A Line in the Sand ≠ a Line on the Scorecard
I love golfing with my father.
More accurately, he golfs while I spend my time trying to find my ball and scanning the horizon for the beer cart.
But for me those hours together have traditionally been a time for me of learning, listening, sharing and laughing. And it is in those moments of unhurried relationship where he has honored me with some of my most cherished life lessons.
He has a peculiar habit…
If my father is playing poorly he will announce “it’s time to put a line on the scorecard”. And just like that he will draw a heavy pencil line on the card for all to see.
The first time I saw him do this my curiosity got the better of me.
This marks the hole where I bear down, concentrate more, and play better.
And it’s the craziest thing: more often than not his game starts improving.
I have tried it more than once….
….putting a line on the scorecard, but it seldom seems to work for me.
Probably because I am truly an awful golfer and the mechanical action of drawing of line doesn’t make me hit the ball any straighter.
As with all other golf appliances, maybe I need a more expensive pencil?
What’s the Point?
Despite the fact this little habit doesn’t work for me at golf, I believe there are fundamental life lessons to be found in this:
- Honesty: Keeping score in golf is very democratic. Everyone announces their own score and the scorekeeper records them. Consequently, golf is rife with cheaters. A five conveniently becomes a four. (Or in my case a nine becomes an eight.) In all my years golfing with him though I have never known Dad to cheat. His scorecard sometimes ends up with a string of sixes.
- Clarity: As a result of his honesty, Dad is able to take an instant and accurate accounting of his game. If he scattered dishonest fives in a row of sixes the self-deceit would undermine the necessity to draw a line. Without honesty, there can be no clarity.
- Intensity: Dad means it when he says it is time to bear down. The eyes gets a little more focused, the concentration becomes more purified. It doesn’t subtract one whit from the fun; it just means in the moments before his turn to hit, the rest of his world fades to black.
- Accountability: Dad always announces when it is time to draw the line. Everyone in his group is aware when he decides to refocus on his game. Regardless whether his game improves that day, he creates a circle of accountability.
- Integrity: Sometimes it just isn’t your day. At the end of the game, whether his score improves or not, Dad is the same man. In this he has taught me that golf is a mirror of life: successes and failures should not define who we are, wins and losses should not affect our character.
I’m drawing a line in the sand.
People talk about drawing a line in the sand. That idea has come to represent that moment in life where, as Popeye says, “that’s all I can take. I can’t take no more!”
The problem with drawing in the sand is how quickly the line can be blurred or disappear under the external forces of wind, water, and footprints.
I once played beach football with my friends. Our only rule was the game would end when the tide erased the sidelines. But long before the saltwater cleared the playing field our own feet had eliminated any traces of boundary.
So is our resolve when it comes to these imaginary lines: it is often our own humanity that obscures our good intentions and best-laid plans.
Dad’s line on the scorecard is a permanent record.
I remember having lunch with him after a particular round, and laughing because his scorecard that day had TWO lines.
And his score that day was as lousy on the last hole as it was on the first.
Honesty bred clarity.
Clarity allowed him to choose his intensity.
The permanance of his lines created accountability.
And at the end of an unusually awful round his character was intact. Integrity.
Golf is a game of dedication, concentration, execution, and repetition.
Guess what: so is life.