I had it drummed into me from an early age. You hit a shot towards where other people are standing, you give a yell to let them know. You might still hit them but at least you’re giving them some warning. And, over the years, as I have developed a nasty habit of hitting it everywhere but straight down the middle of the fairway, I have stuck to that well-worn mantra. ‘Fore left’, ‘Fore right’, and so on.
So, it amazes me, absolutely amazes me, that some of the game’s leading pros seem utterly incapable of yelling it when they, like you and I, hit one off-line.
It was particularly noticeable over the weekend at the Presidents Cup, where time and again, errant shots went hurtling towards spectators without so much as a warning from the players who hit them.
Our forum users noticed it and so did I. It’s becoming a trend, too. Plenty times over the past few years, players have hit unsuspecting spectators with stray shots. And each time, they’ve wandered over to the dazed – often bloodied – soul and given them a signed glove by way of compensation.
A signed glove in return for a thumped temple, or worse? Hardly seems right, does it?
I remember watching the US Open earlier this year. Do you recall that ridiculous par-3 at Merion, which most players couldn’t even reach with driver on the final day? The third, I think it was.
Sticking your arm out, as many players do, is pointless. Fans can't hear an outstretched arm, after all.
Luke Donald, still in contention at the start of the final day, wiped out a volunteer after skelping her with his drive. The poor woman required medical attention but I can still remember a not-especially-contrite-looking Donald sign a glove and almost toss it at her. There you go, love. Sorry you got in the way of my shot. Of course, she might have had more of a chance had the Englishman yelled ‘Fore!’. But he didn’t.
In the same tournament, Lee Westwood slapped one right into the middle of a grandstand. Did he yell 'fore'? Did he heck.
Now look, accidents happen. When spectators line fairways like they do at the game’s biggest events, occasionally some of them will take a golf ball to the napper. That’s life, it happens.
However, there’s no excuse – none whatsoever – for not giving a warning. Sticking your arm out, as many players do, is pointless. Fans can't hear an outstretched arm, after all.
Personally, I think some players avoid doing it out of embarrassment. No-one likes people to notice their duff shots. But what’s worse: a red face or a hefty compensation claim?
Because that’s where this will ultimately end up. One day soon, a fan is going to decide that a signed glove simply doesn’t cut the mustard and, as is the way of this increasingly litigious society, will take matters to a legal level. It’s happening already in some clubs and it won’t be long before it takes hold at professional events, too.
All over something that could be easily avoided by a simple, if embarrassing, 'fore'.
Sort it out guys. Before someone gets seriously hurt.