Denis Pugh: Bring fore! to the fore

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Players failing to shout fore is not a new phenomenon. Professional golfers have been guilty of not giving fans this basic courtesy for some time. The amount of TV coverage these days has simply made it more obvious that this is happening. The fact that this issue is being talked about should be used to golf’s advantage to enforce a change in behaviour. Let’s not wait until someone gets seriously injured or even killed before we do something about it.

In my mind, there is never any excuse for failing to shout fore.The players know that there is a benefit of having big galleries as a ‘backstop’ to prevent overhit or mishit shots going even further away from their target, but that is a terrible way to think of things. It is simply too dangerous! Golf balls can cause serious injury. Besides, the penalty for hitting wildy wide or long of the fairway or green should be equal for every player, not dependant on the size of his gallery.

On the European Tour, I’d say it’s about half-and-half between players that do and don’t shout fore. The problem is more widespread in the USA, and I’d say only 10 per cent of PGA Tour players consistently shout fore when they should. It’s no coincidence that the galleries on the PGA Tour are bigger, meaning there is a better chance of getting a lucky deflection off an unsuspecting spectator. It goes on every week. The bigger the name, the bigger the galleries, and the less likely there will be a shout from the player or his caddie.

Players seem to think that a signed glove and ball will repair a bruise, cut or broken bone. It has reached the point where it’s almost seen as a PR opportunity. When someone gets seriously hurt – and it is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ – we will see if the spectator is as happy to accept his signed memento as way of an apology.

Both tours are reluctant to do anything that might upset their star players, so nothing will be done. This isn’t good enough. Spectators are owed a duty of care. Yes, there will always be risks associated with being on a golf course, but this should be reduced as much as possible by people shouting fore whenever it is necessary.

If the other players in the group and their caddies agree that a player was guilty of not shouting fore when he should have done, they should report him, just like any other breach of the rules. It would take some getting used to, but if the players saw one of their fellow competitors deliberately cheating they wouldn’t keep quiet out of politeness. Making sure everyone plays by the rules is their duty to the competition. Making sure people do everything they can to protect the safety of others is their duty as human beings. I would never hesitate to report someone for either.

The professionals are setting a terrible example to other golfers by not shouting fore. The lesser known players copy the stars, the fans copy what they see on TV, and so the cycle continues. Seeing your favourite golfer hit a wayward shot and not shout fore makes you think that that is the done thing, or even that shouting fore is not ‘cool’. I tell you what’s not cool: hitting someone on the head with a golf ball! I am sick to death of the rather pathetic PGA Tour practice of players silently pointing with a club after a bad shot. It’s completely useless.

Last month’s KLM Open saw Fabrizio Zanotti hit by Alexandre Kaleka’s stray shot. Thankfully, Zanotti was fine in the end, but only after a trip to hospital and a two-hour suspension of play. It was a very serious situation that could easily have been avoided if Kaleka had shouted fore.

A few things emerged from this incident. There was no ambulance at the course, which is apparently true for all Tour events. I am surprised by this, and think events of this size should have at least one ambulance and paramedics on standby to help injured players or spectators. The other interesting thing was the reaction of the players on social media. Suddenly, now a player had been hit and hurt, everyone was concerned about the falling standards of not yelling fore! The Tours should get the players together now, while the mood is right and their attention is on this issue, and agree a plan that will prevent instances like this ever happening again in the future. Let’s not wait until someone gets even more seriously hurt to take action.

Simple action taken now to educate golfers on the risks and then punish the offenders who fail to change their ways could help prevent a more serious incident. It’s one little four-letter word that could potentially save someone’s life. Shout it out, for everyone’s sake.

Read more from Denis Pugh every month in Today's Golfer magazine

Denis Pugh is a Sky Sports pundit, PGA Master Professional and coach to Ross Fisher and Francesco Molinari. Follow him on Twitter (@DPugh54)