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Scott Hoch

Should you be disqualified for not shouting ‘fore’ on the golf course?

It's one of golf's hottest topics - but is it time to start tossing people out of competitions if they fail to give a warning? Steve Carroll and Alex Perry discuss
 

I’ve often been the inadvertent prey of a howitzer screaming into the rough. It’s no fun as the ball whistles past your head without any forewarning and you think about what might have been had you been a mere couple of steps to the side.

So I can empathise with those putting Bryson DeChambeau to the sword as a couple of wayward cannons failed to elicit any shout of ‘fore’ from the self-styled ‘Scientist’ at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational.

Of course, Bryson has form for this sort of thing – though he’d absolutely tell you otherwise – but the internet being, well, the internet, there were loud and noisy calls for him to be thrown out of the competition for his transgression.

But these aren’t Covid rules. It can’t be a case of one rule for them and so on. If we’re going to throw the book at someone on the PGA Tour, we’re going to face the same when we tee it up in a club competition.

Is a DQ the answer? And what do the Rules of Golf say about it? I’ve teamed up with my colleague Alex Perry to sort it out once and for all…

‘It’s not acceptable behaviour and the game needs to reflect that’

I’m not going to quite lurch into Shooter McGavin “Kick him off the tour, Doug!” territory here, writes Alex Perry, but what has to happen to get these players to warn people there is a golf ball flying toward them?

As someone who has been hit by a golf ball, I can tell you it bloody stings. I’m just thankful it was on the back of my leg and after a couple of bounces rather than on the fly and on my cranium.

Do a quick Google search. People have died from being hit by a golf ball. And remember the spectator who lost an eye at the Ryder Cup in Paris? You shouldn’t go to watch a golf event and come home with life-changing injuries. Or not come home at all.

So whether you’re the World No 1 or a Sunday hacker, if you see your ball going anywhere but your intended target, shout ‘fore’. It’s not hard. I know there’s a stigma attached to it, but a moment of embarrassment is a damn sight better than the other option. It’s not acceptable behaviour and the game needs to reflect that.

Immediate disqualification isn’t necessarily the answer, but punishment needs to start somewhere. Start dishing out penalty strokes and players will soon find their voice.

And if they don’t? Boot them out the tournament. How else will they learn?

‘Etiquette and the Rules of Golf are not two sides of the same coin’

A passionate case, Alex, but here’s where it gets a touch tricky, writes Steve Carroll. People often see etiquette and the Rules of Golf as entwined but they are not two sides of the same coin. They’re actually different beasts.

The Rules do lay down expected standards of player conduct but there’s no penalty for failing to act in this way – unless a committee decides to disqualify a player ‘for acting contrary to the spirit of the game’ if they find they’ve committed ‘serious misconduct’.

It’s laid out in Rule 1.2a and an interpretation to that rule defines serious misconduct as ‘so far removed from the expected norm in golf that the most severe sanction of removing a player from the competition is justified’.

This can include endangering the safety of others. That’s it, you say. But the interpretation also lays out examples of what serious misconduct can be and it’s things like deliberately damaging a green, chucking a club towards a player or spectator, or deliberately distracting others who are playing a shot.

Disqualification is the only recourse available under this Rule but what if someone has just made an honest mistake?

Clubs can set out other penalties by adopting them as part of a Code of Conduct and they can range from a warning, to shots, to the ultimate sanction for those who don’t get the message.

Depending on the circumstances, this seems to me a better way to go – as it can close in on repeat offenders – rather than pressing a nuclear button straight away and getting ready for some hefty fallout.

Where do you stand on the debate?

Should there be zero tolerance when it comes to shouting fore or do we need to be careful when it comes to dishing out sanctions? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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