Ouch! That Hurt. A Lot.
HAVE you ever been hit by a golf ball? I have. Several times. It hurts. A lot.
There are two incidents that stick in my mind. The first was when I was about 13 years old and was playing at Kirkhill Golf Club with my father. Or at least that was the plan. We had just driven at the first hole and were meandering up the fairway. The 18th hole runs parallel to the first. I heard a thump and then everything went black. Somebody had driven from the 18th and had hooked his tee shot. It had bounced once on our fairway and then struck me. Right in the crown jewels. I went down like a sack of fresh spuds.
Like I said, it hurt. A lot. An awful lot. I came to after a few seconds, tried to stand up and went back down again. I will not go into any further detail, leaving it to your imagination. Suffice to say, I had to retreat to the clubhouse. Almost immediately, there was some pretty impressive swelling in my nether regions, and for the next few days things were pretty uncomfortable. Let’s just say that my trousers were pretty tight for several days. It was an experience I would never want to repeat.
Incident number two occurred more recently and, once again, it involved holes that ran parallel to one another. We had just driven off at the 18th. I was one up in a club knockout competition and split the fairway with the best drive I had struck all day. My opponent was in a fairway bunker. All that I needed was to fashion a half and I was through to the semi-finals. All was well in my little world.
As we walked down the fairway, I heard a ball thump into the ground. And then everything went black. Again. No, no, no. Not the crown jewels. This time somebody had driven from the 17th, hooked his drive and it landed on our fairway, bounced once and hit me in the middle of my forehead, right between my eyeballs. It hurt. A lot. An awful lot.
It took a few seconds to work out what had happened. I got to my feet and was suffering from double vision. And a very sore head. The guy who had struck the errant drive approached me with some trepidation to ask if I was all right. I told him not to worry (that wasn’t what I actually wanted to tell him, but that’s a different story). He was not somebody I knew. It turned out he was a visitor at our club. He apologised profusely, told me he would see me in the clubhouse and buy me a drink.
This story isn’t finished yet. I was in no fit state to complete the hole. Unbelievably, my opponent then informed me that since I couldn’t complete the hole, he was claiming the hole. That meant we had finished the round all square. The rules dictated that we should then play sudden death. At this point I was still seeing double. So, he claimed the match. Oh, and the guy who hit me never did come into the clubhouse.
The point of all of this is that on both occasions I was hit by balls struck by golfers who hadn’t shouted “Fore.” In their defence, both players’ views had been obscured by trees and bushes. However, I was taught that if you strike a wayward shot and can’t be sure where it is going to finish then you should always shout, especially if it is heading towards an adjoining hole.
Anybody who watched The Open at Royal Portrush or the WGC St Jude will know where I am going with this. There were numerous occasions when the world’s finest players hit wayward drives and approach shots into the crowd without an accompanying shout of “Fore”.
Sometimes they will raise an arm and point in the general direction of where their ball may be bound but, more often than not, there is nothing. These guys hit the golf ball properly and if you should have the misfortune to be struck by one of their wayward shots then you are going to know all about it.
There is, of course, a very good reason why the pros don’t issue a warning call. They believe that if their ball hits somebody in the crowd it will inevitably prevent that ball from ending up in deeper trouble. More often than not they will even find a half-decent lie. They amble up to the fan who has been hit, apologise, sign a glove, hand it over and carry on without a care in the world. It is a disgrace. And here’s the thing. When you go to watch a golf tournament, read the small print on your ticket and you will find that the PGA Tour and European Tour accept no responsibility or liability for any injury caused.
Just like you and me, the best players in the world were taught about etiquette. They learnt at an early age that a shout of “Fore” is part and parcel of the game. We have already seen some serious injuries to spectators. Do we have to wait for somebody to be killed before something is done to tackle this problem? It is not difficult guys. If you hit a shot into the crowd it is your duty to yell “Fore!” Just do it.
As I said, it hurts. A lot!
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