Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Dawn. Dawn Wonders, “Why do golfers need it quiet when they play when other athletes play with lots of noise?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Dawn!
We were wandering through the Wonderopolis woods the other day when we overheard a couple of beavers whispering in the weeds:
Carl: Dave, are you sure we don't need those long sticks to play golf?
Dave: No way, Carl! I told you we can just use our tails to hit the ball.
Carl: Okay, then. Here goes!
Dave: Woah, buddy! You forgot to yell "Fore!"
Carl: "Fore?" What for?
Dave: I don't know. I just heard humans yelling it when I snatched this ball from the golf course.
Carl: People are so weird.
Dave: Tell me about it…
We didn't stick around long enough to the beavers finish their golf game, but their conversation did get us to WONDERing. Exactly why is it that golfers yell, "Fore!"?
Originally, golfers would yell "Fore!" when teeing off. Today, it's more often used when a golfer hits a wayward shot toward someone not expecting a golf ball coming their way. In either case, its meaning is something along the lines of "Head's up!" or "Watch out!"
This makes sense, since "fore" is a prefix that means "forward" or "ahead." You can think of yelling "Fore!" as a way of forewarning other golfers. But how did golfers come to use that word as a warning?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary dates the use of the term "fore" in the context of golf to 1878. However, others believe it dates back to 1857 or even before.
The most popular theory is that golfers began using the term "forecaddie" to describe a person who would walk before golfers to keep track of where their golf balls landed. Golfers would yell "Forecaddie!" to warn this person when a ball was on its way.
Eventually, golfers shortened the term simply to "Fore!" Today, caddies are used to carry golf clubs for golfers. Professional tournaments still use people to keep track of where balls land, but these people are usually known as "spotters" now.