Not shouting ‘fore’ after a wayward shot is unacceptable, says Mark Roe

One of the talking points from the weekend of the BMW PGA Championship involved players not giving a verbal shout after a wayward shot to warn the crowd, and Mark Roe says that is unacceptable …

It’s been another great week at Wentworth, but it’s a shame that one of the talking points among golf fans has been about players not shouting “fore” to warn the galleries of imminent danger. However, anybody who is critical of that, I support their views wholeheartedly.

It is a big issue, and while most European players are very good at verbal warnings, particularly compared to their PGA Tour counterparts, we do still see the odd instance of crowds not being aware of incoming danger.

One such incident happened on Saturday. Sam Horsfield has played most of his golf in America, where it doesn’t seem to be such an issue. We saw him hit it left at the 10th yesterday, where the crowd are 15 feet from the edge of the green, and there was no shout.

He knew exactly where it was heading, straight into the middle of the gallery. There were young kids in there, and it was only by pure good fortune that nobody was struck and injured.

We’ve taken action on the European Tour, and not shouting “fore” when the crowd are in imminent danger is an offence that will result in a fine. We have gone strong on that and we’ll continue to go strong, and maybe even stronger.

I’ve been hit on the head by a golf ball myself, in a pro-am, with a full drive. It knocked me over, it knocked me out and it split my head open. For a couple of months, I had problems with my eyesight, and a few of my mischievous colleagues keep reminding me I haven’t been the same since!

But, jokes aside, this is a genuinely serious issue. And while the European Tour have taken action, the PGA Tour have been very poor in dealing with this. I’d estimate that 85 per cent of professionals in America merely stick out an arm after a wayward shot.

What good is that to someone standing 250-300 yards away, with a golf ball incoming like a bullet? It is absolutely unacceptable just to stick out an arm as a means of warning.

If they take the time to analyse, a lot of these players have kids, who might be in the gallery watching the golf. Imagine if their families were halfway up the fairway, would they be more inclined to shout then? Of course they would. So why should it be any different for somebody else’s family?

It’s that serious, but so many people just don’t get it or take it seriously enough. Okay, the shout of “fore” might not be enough, but it gives the spectators the opportunity to turn their back and try to get out of harm’s way. If they take a blow on the back or the shoulder, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

But if you get hit by a golf ball full in the face, or near the temple, or in your eye, serious damage can be the result. There have been cases of people losing an eye, they have been a number of really nasty injuries, and the authorities of all the main Tours must take firm action.

Why are the players so reluctant to shout? Well, let’s be honest, without being too cynical. If there’s a big shout from the tee, it will result in a parting of the waves outside the ropes, and there’s more chance of the ball heading for further trouble.

It goes deeper into the trees, or into the hazard, or out of bounds. But, if you think about it, there is a 20-foot human barrier down the edge of the fairway, or around the green, or next to the water, and we’ve seen many an occasion where players have been helped out massively by a fortunate ricochet off an unfortunate spectator.

It is unacceptable at any level of golf, and what is it going to take for these players to realise that shouting a warning in good time is the right thing to do? I shudder to think.

Week in, week out on the PGA Tour, we see players sticking their arms out rather than shouting and it’s not acceptable. I’m constantly on my soapbox about it, maybe because I’ve been hit on the head myself … and it hurts!