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In the meantime, I have come across a couple of pieces which tend to support another, more plausible, idea that the shout was a warning to anyone ahead, much like its use today:
From the 1875 Rules:
To prevent accidents, it is required that due warning be given to all parties on or in the vicinity of the golfing course, by the player or his caddie distinctly calling "Fore" previous to his striking the ball.
From an article on the Mr Golf Etiquette website (courtesy of Jim Corbett):
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word "fore" used in a golf context is probably a contraction for "Before." It cites the first written use of the term in 1878 as, "A warning cry to people in front of the stroke."
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:So the origin of the term is, after all, a warning cry of the Scottish military of "Ware before!" Stroke and Distance
The USGA has wrestled with the stroke-and-distance penalty for a ball lost or out of bounds (Rule 27-1) for many years. In the 1960s the USGA completed what Richard S. Tufts, a past president of the USGA, termed a "noble experiment" in the evolution of the Rules. In a dramatic move away from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club -- and a unified code -- the USGA adopted experimental Rules for 1960 and '61.
"Frequent Rules changes, especially on a trial basis, are generally undesirable," John M. Winters Jr., then chairman of the Rules of Golf Committee, wrote in the February 1961 issue of Golf Journal. "But an open mind and a willingness to venture into new areas can be productive in any activity.
"Not so long ago the Rules did not recognize lateral water hazards; now they receive special treatment in the Rules. The 14-club Rule was not introduced until 1938; it is now a fundamental. The abolition of the stymie was an outgrowth of various experiments."
So, too, was this trial, which had roots back to the mid-1940s. Before 1946, a lost ball, a ball out of bounds and a ball unplayable suffered the same fate: stroke-and-distance. From 1946 to 1951, however, the penalty for a ball out of bounds was distance only (e.g., if you hit your tee shot out of bounds, you would be playing your second stroke from the tee). It is interesting to note that during this period, a player was better off hitting a shot out of bounds than hitting one into a large bush as the only procedure for a ball unplayable remained stroke and distance.
With the first unified Rules of Golf agreed upon by the USGA and the R&A for 1952, the penalty for a ball out of bounds reverted to stroke-and-distance. Another change was that the player was given a second option for a ball unplayable (the current Rule 28c), but it entailed a two-stroke penalty.
In 1960, the USGA broke away from the R&A with a trial Rule for one year, adopting the penalty of distance only for a ball lost or out of bounds. It was found that in many cases, the penalty of distance only was not severe enough for a lost ball. For example, a player who shanks a pitch shot into deep woods might well prefer to replay the stroke with loss of distance only rather than find his ball. In the USGA's view, any Rule which encourages a player not to find his ball is a weak Rule.
Stroke-and-distance returned in 1961, but the USGA was still somewhat uncomfortable with the penalty for a ball out of bounds. It authorized a Committee to adopt a Local Rule allowing a player to drop a ball, with a penalty stroke, within two club-lengths of the spot where the original ball last crossed the boundary, not nearer the hole. This Local Rule, which was allowed again in 1964-67, was intended for areas where the standard stroke-and-distance penalty would be unduly severe and only where it is not difficult to determine if a ball is out of bounds or where it last crossed the boundary.
This Local Rule was revoked in 1968 because, among other reasons, it abandoned the principle that like situations should be treated alike. For the purpose of a consistent application of the Rules, a ball that is out of bounds should be treated the same in all situations. Since it is often not known whether a lost ball is lost on the course or out of bounds, the penalty for a lost ball and a ball out of bounds must be the same. As there is no spot from which to measure two club-lengths with a lost ball, the only practical solution is to require the player to return to the spot from which he last played.
Is the stroke-and-distance procedure for a ball lost or out of bounds with us until Armageddon? Given the substantial changes in the Rules over their first 250 years, it would be foolhardy to dismiss anything. However, the discerning historian should not place any bets to the contrary.
Rub of the Green
Where did it come from? The game of bowls has the probable answer.
Webster’s 1913 revised, unabridged dictionary defines “rub” as follows:
1. The act of rubbing; friction.
The Oxford English Dictionary (1931) defines rub more specifically in the context of bowls:
An obstacle or impediment by which a bowl is hindered in, or diverted from its proper course; also the fact of the bowl meeting with such impediment.
The Universal Dictionary of the English Language (Colliers, 1897) provides a very interesting look at the meaning of the term in those times with specific reference to bowls:
3. To incline or turn in towards the jack.
The term “green” also causes some confusion to the modern student of the rules because in golf it has more than one meaning. However, it is clear that the “green” referred to in “rub of the green” means more than just the putting surface. The green in bowls was the entire playing area. The term “through the green” in golf expresses the same idea, with some limitation.
The OED defines green:
A piece of grassy land used for some particular purpose, as bleaching green, bowling green. In golf the putting ground, sometimes the whole links or field.
Second ball in stroke play (now Rule 3-3)
Caddies - (Courtesy of Tony McCrae)
1933 USGA recommends players put an identification mark on their ball.
Earliest reference to strokeplay was in 1759.
Practice on the course on Medal days (i.e. stroke competitions) was first prohibited by R&A 1829. The Honourable Company 1839, Perth 1839 and Blackheath 1844 also had this rule, the penalty being disqualification.
Richmond Golf Club Temporary Rules, 1941
1. Players are asked to collect bomb and shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the mowing machines.
2. In competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take shelter without penalty for ceasing play.
3. The position of known delayed action bombs are marked by red flags at a reasonable, but not guaranteed, safe distance therefrom.
4. Shrapnel and/or bomb splinters on the fairways or in bunkers, within a club's length of a ball, may be moved without penalty, and no penalty shall be incurred if a ball is thereby caused to move accidentally.
5. A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced or, if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty.
6. A ball lying in a crater may be lifted and dropped not nearer the hole, preserving the line to the hole, without penalty.
7. A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball. Penalty one stroke.
This is nothing to do with the rules, but allow me a little indulgence. John Betjeman, former Poet Laureate, is among my favourite poets. If you have ever played on British Isles links, you will appreciate it immediately; if not, it must surely inspire you to go and do it...
How straight it flew, how long it flew,
And down the fairway, far along
And so I did. It lay content
Ah! Seaweed smells from sandy caves