Out of Bounds: How to make F-word part of golfing vernacular?

It takes only a nano-second for the verbal warning to escape a player’s lips - Fore!

 Jordan Spieth yells “fore” during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas. Photograph: Getty Images

Jordan Spieth yells “fore” during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas. Photograph: Getty Images

 

What to do about the F-word? Or, rather, how to make it become a legitimate part of the golfing vernacular.

Increasingly, it seems that spectators at golf tournaments - especially on the PGA Tour, although those plying their trade and skills on the European Tour aren’t entirely immune from criticism - are taking their lives into their hands due to the failure of players to shout a simple, one-syllable word: “Fore!”

It takes a nano-second for the verbal warning to escape a player’s lips; more often than not, though, players seem to be frozen in the moment (at best), with the real suspicion being that their refusal to shout a warning to spectators down the fairways being an awareness that a ball hitting a person actually prevents it from flying further into trouble.

Now, let’s be clear. It is not actually a rule of golf. But it is very clearly part of the “Etiquette” introduction section to the rulebook under the section of “safety”.

In this section, it is noted . . .

“Players should ensure that no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit by the club, the ball or any stones, pebbles, twigs or the like when they make a stroke or practice swing.

“Players should not play until the players in front are out of range.

“Players should always alert greenstaff nearby or ahead when they are about to make a stroke that might endanger them.

“If a player plays a ball in a direction where there is a danger of hitting someone, he should immediately shout a warning. The traditional word of warning in such situations is “fore”.”

Could it be any clearer?

Indeed, from the time anyone first takes up a golf club, it is one of the first bits of wisdom imparted to the newcomer. It is simple, it is straightforward, and it is necessary.

So why should the players who play the game better than any of us be the ones most guilty of disregarding such a simple part of golfing etiquette?

It was again obvious in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin where time and time again players mysteriously fell silent and, only occasionally, opted to point their club - to the right or to the left, depending on the errant shot - as a visual warning rather than to shout, “Fore!”

This failure to shout “fore” has been around for a number of years but, for some reason, seems to be worsening of late.

What needs to happen? It might seem obvious, but a reminder from the starter on the first tee when the player is being handed his/her card should become a matter of course. What’s more, professionals - more than the rest of us - know instinctively if a shot has been mis-hit.

So, at golf tournaments, something needs to happen. Fines don’t work, maybe it is time to consider a one-stroke penalty. That might get players finding their voices.

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