• Speak up!

    Jason Day and FedexCup hopes
    Little chance of winning the bounty

    There is never an excuse to not shout ‘fore’ so why growing trend not to?

    PREVIOUS BIG ISSUE: Price of slow play

    PREVIOUS BIG ISSUE: Issues of sport and morality

    ‘Fore!’ – a word I’ve screamed on more than a few occasions as I make my way around the golf course.

    It’s something I was taught when I first made my way on to the course as a six- or seven-year-old; it was part of my introduction to golf that included walking fast to my ball, not talking on a backswing, counting my shots correctly, raking a bunker after use and not walking over the line of someone else’s putt.

    You would have to agree that all the above form an integral part of the ‘common’ round of golf. You shouldn’t be picking and choosing which elements you apply in your round and that includes shouting a warning should your ball fly perilously close to another golfer.

    For the most part, my playing partners and those on the course around me tend to be on board with the warning shout; some play fast and loose with other elements (like counting the shots).

    There’s a developing theme, though, of amateurs – from the weekend hacker to those competing under amateur status – to copy what they see on TV. If Jason Day needs to read the green from all four sides, then so do I. If Jordan Spieth needs to meticulously plan his shot, then an amateur should also take a few minutes in an attempt to play the same way.

    These examples have seen me get into a couple of sparring battles. Simply put, you aren’t as good as them and you aren’t playing for as much money as they are. Have a process, but don’t even think about taking as long as they do.

    One area where there is no room for debate is the pros using the word ‘fore’ sparingly. Rory McIlroy hit three fans at the BMW PGA and the images of one fan (or victim) with blood dripping from her head was unpleasant. Before that, Fred Couples launched one into the packed gallery watching the 12th hole at The Masters. The problem? He was playing the 11th and the spectators had no idea a ball was flying in their direction because Couples failed to utter a word.

    There are a number of examples – including Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic and Bubba Watson at the Genesis Open – of pros continuing their defiance in the face of danger. Not danger affecting them, of course, but rather the fans, who pay money to line the fairways and help generate the broadcasting revenue.

    A signed glove isn’t enough; neither is sticking out an arm in the direction of the ball. There is only one solution and that’s shouting ‘fore’.

    But why don’t pros do it? They always seem rattled after an incident involving a spectator and sometimes their scores are affected. It’s been suggested that a packed gallery can act as a buffer against more trouble; balls are saved from going out of bounds or further into trees or a hazard.

    I saw this first-hand during this year’s BMW SA Open where Charl Schwartzel was the benefactor – I was at the green and couldn’t hear whether or not he’d shouted ‘fore’ – as his ball thudded into a fan’s handbag. She got a hug and a thank you as Schwartzel recognised the OB sign just beyond the 9th green. A few hours later, a player without such a following saw his ball fly into the same spot but there was no handbag to save him. The ball rolled down the bank and out of bounds. A high score followed and he was out of the tournament.

    It’s never OK to use fans as a makeshift Plan C to keep your ball in play. The damage of being struck by a golf ball can be long-lasting and can have severe health ramifications.

    A safety-first policy must be employed and pros should be fined to stamp out their current ‘vow of silence’. What is likely to follow is more and more amateurs following suit and fewer incidents involving bloody and bandaged spectators being hauled to the first-aid office.

    Of course, hitting it straighter is the No 1 prize but then again, we, like the pros, know how hard that actually is.

    – @wadepretorius highlights a Big Issue every month in Compleat Golfer magazine

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