all.

Perhaps the most common usage of fore is when golfers hit the ball farther than they expected, or when they play a stroke without realizing that there is a golfer up ahead who might be in danger.

Next would be with hooks and slices on tight golf courses, where holes are close together and a curving shot might fly into or run into an adjoining fairway.

'Fore Right' and 'Fore Left'

Should you add anything to "fore" to provide more information to the golfers who might be in danger?

At professional tournaments, where holes are tightly lined by fans, it's common to hear tour pros yell "fore right" or "fore left," letting the fans known which direction the ball is traveling.

That way, the fans on the left side or right side of the hole know to take cover.

Adding "right" or "left" to "fore" is something some golfers do on local courses, too. But is that a good idea? After all, your left might not be the left of the golfers you are trying to warn; they might be facing another direction or playing a hole that goes in the opposite direction of yours. In that case, you're just confusing the matter by adding "right" or "left."

Best just to yell out "fore" as loud as you can. Keep it simple.

What to Do When You Hear 'Fore!'

The instinct for many golfers, when we hear a "fore!" ring out across the golf course, is to turn in the direction of the yell and look for any golf ball that might be heading our way. Bad idea. You don't want to get hit in the face (or any other sensitive areas).

When you hear a yell of fore, duck and cover. If you can dart behind a tree, crouch behind a golf cart or golf bag, do so. Put your hands and arms over your head and turn away from the direction of the yell.