Don’t be backward coming Fore-ward

During Paraguayan BMW International Champion Fabrizio Zanotti suffered a stroke of misfortune when playing at the KLM Dutch Open. While Zanotti was playing the 16th hole, Alexandre Kaleka teed off on the 14th, but hit a poor shot sending the ball miles off course.

 

Kaleka, it is believed, didn’t shout “fore” and unfortunately, his ball thumped into the head of Zanotti who was totally unprepared for the incident.

 

 

 

Officials at the course suspended play for two hours while Zanotti was treated by a team of paramedics and then taken to hospital to ascertain the extent of his injuries.

Fortunately, Zanotti was later discharged from hospital, but was told to take a couple of weeks off from golf to help him recover from his injury.

 

This is not an isolated incident, at the British Open recently, two top stars Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els were criticised in some quarters by reporters after they hit members of the public with a ball but did not shout ‘Fore” to give them warning the ball was on its way.

Mickelson claimed following the round that even if he had shouted (rather than simply pointed) the people would not have heard him anyway in the wind. But is that the point? Etiquette states that if a ball is heading towards another person (player or spectator), then you should shout ‘fore’ as a common courtesy.

 

 

 

 

Els explanation for what happened, in an incident which left a spectator with a horrendous injury after he was smashed on the face by Els’ ball from the tee, did defy belief.

“There’s a bunker on the left and in the practice rounds I was looking to maybe miss it to the left of that. It’s a dangerous shot so I probably should have started to move the people on the left side further back but I didn’t do that. So I felt really bad there hitting it into the people.”

 

What Els is saying here is that rather than avoid hitting the ball into bunker, or avoid getting out of position and playing to the right of the hazard, he instead aimed left of the bunker, where people were standing, to hit his tee shot.

Els, to his credit of sorts, was mortified to learn that his ball had caused the spectator serious damage and it clearly affected him as he double-bogeyed the hole, missing two simple putts.

 

 

 

Yet it is not just at the big events that some professionals don’t feel the need to warn spectators where the ball is going.

At the Scottish Open the week before, often outspoken Ian Poulter slammed fellow professionals who fail to shout the customary warning by tweeting: “Shouting Fore today for players that can’t be bothered pisses me off. If they had family in the crowd they’d shout.”

Paul Lawrie, Poulter’s Ryder Cup compatriot in 2012, retweeted Poulter’s comment and at the Open spoke out about the lack of courtesy some players have when it comes to shouting fore.

 

Of course, when you see professionals on TV thumping their ball into the crowd of spectators and not saying a word,  it is seldom surprising when you find similar behaviour out on a local course.

I’ve lost track of the number of times a ball has come bounding just past me, or where it has whizzed by my head so close that I need to shave when I get home to even things up.

 

Yet some people just won’t shout ‘fore’. I have a playing partner who is appalling at this. He is the most considerate, unassuming and genuinely nicest people you would wish to meet, however if he hits his ball towards other opponents, his version of shouting “fore” is about the same audibility level as a wasp farting.

This leads to me and other members of our fourball having to screech at the other group to take cover.

 

 

 

Shouting fore may not always work. As Mickelson points out, the prevailing wind may make even a harridan’s screech barely audible at 100 yards, let alone 300.

Yet that doesn’t mean you should not at least try. It is that basic lack of courtesy, of golfing etiquette that rankles.

 

It seems players worry more about standing on the line of an opponents putt, than smacking a small, hard projectile at 100mph into the face of a spectator. That’s wrong.

Even if it is simply a case of Chinese Whispers conveying the message down the line of spectators, it will at least give people a chance of some warning.

The question is, do players want to do that and risk a terrible lie in heavy rough, as opposed to hitting a spectator and having an easier lie on well-trodden ground? Sounds ridiculous to say that but there certainly seems some credence to it.

So, I propose a test for all golfers. Count to five at the top of your voice. If you can’t get past three, then you have your clubs taken off you until you can.

 

Some fans may accept a golf ball smacking them in the chops at 120mph if they receive a signed glove from the player. I don’t know if that’s a fair trade off at all. I’d accept it if they shouted fore and I was stupid enough not to get out of the way, then that’s my fault.

However if they didn’t shout ‘fore’, rather than take a glove from them, I’d be asking them for the phone number of the best ambulance-chasing law firm in the country.

 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia under Creative Commons License, Various players Facebook & Twitter Pages

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