Posted by Bruce Kahl on October 18, 2003
In Reply to: Four! posted by Louis Irwin on October 18, 2003
: "Four!" I don't golf. What is the deriv. of this warning cry? I kidded with a friend that many phrases are contractions. Under that guise, this one could be quite contracted from "For the love of God, watch out for that ball!!!"
Quoting from A History of Golf, by Robert Browning, (1955, J.M. Dent & Sons). Browning, a Scot, was the editor of the magazine called, "Golfing" from 1910 to 1955 and was a scholar devoted to tracing the authenticity of the many claims about the games history and lore:
"Dr. Neilson, a keen student of Scottish history and literature, discovered a passage in the works of John Knox which, shorn of the eccentricities of sixteenth-century spelling, reads as follows:
'One among many comes to the East Port (i.e., gate) of Leith, where lay two great pieces of ordnance, and where their enemies were known to be, and cried to his fellows that were at the gate making defence: "Ware Before!" and so fires one great piece, and thereafter the other.' The cry of 'Beware before' -- Look out in front -- was, of course, the signal for the defenders of the gate to drop to the ground in order that the guns might be fired over them.
The situation is not dissimilar to that of the golfer intending to drive over the head of someone on the fairway in front, and the way in which the military signal 'Ware before!' might in the course of time be cut down to "Fore!" needs no explaining. 'Look out in front!' It is the most democratic of shouts, which no one dares to let pass unheeded. During an Open Championship at Sandwich many summers ago, I saw a future King of England scurrying apologetically off the fairway in response to a distant bellow of "Fore!" from one of our less distinguished professionals."
So the origin of the term is, after all, a warning cry of the Scottish military of "Ware before!"